Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Health Secretary's statement 12 April 2020

Statement given by Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman at a media briefing on Sunday 12 April 2020.

Good afternoon, and thank you once again for joining us.

Today is of course an Easter Sunday like no other we have experienced. I want to thank everyone across the country for staying at home. I know this isn’t easy, but your actions, your sacrifices are making a difference. So I am asking you to please stick with it. It is vital that we slow the spread of this virus and save lives.

I want to start with an update on some of the key statistics in relation to COVID-19 in Scotland.

As at 9am this morning, there have been 5,912 positive cases confirmed – an increase of 322 from yesterday’s figures.

As always, let me be clear that these numbers will be an underestimate.

A total of 1,755 patients are in hospital with COVID-19, that is a decrease of 100 from yesterday – but it is too early to read anything into that.

A total of 221 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. An increase of nine on yesterday.

And it is with sadness that I can report that a further 24 deaths have been registered of people who had tested positive for COVID-19. That takes the total number of deaths in Scotland to 566.

This number is lower than in previous days, and should be treated with some caution. People can now register deaths at weekends, as part of our move towards seven day a week registration and I am grateful to local authority staff for working with us to make that possible.

However we expect that registration numbers will still be relatively low over the Easter weekend. This should be taken into account when looking at today’s figures – and also the numbers for the days following this weekend.

I also want to provide some details about further information that will be available this week.

Last week National Records of Scotland (NRS) published their first report on deaths from COVID-19, drawing together information on all registered deaths where COVID-19 was either the underlying cause or a contributory factor.

When the next NRS report is published this week, it will break down those figures, by whether an individual has died in hospital, in a care home, at home or in another location.

NRS will also provide additional analysis by date of death, for all deaths registered by 5 April. While there is a time lag on that analysis, it will help us better understand the spread of the virus throughout Scotland.

Of course, understanding the statistics is important, but these numbers are more than statistics. All of the 24 deaths registered in the last 24 hours are deaths of individuals whose loss is a source of grief to many. I don’t ever forget that and I offer my deepest condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones.

As Health Secretary, I also want again to thank all of those working in our health and care sector, for the incredible work that you are doing.

That thanks is due not only to doctors and nurses, but to the porters, the ambulance drivers, the cooks and the cleaners in our NHS and our social care settings.

Everything you are doing right now, is vital to the health of our country. All of us owe you a debt of gratitude.

I have three issues I want to briefly update you on today.

The first is specifically for those working in adult social care.

I want to be absolutely clear that you are as important to me, as workers in our health service are. I am determined to get you what you need to do your job, as you care for others.

Earlier this week I reminded NHS boards that social care workers have always been included in key worker testing, and asked that boards ensure they had good systems in place for giving social care workers access to tests.

I am pleased that we have had reports of progress made across a range of boards, although there is of course still work to do.

For example, NHS Lanarkshire have reported that 160 care workers or their households have been tested in just the last two days. As of Friday, a total of over 8,000 health and social care workers or their households across Scotland have been tested.

In addition, in recent weeks 2,000 people have come forward offering to join or re-join the social care profession, and I am grateful to every one of you for doing that.

I also want to give those working in adult social care the certainty that they are valued.

The Scottish Government has reached an agreement with COSLA on a pay increase for adult social care workers. With effect from the beginning of this month they will receive, as a minimum, the real living wage of £9.30 per hour.

This agreement applies to all hours worked, including sleepovers, and it covers personal assistants – those carers whose work is funded by the local authority, but who are employed directly by the person they care for. The Scottish Government and COSLA have also agreed funding for sick pay, in cases where care workers are ill or self-isolating.

As some of you may know, these contract rates are often the subject of quite lengthy negotiations. That can mean that pay increases are not confirmed for several months, and then have to be backdated to April. Today’s agreement means that there will be no delay – adult care staff will get a pay increase immediately.

I think that all of us are aware of the incredible work being done – often in stressful and difficult circumstances – by workers in the care sector. Ensuring that their pay increase takes immediate effect – and that there is clarity on sick pay - is the right thing to do. While there will be no amount of money that demonstrates how much we value these workers at this time, I am pleased that we are able to bring this change into force today.

The second point is about transport to COVID-19 Community Assessment Centres.

If people are invited to an appointment at an assessment centre, there is usually a likelihood that they have COVID-19. They are therefore not allowed to use public transport.

But this can make it difficult for them to reach assessment centres, if they do not have cars. While our ambulance service has met this need so far, we do not want ambulances to be used for this kind of journey if alternatives can be made available.

A range of public organisations, including Transport Scotland, Public Health Scotland and NHS National Support Services have been looking at this in discussion with taxi industry representatives, car hire firms, and others.

So far we have received more than 100 offers of help from businesses across Scotland. We are working with health boards to explore and take advantage of these opportunities – subject, of course, to appropriate hygiene and distancing measures being in place.

This initiative could play an important part in helping people to travel safely to assessment centres right across Scotland. I am grateful to all of the companies that have volunteered their vehicles and their drivers to support our NHS – and to everyone who has worked together to arrive at this solution.

The third point I want to cover is that it is now almost two weeks since the Scotland Cares campaign was launched. By lunchtime on Friday, more than 60,000 people across Scotland had registered to help.

Not all volunteers will be used immediately – but your offer of help is very welcome and I am very grateful to you.

At a time when all of us have anxieties and concerns of our own, it lifts our hearts to see so many people stepping forward to help others.

If you want to help out, there is still time to register. You can get information on how to do that by signing up at the ReadyScotland website.

I’m now about to hand you over to Professor Fiona McQueen, our Chief Nursing Officer and then to Professor Jason Leitch, our National Clinical Director.

Before I do that, however, I want to conclude by repeating the main public health guidance. Please stay at home, except for essential purposes – such as buying essential items, or exercise.

When you do go out, stay two metres apart from other people, and do not meet up with people from different households to your own.

By sticking with it, all of us can and are making a positive difference for ourselves, our loved ones, and for others.

Thank you.


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