Thank you for joining us again today.
As usual I will give today’s statistics first.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 1,261.
That represents 6.5% of the total number of tests that were carried out, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland now to 76,448.
488 of the new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 272 in Lanarkshire, 145 in Lothian and 80 in Ayrshire and Arran.
The remaining 276 cases were spread across 8 other health board areas.
I can also confirm that 1,235 people are currently in hospital – that is a decrease of 4 from yesterday.
And 93 people are in intensive care, which is 9 fewer than yesterday.
Finally though, I very much regret to say that an additional 64 deaths have been registered in the past 24 hours of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.
That is the highest daily total of deaths since 6 May, and it takes the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, to 3,143.
National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly update, which you will recall includes cases where COVID is a suspected or contributory cause of death in addition to those that are confirmed through a test.
Today’s update shows that by Sunday just past, the total number of registered deaths linked to COVID, under that wider definition, was 4,856.
206 of those were registered last week, which is 28 more than in the week before.
143 of last week’s COVID deaths were in hospital, 53 in care homes, 1 in a another institutional setting, and 9 at home or in a non-institutional setting.
These deaths of course and I think today in particular it is important to remember this - these are not statistics and none of us should every see them in that way – every single one of the numbers I report here on a daily basis represents an individual who was loved, unique and for many people, irreplaceable.
So I want again to send my condolences to all those who have lost a loved one during this pandemic.
Now, before I move onto the main subjects of today’s briefing, let me just say a few words about Remembrance Day.
Like many people across Scotland, I stood in silence at 11 o’clock today to pay tribute to those who died in World War 1 and in subsequent conflicts.
We must never lose sight of the sacrifices that they made. And although this year’s remembrance commemorations have by necessity been different from those that we are used to – and I am sure many people will have found that difficult - they have nevertheless allowed people across the country to pay our respects in a range of different ways.
I want to take the opportunity today to thank everyone who has been involved in this year’s events, and everyone who has taken part in them.
I am joined by Jason Leitch today who will say a word or two underlining the advice that we are giving.
First of all, can I highlight that later today, the Higher Education Minister, Richard Lochhead will give a statement to parliament later today about COVID and students.
I am not going to pre-empt the statement right now, but it will include details of the arrangements that we are putting in place for students to get tested before they return home for Christmas if indeed that is what they wish to do. Not all students will be in a position to do that and it will also set out our current plans more generally for handling the Christmas holiday period. So I am sure it will be of great interest to quite a few of you if you are watching and you are a student or if you have a student in your family.
There are three other substantive points that I want to briefly update on today.
First, I will quickly summarise the key points that I made in the statement I gave to parliament yesterday.
The first one is particularly important to stress, I think given today’s figures.
Although it may not seem like it and when you hear figures such as the one I’ve quoted today on the number of people dying I am sure it doesn’t feel like it but the fact is the measures we have adopted in recent weeks and the sacrifices all of you across the country have been making have been having an effect.
There is no doubt when we look at the data over the past few weeks that these measures have slowed very significantly the rate at which cases were increasing. And that is really good news.
As I said yesterday if the rate of increase in new cases that we had seen at the end of September into the early part of October had continued we would now be reporting somewhere in the region of 3000 cases every day and clearly as you can see that is not the case so everybody should be under no doubt that these measures and these sacrifices have had an effect and they will saved lives.
That said, and I said this in Parliament yesterday as well, we cannot yet be sure that we are seeing a significant and sustained fall in the number of cases. We are certainly seeing a flattening off in some areas we’ve seen signs of a reduction but we need to see cases come down overall because I have set out before why it would not be a good position to go into the depths of winter with cases at the level they are at just now even if that level is quite stable.
For that reason, we adopted a very cautious approach yesterday when we carried out the first review of the allocation of levels of restrictions to different local authority areas.
Only two substantive changes were made although they are big changes – and each of them affects three local authority areas although different local authority areas.
First of all, from Friday – and this reflects the very low number of cases on the islands - people in Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles will be able to meet in each other’s homes. Something the rest of us have not been able to do, are still not able to do and nobody in Scotland has been able to do for some time. There will be limits of course, no more than 6 people can meet, from no more than 2 households. And this is an important point, people who are going to or returning to the islands after being on the mainland should not mix in other people’s households for a period after they return and we will issue some guidance on that latter point later in the week
Unfortunately household meetings are not yet allowed in the two other level 1 local authority areas – Moray and Highland – except for essential purposes like providing care. The case numbers in these areas, although relatively low compared to other parts of Scotland have been volatile and seen a slight increase in recent days so we want to be very cautious before easing restrictions there.
The second change I announced yesterday is that Fife, Angus and Perth and Kinross will from Friday move from level 2 to level 3.
That change was not made lightly. But it reflects the fact that case numbers in all three areas have been increasing really quite sharply in recent days and we believe that the best way of handling that increase, is to introduce tighter restrictions now to try to get it under control before the situation deteriorates any further.
