- 11 Jan 2021
Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us again today.
As usual, I’ll give you today’s statistics first of all.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,782.
That is 11.5% of the total number of tests carried out, and takes the number of confirmed cases now in Scotland to 151,548.
595 of today’s new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 307 in Lanarkshire, 194 in Lothian, and 144 in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining cases were spread across the 7 other mainland health board areas.
I can also confirm that 1,664 people are currently in hospital – which is an increase of 126 from yesterday.
And that figure means that the number in hospital now with COVID is quite a bit above the peak of the first wave back in April.
126 people are in intensive care. That’s three more than yesterday.
And I’m sorry to say that 1 additional death has been registered in the past 24 hours, of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
You will recall though that the figures we report on a Monday can often be artificially low, because registration offices tend to be closed at the weekend.
Since the last media briefing on Friday, we have recorded 97 new deaths in the daily figures. And that means the total number of deaths under the daily measurement is now 4,969.
As always, that total reminds us of the heartbreak that is being caused by this virus.
And yet again today, I want to send my thoughts to everybody who is grieving a loved one because of COVID.
Now, I am joined today by the Chief Medical Officer. He will answer questions with me in a few moments.
Before that, though, there are a few issues that I want to update on.
Firstly, let me begin by acknowledging that today sees many teachers, parents and young people embark on another period of home schooling.
There are a range of resources and support available. However, I know some of you might be having an issue this morning with Microsoft Teams. This is not an issue that is unique to Scotland or indeed to schools, but I understand Microsoft is currently working to address it.
But more generally I don’t underestimate – and I want to be very clear about this – how difficult this is. Both from an educational perspective how difficult this is for young people. Not just learning at home but, learning away from your friends.
And I want again to say to all of you directly, thank you for your patience and your resilience right now. You’re having the toughest of times, but you are coping with it extremely well. So thank you for that.
And it’s also really difficult for parents, having to juggle home schooling with working.
So I want to acknowledge all of that today. It doesn’t make it easier for you, for me to acknowledge it, but it’s important that I do.
And also give an assurance that we will continue to provide as much support as possible. And again, to thank you for what you are doing.
We all want schools back to normal just as soon as it is safe and possible to do that. And while I can’t give certainty on that right now, I want to be clear to you today that getting schools back to normal remains a priority for us, as I’m sure it is a priority for all of you.
The next issue I want to cover is vaccination.
From today, as you know, we will be publishing daily figures for the number of people who have been vaccinated in Scotland.
So I can confirm today that as of yesterday, 163,377 people had received their first dose of either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine.
In addition, from this morning, more than 1,100 vaccination sites are now operational across the country. These are mainly GP practices and community vaccination centres.
But as our supplies of the vaccine increase, the number of venues will increase further, as pharmacies and mass vaccination centres also start to come on stream and be used.
For the moment, though, the fact that GP practices and community centres are now being widely used for vaccination is an important milestone in the vaccination programme.
And I can confirm again today that our aim is for all over 80s to have received their first dose of the vaccine over the next 4 weeks, and for all people over 70 and those in the clinically extremely vulnerable group to be offered vaccination by around the middle of February.
We are working hard to get through this vaccination programme just as quickly as possible. Because of course it is the main route out right now of the situation we all find ourselves in.
And I’m very grateful to everyone – and there a lot of people in this category – who are working really hard to make all of this possible.
My next update relates to an announcement that was made earlier this morning about court proceedings.
The Lord President has announced that the majority of summary trials in the Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace courts will be adjourned - summary trials of course being those which don’t have a jury.
This step will reduce the overall number of criminal trials taking place during lockdown by up to 75%.
And it means that from tomorrow, witnesses should assume that they are not due to attend court, unless you are contacted by the Crown Office to confirm that the trial is going ahead.
In the coming weeks, the courts system will focus on the most serious cases.
That means criminal jury trials in the high court and the sheriff court will continue. Jurors will attend remote jury centres, which have been established to create a safe environment during the pandemic.
In addition, most non-criminal court business will continue – such as online proceedings for important civil and family cases.
We believe that these changes represent a proportionate response to the recent increase in transmission. And they will help to keep people safe from Covid, while enabling the most serious criminal and civil business to proceed.
Now finally before we move on to questions, I want to confirm a change that has been made overnight to the travel rules for people coming from Dubai.
As you know, our basic travel rule is don’t. Don’t travel right now.
You can’t leave the house just now except for an essential purpose, and therefore none of us should be traveling anywhere – including outside Scotland – except for a genuinely essential purpose.
Anyone who does go overseas must quarantine for 10 days on their return to Scotland – unless they are returning from somewhere on the exemption list, or are claiming one of the sectoral exemptions which can apply in certain limited circumstances.
