Good afternoon and thank you again for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start – as I always do – by updating you on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid-19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 12,097 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 170 from yesterday.
A total of 1,666 patients are in hospital with Covid-19 and that is a decrease of 8 from yesterday.
And a total of 99 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid 19. A decrease of 9 since the numbers reported yesterday.
It’s worth noting that this is first time that number has been below 100, since 29 March. That is obviously very encouraging news. It does show that the restrictions are working. But it also underlines why we need to stick with them.
So I want to thank all of you for the sacrifices you have made – and I know will continue to make. I know it is not easy, but I hope you are beginning to see as we do that those sacrifices are beginning to show results. And I of course want to thank everyone working in our intensive care units. Your efforts are having a hugely positive impact.
I can also confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 2,765 patients who had tested positive for the virus have been able to leave hospital. I wish all of them well.
However I also have to report that in the last 24 hours, 12 deaths have been registered of patients who have been confirmed through a test as having Covid-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 1,571.
As I have said previously at these Sunday briefings, these figures should be treated with some caution. Although deaths can be registered at weekends, registration numbers are usually relatively low. And that should be taken into account when looking at today’s figures.
But as always I am aware that these are not just numbers. Each one was a person who’s death is a source of grief to many. Each one, is a life lost.
So, I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one, to this virus.
As Health Secretary, I also want to thank, as I do every day all those working in our health and care sector. I’ve already mentioned ICU workers. But our thanks is due to all staff - the doctors and the nurses, the paramedics, care home staff, porters, cooks, healthcare assistants, cleaners and many, many more.
Your efforts are essential to the health of our country. And all of us owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
I want to update you today on two areas. The first is mental health.
And I am pleased to be joined by Dr John Mitchell, who is a Consultant Psychiatrist and our interim Principal Medical Officer. And as you will see I am also joined by Professor Jason Leitch, our National Clinical Director.
The Scottish Government is already taking significant action to support people’s mental health, during this period.
Today I am announcing a further package of support – to address the challenges, faced by specific groups.
There are some aspects of this crisis – the changes to routine and general anxiety - which are tough for all of us. But we know that they are especially tough for autistic people, their parents and carers.
So we are providing an additional £200,000 for Scottish Autism and the National Autistic Society.
This funding will allow the National Autistic Society to turn many of its face to face services – for example the social groups it runs – into online services. This will help parents and carers, and autistic people, to keep in touch – so that those facing similar challenges can support each other, even if they cannot meet each other. They can be together even when physically apart.
And the funding for Scottish Autism is for their Autism Helpline – I’m going to read the helpline number out in a few moments, for anyone who wants to make a note of it.
The helpline is already a trusted source of advice and support for the people who need it. Our funding will increase its capacity to help people, at a time when there is a high demand for its services.
The helpline is available 7 days a week, from 8am to 8pm, and the number is 01259 222 022. That’s 01259 222 022.
Our support will help organisations that provide help to those who need it most. And it will ensure that additional support is available – during an especially trying time - for autistic people, their parents and carers.
We are also want to enhance the help available to young people.
We know that - for many children and young people – this is a very unsettling time. It’s tough not being at school, not being able to see you friends, and spending so much time at home.
So I want you to know that it’s OK not to be OK.
Last month – we launched a new digital resource, which helps children and young people learn about the healthy use of screens and social media. The resource – called ‘Mind Yer Time’ - was developed by the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Children’s Parliament. And in the first ten days since its launch, it has had almost 13,000 views.
We are now going to do a bit more. We are providing £105,000 to the organisation Young Scot. That money will be used to develop a range of new digital content, on mental wellbeing.
The new content will be hosted on Young Scot’s own digital platform – as well as on social media channels like TikTok, Snapchat, and Youtube. And it will help to ensure that if young people need information or support – they know exactly where to get it.
I am also announcing today additional support for families.
We know that during this period, many people will feel their closest relationships under particular strain. That may be because you are spending more time with your partners, your children, your immediate family – or because you are seeing less of other family members, due to the lockdown.
So we’re providing £700,000 to The Spark – an organisation which specialises in relationship counselling.
The money will be used to expand the Spark’s Relationship Helpline service. And again, I’ll read that number out in a moment.
The helpline provides help to anyone experiencing relationship issues. And it can also refer people on, for more in-depth counselling, if that is required.
The number of the Relationship Helpline is 0808 802 2088. That’s 0808 802 2088. It’s free service. And will now be operational Monday to Thursday, between 9am to 9pm, and on Fridays from 9am to 4pm.
The most important message I want to get across today is simply this - help is there if you need it. The NHS Inform website can help you to find the services that are best for you. And the website ‘clearyourhead.scot’ has advice and tips on how to maintain your mental wellbeing. So please reach out –help is there for you.
The second issue I want to cover is our support for people with drug and alcohol issues.
We’ve already announced a number of measures to ensure that treatment and support services are not disrupted, during this crisis. As part of that, we have increased the availability of naloxone – a medication which reverses opiate overdose.
Under existing UK legislation, supplies of naloxone can be held by non-drug treatment services for use in an emergency, but not for onward distribution. In the current crisis that could present an obstacle to people receiving the treatment that they need.
So that’s why – today – the Lord Advocate has confirmed that – for the duration of this crisis – it would not be in the public interest to prosecute any individual – working for a service registered with the Scottish Government – who supplies naloxone in an emergency, to save a life.
I hope that statement provides confidence and certainty to relevant professionals, as they carry out their important work. And I hope it will further ensure that people can get the treatment they need, when they need it.
I am also announcing today new support for people who are in prison or about to leave prison.
We are providing £150,000 to enhance residential rehabilitation services. It will increase the number of residential places available, for people leaving prison.
And we are making up to £1.9 million available to support people in prison, who need opiate substitution therapy – or OST as it is known. That is currently around a quarter of Scotland’s prison population.
The funding will make a new treatment – called buvidal – available to people in prison. Unlike other substitutes, buvidal is administered as a 7 or 28 day injectable dose, rather than daily.
This change will help to relieve pressure on our prison service. It will ensure continuity of treatment, for people in prison. And it is a further way in which we are trying to provide the right support during this pandemic, to those who need it.
I want to close today by reiterating the public health guidelines.
You should stay at home – except for essential purposes such as buying food or medicine, and exercising.
If you do leave home, please don’t mix with people from other households and stay more than 2 metres away from other people.
If you have symptoms of Covid-19, you and your household should isolate yourselves completely. And everybody should continue to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly.
I know that these restrictions get only more difficult with time. But I want to emphasise that the sacrifices you are making are making a difference. We are not through this yet, but we are seeing hopeful signs and it is vital that we stick with it – and build on the work that your sacrifices have allowed us to secure.
By doing that together, we slow the spread of this virus, we protect our NHS, and we save lives. So I want to thank you, again, and I always will, for playing your part in all of this.
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