Hopefully this move to level 3 will have an impact - and Fife, Angus and Perth and Kinross will be able to return to level 2 before too long.
There are several other local authority areas that we are paying very close attention to.
For example for those currently in level 3 there are a several areas particularly in the west of Scotland where either the increase in cases has stabilised but at a stubbornly high level, or where numbers are currently rising at a rate that is causing us concern. We have concluded that it is not necessary at this stage to move any of these areas into level 4, but clearly that is an option we cannot rule out and we will be monitoring these areas very closely in the days ahead.
There are also of course some areas at level 3 which we hope will be able to move down into level 2 in the not too distant future, and indeed some areas in level 2 that we hope in the not too distant future will be able to move down into level 1 - but only if progress continues.
That means that, for all parts of Scotland, whatever level you are living in the basic message remains the same.
The best way of avoiding the need for tighter restrictions – and hopefully of moving to a lower level of restrictions in the future – is to stick to the current rules and guidelines. That is how all of us can help to break the chains of transmission and get the virus back under control.
And if you are in any doubt at all about the position in your local area, go to the COVID section of the Scottish Government’s website, and enter your postcode and find out which level your area is in, and what that means for you practically. That will help you ensure you are sticking to all the rules and guidelines.
The second issue I want to touch on very briefly relates to preparations for winter more widely than COVID.
We have discussed some of this at previous briefings – the steps we are taking to ensure the health service is ready to cope with the wider pressures of winter.
But we are also considering the wider support and help that people might need.
We have updated the Ready Scotland website - ready.scot - to provide advice on how to prepare for winter, and to give information to anyone who might need support. I will read out a helpline number in a moment that you might want to take a note of.
The Ready Scotland website also provides guidance for people who don’t need help themselves, but who want to assist others – maybe offering help to a neighbour or other vulnerable people in your community.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen a solidarity and sense of community spirit plays an important role in getting us through these past months.
That sense of kindness and solidarity will be more important than ever during the winter period. And support networks will be especially important to people at risk; to older and disabled people or to those who are on their own or feeling lonely.
So if you want to find out more about helping others, or if you think you might need some support yourself, you can go to the ready.scot website.
Alternatively, you can also call the assistance hotline on 0800 111 4000 – that’s 0800 111 4000.
Now, the final issue I want to highlight is that tomorrow marks the start of Diwali.
I am very aware that the next five days – and Saturday in particular - are a time of great significance for Scotland’s Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain communities.
This will be though a very different Diwali from the ones that you are used to.
Communities won’t be able to come together as they normally would. You won’t be able to host people in your home, or visit friends and family as you would usually do.
You will need to celebrate in a different way – perhaps by using technology or, within guidelines, by visiting your place of worship.
I know how difficult that will be and given that we talk a lot about Christmas but perhaps talk less about these are other celebrations that are very important to other faith communities across the country it is important to recognise the difficulty that many are facing at this time. But to everybody who is celebrating Diwali, I hope you still have a very special time even in these tough circumstances and I hope you know that over the next few days you will be in my thoughts, and I’m sure in the thoughts of many across the country.
And thank you - for celebrating in a way that keeps you safe, your loved ones safe and the NHS and wider community too.
Before I finish because that concludes the main issues I wanted to update you on today let me just remind you of all the things we are asking you to do right now and remind you how important it is that everybody sticks to these things if we are going to over the next few weeks see a situation of continuing progress as opposed to deterioration in the spread of the virus.
There is no doubt that sticking to these rules gives all of us the best chance of avoiding tighter restrictions and hopefully moving to a greater degree of normality.
So if you are living in one of the areas at level 3, please don’t travel outside your own local authority area except for essential purposes. You can find out what we mean by that on the website but it includes work that you can’t do at home, caring responsibilities or childcare.
Level 3 remember covers virtually all of the central belt and Dundee, and as of Friday will include Fife, Angus and Perth and Kinross
People in other parts of Scotland should not travel to level 3 areas, except for the same essential purposes.
And please don’t travel outside of Scotland just now unless you really have to – don’t travel to other parts of the UK or overseas unless it is essential.
In addition nobody from Friday outside of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles should be visiting each other’s homes just now - 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 you do meet other households – outdoors or in indoor public places, or in the islands from Friday in your own home – remember it is a maximum of six people, from a maximum of two households.
Avoid car-sharing if you can.
Work from home if you can.
Download the Protect Scotland app, if you are able to.
And finally, please remember the FACTS rules which help to keep everybody safe:
- remember face coverings
- remember to avoid places with crowds of people
- clean your hands and clean hard surfaces
- keep two metres distance from people from other households
- and finally self-isolate, and get tested immediately, if you have any of the symptoms of COVID.
These things are all tough to do and to remember each and every day but they are making a difference and will continue to make the difference between us getting control and keeping control of this virus or the situation deteriorating and running out of control again.
So thank you to all of you for everything you are doing and thank you for joining us and listening today.
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