Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister’s statement Monday 16 November 2020

Statement given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on Monday 16 November 2020.

Thank you for joining us.

I will start with the statistics for today, as usual.

First of all, the total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 717.

That represents 8.3% of the total number of tests carried out, and means that the total number of confirmed cases is now 82,011.

I should say although we often see a slightly lower number of new cases reported after a weekend, todays figure is nevertheless still lower than we would have expected it to be, so we are looking to see whether there are any other reasons that might be the cause of that, and if that is the case we will obviously update you as appropriate.

220 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 136 in Lanarkshire, and 101 in Lothian.

The remaining cases were across 9 other health board areas.

I can confirm that 1227 people are currently in hospital – which is a decrease of 14 from yesterday.

And 98 people are in intensive care, that’s two fewer than yesterday.

I unfortunately have to report that an additional six deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

Again, I would remind you that registration offices tend to be closed at weekends so the figures we report for deaths on Sundays and Mondays can be artificially low as a result.

However, 36 deaths were reported on Saturday, and taking account of the six that have been reported in the past 24 hours, the total now stands at 3286 and my condolences once again go to all those who have lost a loved one.

I am joined today by the Health Secretary and the Chief Medical Officer, before handing over to the Health Secretary and then the three of us taking questions, there are three issues that I want to very briefly update you on.

The first relates to some additional support that we are providing for care homes. 

We have confirmed funding today that will help to provide every care home in Scotland with one or two iPads. This will enable more than 1400 care homes to help their residents stay connected with family and friends while visiting remains restricted.

It will also help clinicians – such as GPs or speech and language therapists - with remote consultations, when that is necessary.

That will allow them to assess residents’ health conditions, without always needing to visit in person.

Now I should stress, and I really do want to make this point very strongly, the iPads are not intended to be a substitute for personal visits to care homes. We know and understand how vital in-person visits are both for residents and for their family members.

For that reason, we are currently finalising our plans to ensure that routine visits from designated visitors can take place as safely as possible. As we have indicated before these plans will include regular testing of care home visitors and the Health Secretary will set out further details soon, probably in a statement to Parliament next week.

However this funding will give care home residents an additional way of keeping in touch with family and friends – and of receiving expert clinical advice.

The second point I want to highlight relates to our plans to develop regional testing hubs to further increase NHS Scotland’s testing capacity.

We’ve said before that NHS Scotland is currently developing three new testing hubs – in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

There was some press speculation over the weekend about possible delays to these hubs, and so I want to take the opportunity today to stress that all three of them are on track to open before the end of this year. As we speak, building work is being carried out, and recruitment is taking place.

These will enable NHS Scotland to process a further 22,000 tests a day, and of course they form an important part of our plans to increase daily testing capacity for Scotland overall to at least 65,000 by the end of the year.

Amongst other things, these hubs will be able then to ensure that the NHS in Scotland processes all of our routine care home testing – which will help to ensure that we get these test results back as quickly as possible.

These efforts to increase capacity within NHS Scotland are of course n addition to and entirely compatible with the ongoing work led by the UK Government to increase UK-wide testing capacity.

We very much welcome the announcement today that the UK plans to establish a major new testing laboratory in Scotland early next year, which might be able to handle up to 300,000 tests a day from across the UK. We are working constructively with the UK Government in order to help with the establishment of that laboratory.

Now the final issue that I want to highlight today, is that we will confirm the outcome of our weekly review of Covid levels of restriction tomorrow.

As I have mentioned before, one of the issues we are looking at very closely is whether current restrictions are reducing Covid rates quickly enough, in some areas, particularly in parts of the west of Scotland, these areas that have stable but still stubbornly high prevalence of the virus.

A stubbornly high prevalence causes us concern for a number of reasons, two in particular that I want to highlight just now.

Firstly, it means that we don’t have enough assurance or as much assurance as we want to have, that our hospital and intensive care services are able to cope as we go deeper into the winter.

We know that winter will always bring additional pressures on the NHS, and ensuring that it can cope with those pressures as well as Covid is absolutely crucial. That is why regional hospital and intensive care capacity are important factors in our decision-making, when we consider what level of restrictions will be assigned to each area.

The second reason I want to highlight is this one.

Stubbornly high prevalence means that we might have less flexibility to offer some limited and careful easing of restrictions over the Christmas period, which we are very keen to do, and I sure all of you are very keen for us to do as well.

So moving to level 4 restrictions for a limited period in some areas while not a decision that we will ever take lightly because of the wider economic and social impacts, would help us to address both of these concerns.

More generally, and this is something that we should all bear in mind at any level of restrictions especially as we all get more and more fed up of them, is that every time we stop someone, especially someone who is older or more vulnerable, becoming infected with Covid, we give them the chance of living into the era, which is now firmly on the horizon, when better therapies, vaccines, testing and treatments will be available, and I think that motivation for all of us, as we are living under these restrictions right now, is important to bear in mind. The end is not quite with us, but we can see hope on the horizon now that perhaps we couldn’t just a few weeks ago.

So these issues are ones we are currently considering very closely. Especially in relation to Lanarkshire, Glasgow, and some surrounding parts of the west of Scotland. The Government’s final decision will be taken by the Cabinet tomorrow morning, and then I will set that out to parliament tomorrow afternoon.

However, and finally, it remains the case that all of us have a part to play in suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level.

And that means sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the rules and guidance in place in your area at any given time. Every time one of us breaches these rules, or tries to put our own twist on them, tempting though I know that is, we do put others at risk and we undermine the overall effectiveness of what we are seeking to do.

So let me close by just reminding everybody what is being asked of all of us right now.

If you live in a level 3 area please don’t travel outside your local authority unless for an essential purpose. If you live elsewhere in Scotland, please do not travel into a level 3 area, again, unless it is essential, and please don’t travel outside Scotland just now unless it is essential.

Now you can find what mean by essential on the Scottish Government website, but I am talking about things like childcare or looking after a vulnerable person or if you have to travel a short distance for essential shopping that is not available in your local area.

Secondly, unless you are living  in Orkney, Shetland or the Western Isles please do not visit each other’s houses just  now, except for purposes, like childcare, or looking after a vulnerable person.

When we are meeting people from other households – either outdoors or in a café for example – stick to the limit of six people, from a maximum of two households.

Avoid car-sharing if you possibly can.

Work from home when you can.

And if you can Download the Protect Scotland app.

And finally, remember FACTS, and don’t just remember them, remember to apply the rules encapsulated in the FACTS advise because it is basic but really important stuff to try to minimise the risks of transmitting the virus. So remember to:

  • Wear face coverings when you are out and about
  • avoid crowded places
  • clean your hands regularly and clean any hard surfaces you are touching
  • keep two metres distance from people from other households, whether you are outdoors or in a café
  • and self-isolate, and get tested, if you have any of the symptoms of Covid.

These rules  do help us to protect ourselves, they help us to keep our loved ones safe, they help us to protect our wider communities, to protect our NHS which is so important, and also ultimately they help us collectively save lives.

So thank you once again to everyone who is working so hard to make sure that these rules are adhered to.

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