Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us again today.
As usual, I’ll give a report on the latest statistics.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 559 which is seven per cent of the total number of tests that were carried out.
And that means the overall number of confirmed cases is now 192,375.
123 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 112 in Lothian, and 97 in Lanarkshire.
And the rest of the cases were across nine other health board areas.
1,428 people are currently in hospital which is 15 fewer than yesterday.
And 102 people are in intensive care, who have tested positive or been admitted to hospital with Covid within the last 28 days, and that is two fewer than yesterday.
I can also report that no additional deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, of patients who first tested positive over the past 28 days.
However, as you always hear us say on a Monday, the figures we report on Sundays and Mondays can be artificially low because registration offices tend to be closed at the weekend.
Since the last update on Friday, there have been 49 new deaths recorded which means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 6,715.
And yet again, I want to convey my condolences to everybody who is grieving the loss of a loved one.
I’ll also now give an update on the vaccination programme.
I can report that as of 8.30 this morning, 1,255,190 – I’m going to say that again for the benefit of our BSL translator – 1,255,190 people had received their first dose of the vaccine. That includes 31,416 people who were vaccinated over the course of yesterday.
And that means that in total, 81,745 people received first doses over the weekend and more than 388,000 received first doses over the course of the last week.
Now today, mid-February, is the final day of the period during which we said we would have offered vaccines to everyone over 70 and everyone who has an extreme, clinical vulnerability.
We’ll report today’s numbers tomorrow, but I can say now that we are satisfied that we have met that target.
Everyone in these groups has been offered the vaccine, however, I want to say this and it’s important that I say it upfront that as will be the case in any largescale system, we can’t rule out that some people might have slipped through the cracks, perhaps wrong addresses or letters going astray or for some other reason.
So if you think that might be you, please let us know. Lots of you or some of you have been emailing already.
Get in touch, first of all, with your GP, phone the helpline or, as I’ve said before as a last resort, you can email me at FirstMinister@gov.scot.
Now what I would say is that we will get to everybody. If there are people who have not yet been reached because of one of the reasons that I have highlighted today.
This is a vaccination programme in which nobody is going to be left behind.
Now it’s also the case of course that some people who have been offered an appointment might have rebooked to a date after today.
We know for example that quite a significant number of people had to rebook last week because of the severe weather.
However, and this is also what gives us confidence in our meeting of this target, we already have levels of uptake in these priority groups beyond – significantly beyond – the 80 per cent target uptake that we set out in our deployment plan.
So in the over 80s groups living in the community, we know we have vaccinated pretty much everybody in the older people’s care home group. But in the over 80s group living in the community, we now look to have vaccinated close to 100 per cent of the number estimated to be in that group.
As I’ve said before, we can’t be absolutely sure that we’ve got the estimate of the number of people right to the very last person, but the estimate shows that we are close to having vaccinated everybody in the over 80s group.
For those aged 75 to 79, we have reached more than 99 per cent of the estimated number in that group.
And for the 70 to 74 age group, and many of them may be getting vaccinated today, uptake is already 85 per cent.
And although this next group isn’t actually part of the target for today, I can report that we’ve also now vaccinated with the first dose 53 per cent of those in the 65 to 69 year old age group.
So these are, without a doubt, significant achievements.
In the weeks ahead we expect that the first doses that have now been given to people in these groups will reduce deaths from Covid significantly. And they will also have an impact – although perhaps a smaller one – on hospital admissions.
Now I indicated last week that the rate of vaccination may well decline a bit this week. And in fact we’re unlikely to vaccinate more than around 30,000 people a day this week.
That’s partly because we’ve had such high uptakes in recent weeks but also partly, as I said last week, because we will have a lower supply of vaccines available to us this week.
However, we will be able to and stand ready to pick up the pace of vaccination again as soon as supplies allow.
But at this stage, I want to sincerely thank everyone who has been involved in planning and delivering the vaccination programme and, of course, to everyone who has rolled up their sleeve and accepted the jag.
I know it hasn’t always been straightforward – especially given the severe weather of the past few days – but the progress made is hugely important and hugely appreciated.
But let me repeat again, if you’re in one of these groups and you haven’t yet had an appointment or you haven’t yet had your vaccine and you think you might have been missed, make sure you let us know. Phone your GP, phone the helpline or, as a last resort, email me and we will make sure that we get an answer to your question.
Now, I’m joined today by the Chief Nursing Officer who’s going to help me answer questions in a moment.
Before then though, I’ve got two other issues that I want to briefly update on.
