Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister’s statement – Friday 6 November 2020

Statement given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on Friday 6 November 2020

Thanks for joining us again today.

I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,072. That represents 5.5% of the total number of tests, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland now to 70,732.

460 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 210 in Lanarkshire, 112 in Lothian and 75 in Ayrshire and Arran. The remaining cases were spread across 7 other health board areas. I can also confirm that 1,237 people are currently in hospital – that is an decrease of 15 from yesterday. And 98 people are in intensive care, which is 3 more than yesterday.

And finally, I regret to say that 31 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. That means that the total number of deaths, under this measurement, is now 2,997. Of course, we must never see these deaths simply as statistics – every single one represents an individual human being whose loss is a source of grief. So once again, I want to send my condolences to all those who have been bereaved.

I am joined today by the Chief Nursing Officer – who will be helping me to answer the journalists’ questions shortly. Before we get to that, there are a few points I want to update you on. 

It’s maybe worth highlighting that I have just come from a virtual summit of the British Irish Council.  That Council enables the leaders of the Irish Government, the UK Government, the devolved administrations, and the Crown dependencies to discuss key issues together.  And as you might expect, the main issue we discussed today was the economic impact of Covid and our experiences of Covid in general.

Yesterday, the Chancellor announced that the current furlough scheme will continue until March.  The Scottish Government has been calling for that extended for some time.  So we very much welcome that commitment. It ensures that support will be there for businesses in Scotland  - both under the current restrictions, and also if stronger action becomes necessary, to suppress the virus.

That is something we will continue to consider in the days ahead. The first review point of our new level system is due on Tuesday.  And I will set out on Tuesday what we are proposing, and also the reasons behind our decisions.

Over the weekend we will continue to monitor the situation.

There are three main issues I want to cover today. The first concerns an announcement that we made last night.  The Scottish Government has updated the list of countries that are subject to quarantine restrictions. We have now added Germany and Sweden to that list.  That means, that from 4am tomorrow, anyone travelling to Scotland from either of those places will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon their return.

I can also confirm that, as of this morning and on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer we have also removed now Denmark from the quarantine exemption list. That means, as of 12.30pm today – just minutes from now – anyone travelling to Scotland from Denmark will require to quarantine for 14 days.

Health authorities in Denmark have reported cases in humans of a variant strain of the virus associated with outbreaks in mink farms. We have taken this decision on a precautionary basis. The UK Government announced a similar move last night. Danish authorities are working hard to contain the situation, but we will be considering whether there is a need for any further protections. 

The UK CMOs will consider updated information on this again today, to assess whether additional action, beyond quarantine, may be required. Again, these changes are a reflection of how quickly levels of the virus in any country or area – either here at home and overseas – can change.

That is the nature of an accelerating global pandemic.  And it underlines why we are continuing to very strongly advise against any non-essential travel overseas right now.

The second point I want to cover is also related to the issue of travel.  

The Scottish Government’s very clear advice right now is that people should not travel to other parts of the UK unless that is for essential purposes.  However, we recognise some people will have an essential reason to do so – for example, for work, education or if they’re caring for someone.  And so it is important that our test and protect system is able to take account of that. 

You may remember that last week I announced improvements to the Protect Scotland app, which meant that it now works in both Northern Ireland and Jersey.  That was made possible because NHS Scotland has developed a server that allows different apps to work together.

Today I can confirm that the English and Welsh app has now been updated so that it too can join the NHS Scotland server. That means, if you have to travel to any other part of the UK, Jersey, or Gibraltar, you can keep using the Protect Scotland app.   It will notify you, if someone you are in close contact with gets Covid, and enters that fact onto their app.

Discussions are underway about ensuring the Protect Scotland app can operate in other countries across Europe.  And we will continue to look at any other changes, which might enhance its capabilities.

