- 9 Nov 2020
Thanks for joining us again today.
I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics but I will round off in a few minutes time with a brief reference to some good news that you might all be seeing in the media this morning about vaccine development.
One of the vaccines that has been in trials across the world has been shown to perhaps be more than 90% effective. That is positive news.
There's a long way to go of course, but this is news that should give us all some tentative hope today and, let's be honest, all of us could do with that. It should also give us motivation to keep up with our own efforts to make sure we keep the virus in check. I will return to that point at the end of my remarks.
Firstly I will report on today's statistics. The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 912.
That represents 9.1% of the total number of tests, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 64,355.
363 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 219 in Lanarkshire, 107 in Lothian and 73 in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining cases were spread across the seven other mainland health board areas.
I can also confirm that 1226 people are currently in hospital. That is a decrease of 19 from yesterday.
And 105 people are in intensive care, which is six fewer than yesterday.
And finally, I regret to say that one additional death has been registered in the past 24 hours of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
I would remind you that registration offices tend to be closed at weekends so the figures we report of deaths on Sundays and Mondays can be artificially low as a result.
In total, since last Friday’s media briefing, 43 deaths have been registered.
That means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 3,040.
That figure reminds us once again of the heartbreak that has been caused by this virus and the heartbreak that is still being caused to too many families across the country.
I want to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one.
I am joined today by the Health Secretary and by the Chief Medical Officer.
I have three points I want to cover before the Cabinet Secretary says a few words.
First, I want to update you on developments over the past few days on travel between Scotland and Denmark.
As I mentioned on Friday, a new variant of Covid has been discovered in Denmark. It seems to have originated in the mink population, and then transferred to humans.
In order to reduce the possibility of this new strain coming into the UK, the Scottish Government and the UK Government have significantly tightened travel restrictions.
There is now a travel ban on visitors from Denmark into any part of the UK – including Scotland.
UK citizens, residents and EU Citizens with Settled Status will be allowed to re-enter the UK but they and their household must, without exception, self-isolate for 14 days.
Other visitors to the UK who have been in Denmark in the previous 14 days will unfortunately not be permitted entry for now.
In addition to that measure, we also strongly recommended that anyone who has arrived in Scotland from Denmark in the past fortnight should self-isolate completely, until 14 days after your arrival.
So if you arrived in Scotland seven days ago, you should isolate for the next seven days. By doing that, you will be helping us to reduce the risk of this new Covid strain coming into the country.
The new strain seems to have jumped from mink to humans in mink farms in Denmark.
For that reason, let me just stress that there are no mink farms anywhere in Scotland, or indeed anywhere in the UK. A licence is needed to own a mink in Scotland, and we are currently reviewing all licences.
If any further action is needed, we will of course announce that in due course.
The steps I have outlined today are not taken lightly. Butt by taking these steps we have adopted a precautionary approach in the face of a potentially serious development and in doing so we hope we will have reduced any risks which may be attached to the new Covid strain.
The second issue I want to highlight, relates to the continuing remobilization of the NHS.
The Health Secretary will say something in a few minutes about a pilot project we are establishing to improve services for people who have had strokes.
But I want to highlight an initiative which is relevant to the health service’s longer term skills and training needs.
We have confirmed today that we will create up to 64 new specialist training posts in the NHS.
These cover areas such as public health, the study of viruses, and intensive care medicine.
This announcement will not have an immediate impact on NHS services but it will improve our future capacity in these very significant branches of medicine, branches which have been very important in the course of this pandemic.
It is one of the ways in which we are trying to ensure that our workforce planning in the NHS doesn’t simply meet the immediate requirements of this pandemic – although that is of course hugely important – but that it also addresses the NHS’s needs for the medium and long term.
The final point I want to highlight is to give you advance notice that I will make a statement to parliament tomorrow. This is our first review of the levels that are allocated to each local authority and tomorrow we will confirm which levels of restrictions will apply to which local authority area from this Friday onwards. The final decisions that I will set out will be taken by the Cabinet tomorrow morning.
I am not going to pre-empt those decisions because they haven't finally been taken yet, but in the interests of being open with you about the factors guiding our decisions let me just take a moment to underline some of the issues we are thinking about and that will inform the decisions we reach.
The first is that the measures we have already adopted in Scotland over the past few weeks, and that are now encapsulated in the levels of intervention, are undoubtedly having a positive impact.
The number of new cases was rising steeply in the first half of October but that has now pretty much levelled off. We are in a far better position that we would have been without the current restrictions and of course without your compliance with these restrictions. Any progress we are seeing is down to the enormous sacrifices everyone has been making.