Dubai was on the quarantine exemption list. But since the 3rd of January, more than 50 people have tested positive for Covid in Scotland after returning from Dubai.
Now let me be clear. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they got Covid when they were in Dubai – but the volume of positive cases strongly suggests that there may well be significant risks attached to travel to and from Dubai right now.
As a result, it has been removed from the exemption list.
This change came into effect at 4am this morning. And that means anyone who arrives in Scotland, having been in Dubai, must now quarantine for 10 days on their arrival or return.
In addition, we are strongly recommending that people who have returned since the 3rd of January – but before these new rules came into force - should self-isolate until ten days after their return.
All passengers who have been on flights from Dubai to Glasgow since the 3rd of January will be contacted in order to underline the importance of that message.
But of course the most important message I want to stress, is that unless your trip is genuinely for an essential purpose - it is against the law right now to travel to and from Scotland at all.
All of us should be staying at home as much as possible.
Now unfortunately – and I mean that, I have to say – it is impossible for me to talk about Dubai today without making some mention of the situation with Celtic Football Club.
Indeed, I would anticipate that I may face questions about this shortly.
And I can’t tell you how disappointed and frustrated I am to be facing another briefing that may - though this is of course up to journalists - be dominated by football.
Football - and elite sport more generally - enjoys a number of privileges right now that the rest of us don’t have.
These privileges include the right to go to overseas training camps and be exempt from quarantine on return.
And it is really vital - obviously for public health reasons, but I think also out of respect for the rest of the population living under really heavy restrictions - that these privileges are not abused.
Now, I know that what I’m about to say won’t please everyone – nothing I can ever say about football ever pleases everyone. But as I have said before, I do have doubts, based on how the club itself described it, doubts about whether Celtic’s trip to Dubai was really essential.
And I have doubts - based on some pictures I’ve seen - about whether adherence to bubble rules was strict enough.
Celtic now has a positive case, and another 15 playing and coaching staff are being required to isolate.
Now, as in any situation like this, it is for the football authorities to decide whether further action is necessary. And It’s for them to consider that carefully.
But this whole episode should underline how serious this situation we are in right now is. And why everyone, including football, should be erring on the side of caution.
I know fans of other clubs feel very strongly that the whole of football should not pay the price for the actions of any one club, whoever they may be.
And I agree with that.
But of course, a situation like this does make it essential for us to review the rules - including those around travel exemptions - and that is what we will be doing.
But as we do, I would hope that Celtic themselves will reflect seriously on all of this.
The overriding message for everybody right now is that we are in the midst of a very severe global pandemic. For Scotland, this is the most perilous and series position since the start of the pandemic.
The overriding message for all of us – the one I want to end on today – is stay at home.
The first point I covered today – the expansion of our vaccination programme – gives us the reason for optimism and hope.
It shows how – in the coming weeks and months – we can make progress in tackling the virus, and move to a point where these restrictions can start to be lifted.
But at the moment, we are in a really dangerous situation.
I hope we’ll see case numbers stabilise in the days to come. But that will only be possible – and if we do achieve it, it will only be sustainable – if we all stay at home.
We already have more people in hospital with Covid than at any time since the pandemic started. That is putting our health service under strain, and our current case numbers mean that this pressure will continue in the weeks to come.
So all of us must try not to add to that.
Especially with the faster spreading new variant, all of us need to do everything we can to stick to the rules of this lockdown.
And that means first and foremost only leaving home for essential purposes – caring responsibilities, essential shopping, work that genuinely can’t be done at home, and essential exercise.
Let me just say something very briefly about exercise. When we mean go out for essential exercise, that’s what we mean. To get some exercise, to get some fresh air.
We’ve not put limits on that like we did in the first lockdown. But we don’t mean by essential exercise, going for a day trip with other people to the beach or to a park.
I know that sounds harsh. But it is really important right now that all of us stay at home as much as we possibly can.
And when you are outdoors for essential exercise, if you are mixing with another household, it must be a maximum of two people from two households.
It’s really important that we stop this virus transmitting as much as possible.
Everybody of course should be working from home if possible.
And I’d say again to employers - if your staff were working from home in the lockdown last Spring, they should be working from home now. So please make sure that they are able to do so.
And finally, just to remind everybody of the FACTS advice, that helps stop transmission when we are out and about.
- Face coverings
- Avoid places that are busy
- Clean your hands and surfaces
- Use two-metre distancing if you are talking to somebody from another household
- And self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.
These measures are effective, even against this new variant of the virus.
But fundamentally, the most important thing we can all do right now, is stay at home as much as possible.
That will protect ourselves, others, our communities, and it will help us all right now to protect the NHS and save lives.
So thank you, once again, to everybody who is doing that. And let me leave you with the strong message that I hope you will all adhere to, and spread to as many people as possible:
Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.