The first is to highlight what you’re probably seeing in the media today and that is that our new rules on overseas travel have come into force.
From today onwards, all international travelers arriving directly into Scotland by air from outside the rest of the UK, Ireland or other parts of the common travel area will be required to stay in a specially assigned hotel for a 10 day period of managed isolation.
People arriving from Ireland will also be required to follow these rules if they have come from a high-risk country. So if they’ve travelled to Scotland via Ireland from a country that is classed as high risk.
During the 10-day period of managed isolation, travelers will be tested for Covid twice – on day two, and the importance of that early test given that we’re trying to avoid here the importation of new variants is so that genomic sequencing could potentially be done.
And then they’ll be tested again on day eight after their arrival. The purpose of that later test is to try to make sure people don’t have Covid before they are released from the isolation.
Now, the approach we’ve taken here in Scotland, as I’ve set out before, goes a bit beyond the measures that have been announced by the UK Government so far.
We are choosing to require travelers from all countries to isolate, whereas the UK Government is only applying this restriction to travelers coming from designated high-risk countries.
It is of course up to every government to make their own judgement and take their own decisions.
But at the moment, anyone who lands at an airport elsewhere in the UK, and then travels on to Scotland, won’t be put into a hotel for managed isolation if their flight is from a destination outside the UK’s list of high-risk countries.
They will instead be required to quarantine at home for 10 days on return to Scotland and also be required to book a testing package so that they will be tested on day two and day eight as well.
Now, the reason why we have decided to adopt stricter rules, is because we think it is important to go as far as we can.
For example just having this policy apply to high-risk countries doesn’t provide protection when people travel from a high-risk country via a third country, or perhaps when a new variant is present in a country which isn’t yet on the high-risk list.
So our measures are designed to reduce those risks for Scotland as much as we possibly can.
But we do recognize, and we have always recognized, that a common, four-nations approach to travel restrictions is always going to be preferable.
For a policy like this to work effectively, it requires people to isolate as close to the point of arrival in the UK as possible rather than, for example, travel from England to Scotland before isolating. Because, as you can imagine, it would then be possible that somebody would have taken the virus quite a distance.
So for that reason, we want to continue to work with the UK Government, and we will try to persuade it to adopt more comprehensive measures. Or failing that, to help us ensure that people arriving at airports in England but who intend travelling to Scotland, are required to isolated in hotel accommodation at the point of arrival.
But of course, for all that this is important, we wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it was important, the most important message of all right now is that we are saying to everybody that you shouldn’t travel at all right now unless it is absolutely essential.
Almost all travel to and from Scotland is currently against the law. There is only a small number of essential purposes for which travel is permitted.
So the managed isolation rules are an important additional safeguard, but the most important safeguard of all at the moment is the fact that you shouldn’t be travelling at all unless it is essential.
Now the second issue I just want to mention before drawing my remarks to a close, would be important at any time but I’m mentioning it today because it is especially important given the financial impact that the pandemic is having on some families.
The Scottish Child Payment - which gives eligible parents and carers an additional £10 a week for each child initially under the age of six – is formally launching today.
That means that Social Security Scotland can now start making final decisions about eligibility for the payment.
So far more than 77,000 applications have been received.
It will take time to process all of them and so the first payments, which will be made every four weeks, will start to arrive with families from the end of this month.
But I want to reassure parents, that even if you don’t receive your payment for a couple more weeks - the money that is due to you will be calculated from today onwards.
And I also want to stress that it is still possible to apply for the child payment.
The payment is open to parents and carers on low incomes, who receive benefits such as Universal Credit.
So if you fall into that category, have a young child, and have not yet applied for the payment, you can find out more about eligibility on mygov.scot website.
And if you think you are eligible, make sure you apply as soon as possible.
Many families have been really hard hit by the pandemic so this is one way in which we can do more to help.
Now these are the main items I wanted to update on today. So let me finish as usual just with an encouragement to please stay at home apart from essential purposes.
That is the key thing everybody is doing right now that is helping to get these virus levels down while we vaccinate more and more people.
So unless you need to care for somebody or do essential shopping or exercise, please stay at home.
Outdoors, limit your meetings to just one other person from one other household.
Work from home whenever you can and employers, remember you have a duty to facilitate your staff working from home wherever possible.
And if you are out and about, remember FACTS:
- wear face coverings;
- avoid places that are crowded;
- clean your hands and surfaces;
- use two metre distancing;
- and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.
But above all else, the most important thing we can all continue to do right now is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
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