- 14 Jan 2021
Thank you for joining us. As usual I will start with the statistics for today and report that the total number of positive cases yesterday was 1,707.
That represents 8.3% of the total number of tests and the total number of confirmed cases is now 157,079.
526 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 242 in Lanarkshire, 205 in Grampian, and 177 in Lothian. The remaining cases are across 8 other health board areas.
I can also confirm that as of yesterday 208,207 people had received their first dose of vaccine.
1,829 people unfortunately are currently in hospital – that is 35 more than yesterday and as you can see from that figure the hospital occupancy as a result of COVID is now significantly above the peak that it reached of around 1,500 patients in April during the first wave.
142 people are in intensive care, that’s an increase of 8 from yesterday and while that figure remains below the peak back in April - the number in intensive care at any one time from COVID peaked at around 200 so 142 is below that, but nevertheless that figure is rising and both of those figures for hospital admissions and also for people in intensive care demonstrate and illustrate the pressure currently being experienced by the NHS and of course remind us how important it is that we all play our part in ensuring, as far as we can, that that pressure on the NHS does not increase.
I am also very sorry to say that 64 additional deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of patients who first tested positive over the past 28 days and the total number of deaths under this measurement is now 5,166.
And yet again we are reminded that these are not just statistics, but behind every one of them is a real human being. Someone who was loved and is currently being mourned so my thoughts and condolences go to every family around the country who is in that position.
Now the Scottish Government will also publish later today as we always do on a Thursday the latest estimate for the R number. That will show that the R number remains above 1, perhaps as high as 1.4 right now, but it is important to stress that that estimate will not yet take full account of the new restrictions that have been in force for the past couple of weeks.
Now I am joined today by Dr Nicola Steedman, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and also by Dr Alastair Cook. Dr Cook is our Principal Medical Officer for Mental Health and he’s going to talk in a few moments about mental health and about the help that is there if you need it. That’s an important message at all times, but it is especially important at this exceptionally tough time for everyone. There can be few people across the country right now that are not struggling in one way or another and many people will be struggling quite a lot right now so there is help out there if you need it and Dr Cook will talk about some of that shortly.
Before then, there’ a few things I want to highlight. I’ll do it as briefly as a can.
Firstly I just want to give a brief recap of the additional restrictions which were announced yesterday.
These measures will come into force on Saturday and they cover click and collect services, takeaways and the consumption of alcohol in public places which will not be permitted after Saturday.
We are also introducing statutory guidance on employers to make crystal clear the duty of employers to enable people right now to work from home whenever that is possible.
Full details of all the changes that were announced yesterday can be found on the Scottish Government’s website.
I would stress again how important it is for all of us right now to abide by the both the letter and the spirit of these rules. Case numbers in Scotland, while we see early signs of optimism that they might be beginning to stabilise are nonetheless far too high. The new variant is highly infectious and all of us need to do everything we can to reduce transmission while the vaccination programme picks up pace and does its work.
So I am asking everybody not to think in terms of the maximum that you can do within the rules. The question we should all be asking ourselves right now every single day when thinking about going out of our house to do something is not ‘can I do this, do the rules allow me to do this?’, the question we should be asking is ‘should I do it - is it really, really essential for me to do it?’ And what we are asking everybody to do is to try and limit our interactions as much as we possibly can because that is how we deprive COVID of every possible opportunity it has to spread.
I know this is really tough. There will be nobody in the country not finding these restrictions very difficult right now and of course that is why Dr Cook in a few moments will talk about mental health and why the other issues I want to briefly cover today also highlight support that is available to anyone who needs it.
Firstly, let me remind you that the National Assistance Helpline - which was set up back in April - is still open and it is still taking calls. I am going to read out the number for that in a moment. I will do it a couple of times so you can quickly get a pen if you need to. The helpline is open from Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm and it is there to support people who might not be able to call easily on friends, neighbours and relatives for help – and people who don’t have access to digital technology, or who may not feel very comfortable using it.
If you phone the helpline, what happens is you will be put through to your local council who will then help you get whatever assistance it is you need – now that might be food and medicine, it might be emotional support, it might be to have contact with volunteer groups. So if you think you need any help then feel free to phone that number and let me give you the number now. It is 0800 111 4000. That’s 0800 111 4000. So if you need support and you don’t have any other way of getting it then that helpline is there for you.
And the assistance helpline is relevant to the second issue I want to highlight which is self-isolation. We know by now how important self-isolation is to ensure that people don’t spread the virus either when they have COVID themselves or have been in close contact with somebody who does and is therefore at risk of having it and passing it on.
Self-isolation is essential to keep the virus under control, but it is really, really hard for anybody who is asked to self-isolate. One of the difficult things about it, is that for it to be effective everybody asked to self-isolate really has to stay at home immediately – from the moment you are first told or the moment you first experience symptoms. That means you can’t go to the shops one last time to get some supplies because of course if you do that while you are out there you might infect other people.
Many people, of course, who need to self-isolate can get essential groceries delivered to them by family and friends or neighbours and will have those networks to give them more general support, but if you are in the position of having to self-isolate and you don’t have that support network again you can use the National Assistance Helpline. Again it will connect you to your local authority and support you with whatever it is that you need.
Other support is also available. If you are told by contact tracers to self-isolate, you will also be asked if you are willing to let your local authority have your contact details.
If you agree to that, you may then receive a phone call from the Self-Isolation Assistance Service and that will talk to you about any needs that you have.
And finally, if you are on a low income, and you are worried that you will lose money by self-isolating, you might be eligible for the Self-Isolation Support Grant. That is worth £500 for a ten day period of self-isolation. You can apply for the grant through your local authority, but you can also find out more on the eligibility for it and how to apply on the Scottish Government website - and of course it is also something you can discuss with the Self-isolation Assistance Service.
Fundamentally, self-isolation is a really important example of how, during this pandemic, given the nature of what it is we are dealing with right now we are all dependent on each other and to get through it we all have to look out for each other and help each other and if we all self-isolate as soon as we are asked to do so, we are doing our bit, to stop the virus spreading. So if you are asked to self-isolate, please make sure that you do it. But also do not hesitate to ask for support if you need it.
That basic principle - that all of us have a part to play in controlling this pandemic - is the point I want to conclude on.
The decisions we make as individuals right now really do affect the health and wellbeing of everyone. We are all interdependent all of the time, but that has possibly never been more true than it is at the moment. So please, please continue to stick to the spirit, as well as the letter, of the current rules and guidance.
The main at the moment is a very simple one – stay at home. Do not leave home right now unless it is for a genuine essential purpose.
And think carefully about what is and isn’t essential - not just in general terms, not just in what the law classes as an essential purpose, but what is really essential for you personally.
Even though an activity might be classed legally as essential, we should all ask ourselves on every occasion before we go out of it is really essential for us and are we doing it as safely as possible.
For example, instead of going for essential shopping twice a week, if that is your usual pattern, could you cut it down to just once a week?
When you are out for daily exercise, could you take a route on your run or cycle or walk that avoids places where there might be others around?
In everything we do, we really should assume right now that the virus is there with us – that we have it or somebody that we might be in contact with has it because that is very possibly the case and we should act in a way that avoids us getting it or spreading it.
And remember FACTS.
Stay Home. Protect NHS. Save Lives
- wear face coverings when you are doing essential shopping;
- avoid anywhere busy;
- clean hands and surfaces;
- use two metre distancing if you are talking to someone from another household
- and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms. As I have just said, support is available, if you need to self-isolate.
Fundamentally, the main message right now is the best way of protecting ourselves and others and the NHS is to stay home, stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
That is what we are asking everyone to do.