And the slowdown in new cases should give us confidence that these sacrifices do work. They do make a difference. So I hope that in these difficult times, everyone can draw some encouragement and motivation from that.
These tough restrictions are not in vain. I know sometimes for all of us it seems as if they might be but what everybody is doing right now is undoubtedly saving lives, and that really matters.
The second consideration is that although there are positive signs, it is important that we start to see these translate into a significant and sustained decline in Covid cases.
We cannot be sure we are seeing this yet, so I think it is highly unlikely that we will see any significant easing of restrictions tomorrow.
As I have said before, while a plateauing of cases is undoubtedly better than a rise, we can’t afford cases simply to plateau at their current, quite high level. We need them to fall. Otherwise, we will be badly exposed to any further rise in cases as we go deeper into winter.
And we know that a further rise is entirely possible.
We can see that simply by looking across Europe and around the world. In fact, it was reported today that the world has now seen more than 50 million Covid cases. More than a quarter of those have come in this second wave and several countries are now seeing record case numbers.
We also know that with the best will in the world, there will be more pressure on compliance with basic measures over the Christmas period.
So that is another reason why we need to see cases decline. We are currently balancing all these considerations. We are weighing up the fact that we have undoubtedly made progress in slowing down the rate of increase against the very real concern that we are not yet seeing a significant or sustained decline in new cases.
In doing that, we are looking at the number of new cases in each area and the trend in those cases - are they rising or falling. But we are also looking at a range of other indicators.
For example we are considering hospital capacity, intensive care capacity, and the linkages between local authority areas.
These are difficult judgements - difficult for government to make and the implications of them are difficult for all of you. So as we consider them we consult closely with health boards, with experts in public health and with local authorities. We will then confirm and set out those decisions in parliament tomorrow.
As always, together with the decisions that government has to take, there is an essential role for all of us as individuals. And the role we are all playing as individuals has been having an impact in these past few weeks.
The best chance each local authority has of avoiding tighter restrictions, and of then hopefully moving down the levels in weeks to come, is if we all as individuals stick to the current restrictions.
So once again, I will close by reminding you of what those are.
If you are living in one of the areas at level three – most parts of the central belt and also Dundee - you should not travel outside your own local authority area except for essential purposes.
You can see what we mean by essential purposes on the Scottish Government website but it includes work that can’t be done at home, or caring responsibilities.
People in other parts of Scotland should not travel into level 3 areas, except for the same essential purposes.
We are also asking you right now not to travel outside of Scotland , again unless there is an essential need to do so.
These travel restrictions are never easy but they are vital in order to prevent transmission between areas with high infection rates, and areas with lower rates. Only if we can do that will we be able to maintain the regional, targeted and proportionate approach that we are seeking to take through the levels system.
In addition 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 – either outdoors or in places such as cafes – the limit is six people, from a maximum of two households. It's really important all of us stick to that.
We should be avoiding car sharing if possible, working from home wherever possible and please make sure you have downloaded the Protect Scotland app, if you can.
And finally, remember FACTS, the five key rules that, if we follow them, reduce our chance of getting the virus and of passing it on:
- remember face coverings
- remember to avoid places with crowds of people
- clean your hands regularly 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 work together to get us through these difficult times. They help us to protect ourselves but they will also help us protect those we love and help us protect our wider communities. They will definitely help us protect the NHS and ultimately, by doing all these things, we all help to save lives.
So although I know that it isn’t easy – and it can seem harder as just now as we are in winter and getting towards Christmas – please stick with it.
I want to end with the point I started on. It might not be all that visible at the moment but there is light at the end of this tunnel. The news we've heard this morning that early indications show a vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, which has been trialled in other countries across the world, is 90% effective, is good news. Perhaps amongst the best news we have had in recent weeks.
It's not going to provide us with the way out of this today, or tomorrow, or next week, or perhaps not even in this calendar year. But this development, along with all of the work that is going into the development of other vaccines, does give us real hope that in the not too distant future, science is going to find us the way out of this terrible time.
So hold onto that hope today, and also use it as a motivation. What we are living through right now, and all the restrictions that are so difficult for all of us, will not last forever. But it is really important we stick with them so that we get out of the other side of this with as few people as possible becoming ill, with as few people as possible losing their lives.
That means all of us sticking with these tough restrictions that we are all fed up with but which we know will reduce the impact of this virus.
So please stick with it for now and keep hold of the hope we have today that there is an end, and that we will see it in the not too distant future.