To date, almost 1.6 million people have downloaded the app.  And it has notified more than 13,000 contacts to tell them to self-isolate. In some cases these people would not otherwise have been notified. And in most cases, the notification was quicker, because it was done automatically through the app.

So if you haven’t downloaded the Protect Scotland app yet, then please do so if you can. 

And secondly, once you have downloaded the app - if you test positive for Covid, please make sure that you enter the code that you are given. Unless you do that the app will not work as intended. It’s one additional tool that we can use to help keep ourselves and others safe. 

My third update today is about greater mental health and wellbeing support for students. The pandemic has placed an additional and quite severe strain on everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.  However, we know students have faced particular pressures since the start of academic term. Many of them will be away from home for the first time – a difficult adjustment.  They’re having to adapt to new forms of learning and socialising.  And of course, many students will also have had to deal with the challenges of self-isolation.

That’s why the Scottish Government is providing an additional £1.3 million to improve mental health and wellbeing support for students. That money will allow colleges and universities to enhance the support they already provide.  For example, they could use it to expand counselling services, deliver more support online, or improve their ability to check on students’ welfare.

Each institution will be able to spend the money in a way which best suits the needs of its own students.  And it should help to ensure all students can get the right support, whenever they need it.  

Finally today, I want to say a few words about Remembrance Sunday, and Remembrance Day.

These are always hugely important occasions for our country. So all of us really regret the fact that – because of Covid-19 – the commemorations this year will have to be very different. At the moment, in areas of Scotland under levels 2, 3 or 4, outdoor events and gatherings are not permitted.  That obviously means many local and national events will not be able to take place this year – or will be significantly scaled back. 

That is absolutely necessary, in order to stop the virus from spreading. However, that does not mean that this Remembrance Sunday will go unmarked.  On Sunday, on behalf of the nation, I will lay a wreath at the Scottish National War Memorial at Edinburgh Castle. Across the country, services at places of worship will still take place, though with restrictions on the numbers of attendees.

And of course, I would encourage everybody, from the safety from our own doorsteps, to observe the 2-minute’s silence at 11 o’clock – on Sunday, and on Remembrance Day. I would encourage everyone to do that.  It’s an important way of honouring all those who died in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts.  And it allows us to show our respect for the continuing service and sacrifice our armed forces. 

Those are the main points I want to cover today. Before we start taking questions, I’ll close with my usual reminder of the current rules and guidelines. And remind you, we are seeing signs for caution optimism in our latest figures.

If you are living in one of the areas at level three – most parts of the central belt, and now also Dundee – please do not travel outside your own local authority area unless it is essential. “Essential” includes, for example, for work that can’t be done at home, or for caring responsibilities. And people in other parts of Scotland should not travel into a level-three area except for the same essential purposes.

We are also asking you, right now, not to travel outside of Scotland -  to other parts of the UK, or overseas – again, unless there is an essential purpose for doing so. Travel restrictions are essential so we can avoid taking the virus from high prevalence areas to low prevalence areas.

In addition to those, none of us, anywhere in the country right now, should be visiting each other’s homes - again except for very specific purposes, such as childcare, or if you have to look after an older or vulnerable person, or if you are part of an extended household. When we are meeting people from other households - outdoors, which you are permitted to do, or in indoor public places – do not meet more than six people, from a maximum of two households. Work from home if you can.

As I mentioned earlier, download the Protect Scotland app, if you are able to have it. And finally, remember the five key rules that reduce our chance of getting the virus, or of passing it on:

  • remember face coverings
  • remember to avoid places with crowds of people
  • clean your hands and clean hard surfaces
  • keep two metres distance from people from other households
  • and self-isolate, and get tested immediately, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID

These rules are how we all help each other in these tough times. We must drive the infection rates down.

They allow us – not just to protect ourselves, but to protect our loved ones and our wider communities. And they also protect the NHS, and help us to save lives. 

So please, please stick with it. Thank you to everyone who is doing that, for the good of the country as a whole.

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