Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's statement – 7 January 2021

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Thursday 7 January 2021.

Thanks for joining us again today.

First of all, today’s statistics. The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 2,649.

That is 11.3% of the total number of tests carried out, and the total number of confirmed cases is now 143,715.

660 of the new cases are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 389 in Lanarkshire, 357 in Lothian, and 302 in Tayside.

The remaining cases are across 9 other health board areas.

I can also confirm that 1,467 people are currently in hospital – that is an increase of 83 from yesterday.

This number pretty closely now matches the numbers that were in hospital at the peak of the first wave back in April.

100 people are in intensive care, which is 5 more than yesterday.

The intensive care number is still way below the peak we saw back in April but nevertheless I want to stress the pressure on our ICU units is increasing.

The total intensive care occupancy – which will be COVID and non-COVID patients in intensive care – is now above normal capacity across the country.

Both of these figures underline why it is so important that all of us play our part in stopping this virus spreading so that we – amongst other things of course – contribute to a situation where that pressure across our hospitals is not continuing to increase.

I can also confirm unfortunately that 78 additional deaths have been registered in the last 24 hours of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

The total number of deaths, under this daily measurement we use, is now 4,779.

National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly update - which includes cases where COVID has not been confirmed through a test, but is a suspected or contributory cause of death.

Today’s update shows that by last Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to Covid - under that wider definition - was 6,686.  

183 of these were registered last week, which is 17 fewer than in the previous week.

Of those 183 deaths, 111 occurred  in hospitals, 63 were in care homes, and 9 at home or in another non-institutional setting.

Of course every single one of these deaths which I report every day here as statistics represents a human being who was loved by their families and friends and they serve as a reminder of the toll this virus is taking and the heartbreak it is causing far too many families across the country.

So again today, to each and every one of you who is grieving somebody right, now my condolences and thoughts are very much with you.

The Scottish Government will also publish later today the latest estimate for the R number.

That will show that the R number undoubtedly  remains above 1 – although of course that estimate cannot take full account of any changes that might have happened as a result of the new restrictions that we have introduced this week. We know it is probably too early for those changes to have resulted in any change to those statistics.

There are a few other points that I want to update you on today.

The first is that Public Health Scotland has just published its weekly statistical update, and that includes details of our vaccination programme to date.

I can confirm that this shows that by Sunday the 3rd of January, 113,459 individuals had received their first dose of the Pfizer Covid vaccine.

We started using the Astrazeneca vaccine on Monday, and so next week’s figures will include people who have received that vaccine.

There are a further few points about the vaccination programme that I would like to expand on today to try and give you a sense of how the programme is progressing.

In weeks to come, Public Health Scotland intends to provide a much more detailed breakdown by group of the population and also by region of Scotland of who has been vaccinated.

But I am able to confirm today that now we are now well over half way through vaccinating care home residents with their first does of the vaccine.

That is extremely important. As you have just heard, more than a third of the people who died with Covid last week died in our care homes – we very much hope that the vaccine will soon start to significantly reduce the risk of care home residents becoming ill with the virus.

In addition, the programme for vaccinating all people who are over 80 is now underway. All over 80 year olds will be starting now to get appointments – either by phone or by letter.

But I want to say today, don’t worry if you haven’t yet had your call or letter. These are being aligned with the availability of supply and it will be coming to you soon.

We are aiming to have all over 80s receive the first does of the vaccine over the next four weeks.

So if you are over 80, and have not yet received an appointment letter or a phone call, there is no need for you to phone up your GP. You will be contacted for an appointment as soon as possible and you will get your vaccination over the next four week period.

The final point I want to make is that from next week to support all of this, I can confirm that more than 1100 vaccination sites will be operational across Scotland. These sites will mainly be GP practices and community vaccination centres at this stage.

The number of vaccination sites will continue to grow as our supplies of the vaccine increase - and as pharmacies and mass vaccination centres start being used to providing the vaccine.

But from next week more than 1,100 sites will be active and operation in getting this vaccine into people’s arms.

We will keep you updated on the progress of the vaccination programme as we go along. And as part of that I can confirm today that we have decided that from Monday next week, we will publish statistics every week day on the total number of people vaccinated to allow people to see on an ongoing basis the progress the programme is making.

The weekly Public Health Scotland report will also, as I indicated earlier on, as soon as possible give more detailed breakdowns of the number of vaccinated in each part of the country.

However I hope that today’s information provides some reassurance that the vaccination programme is already starting to protect a significant proportion of the people who are most vulnerable to COVID – particularly those in care homes – and that it will grow rapidly in scale in the coming days and weeks.

Vaccination, ultimately, is what will provide us with the route out of this pandemic. And so we are determined to ensure that as many people as possible, are vaccinated as quickly as it is possible to do so.

The second issue I want to update you on relates to temporary regulations to protect people from the risk of being evicted from their homes during the pandemic.

Early on in the pandemic, the Scottish Government acted to prevent evictions, by extending the notice period required for action.

And last month, we introduced regulations to prevent eviction notices from being enforced – with some limited exceptions.

Those regulations are in place until Friday the 22nd of January.  They were originally intended as a temporary action to protect public health, by ensuring that evictions could not take place over the Christmas and new year period.

Since the regulations were introduced we have seen a major increase in new cases, and the new variant of COVID has gained ground rapidly.

That means that – if anything – there is an even greater public health need to prevent evictions now, than there was in December.

It has become even more important to stop people from needing to find a new home, or perhaps from having to move in with a different household.

For that reason, therefore, the regulations to prevent the enforcement of eviction notices will be extended until the 31st of March in all level 3 and 4 areas – which of course right now is the entirety of Scotland.  And if necessary, the regulations can be extended after that date and we will review that position as we get closer to the 31st of March.

As is currently the case, there will continue to be limited exceptions in the regulations – for example it may still be possible to evict someone if they are guilty of anti-social behaviour or other criminal behaviour.

Overall, though, these regulations should stop most eviction notices from being served.

And that will protect public health – by helping people to stay in the same household – and also I hope provide reassurance for tenants living in private or social rented housing.

The final point I want to make is to emphasise once again our key public health guidance.

And as part of that, I want to stress today in particular the importance of working from home as much and as far as you possibly can.

Working from home - if it is possible to do so - is now a legal requirement in mainland Scotland and Skye.   

Many businesses have already shown great flexibility in enabling more employees to work from home and I am grateful to them for that.

But I want to stress again the need for all companies to do as much as they possibly can.

All employers should be reviewing their operations to allow as many people as possible to work from home.

In particular, they should only be asking people to come into work, if it is for work that cannot possibly be done from home - and if it is for work that is genuinely essential.

That also applies – and this is a point I was to stress too – to take-away businesses, and to non-essential shops that are providing click and collect services. 

If you can provide delivery services instead, you should do that, and that would reduce the need for people to leave their homes, and it will help all of us to fight this virus more effectively.

The bottom line here – and I need to be really blunt about this – is that for this lockdown to be as effective as we need it to be, we must radically reduce the number of interactions we are having. That means reducing to a minimum the reasons people are required to leave their home.

If we need to require more non-essential activity to close in order to achieve this we will have to do that. That’s a matter of ongoing review by the Scottish Government right now. However, businesses can help now by limiting as far as possible the numbers of workers they are asking to leave their homes and I am asking them again to do so.

But although there is an important role for employers here – and a particularly important role for government in all of this – reducing the risk of transmission is also a responsibility for all of us as individuals and this is the point I want to conclude on.

Each of us needs to play our part in slowing down the spread of the virus - and reducing the number of people who get infected - while the vaccination programme starts to have an impact. Remember that race analogy I used the other day. We need to speed up the vaccine but we also need to slow down the virus and that is up to each and every one of us.  

And the best way of doing that, is to stick to the new lockdown rules.

Stay at home as much as possible.

Only leave your house for genuinely essential purposes such as caring responsibilities, essential shopping or exercise.

Work from home if you possibly can.

And please do not go inside other people’s houses unless it is for an essential purpose like caring for someone who is vulnerable.

And remember that the rule for meeting people outdoors now allows just two people from two households to get together.

And finally, if you are out and about, please continue to remember and abide by FACTS.

  • wear face coverings when you are doing essential shopping;
  • avoid anywhere busy;
  • clean hands and hard surfaces;
  • use two metre distancing if you are talking to someone from another household, even outdoors
  • and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

On any occasion when we do require to be outside our own homes, those measures still help us break chains of transmission.

But fundamentally the best way we have of protecting ourselves, is to go out and about as little as possible.

Staying at home is how we stay safe. It is how we can protect ourselves, our loved ones and it’s how we slow down this virus while we speed up vaccinations.  

Last one for you is this, staying at home is also how all of us help our national health service do the incredibly difficult job it has on its hands right now.

Our NHS is coping but as you saw from the statistics I reported earlier on, it is under severe and increasing pressure. Every single person who gets infected by this virus is somebody who might need hospital care in future. So the more all of us stay at home and reduce the opportunities for the virus to spread, the more all of us give the NHS hope.

I saw talk yesterday of restarting the weekly clap for the NHS, although expanding it to include others who are contributing so much right now.

And let me be clear in mentioning this, don’t take from it that I am in any way against that. Anything we can do to show appreciation for those working so hard on our behalf is important.

But I strongly suspect that what most front line NHS workers really want from the public right now is for all of us to do what we can to stop the virus spreading.

So please – I’m asking everybody – heed this message and please help get it across to everyone you know who might not be watching right now.

Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. This is now just as important as it was last March and I ask everybody to take it just as seriously as all of us did back then.

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