Good afternoon. Thanks once again to all of you for taking part in this media conference.
I want to start with an update on some of the key statistics in relation to COVID-19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 10,324 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 273 from yesterday’s figures.
As always, let me be clear that these numbers will be an underestimate.
A total of 1,735 patients are in hospital with COVID-19 - this is a decrease of 13 from yesterday.
And a total of 133 people were last night in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. This is a decrease of seven since yesterday.
It is with sadness that I report that 18 further deaths have been registered, of people who had tested positive for COVID-19. That takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measure, to 1,249.
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. This should be taken into account when looking at today’s figures.
And of course, the number of deaths that is reported every day is so much more than a statistic. Each death represents an individual whose loss will be a source of grief and sorrow to many, and I want to extend my deepest condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones.
As Health Secretary, I also want to thank once again those who are working in our health and care sector, for the incredible work that you are doing.
Those thanks are due to everyone - the doctors and the nurses, the paramedics, the care home staff, the porters, the cooks, the healthcare assistants, the cleaners and many, many more.
Your work is crucial to the health and wellbeing of our country. You will have the same worries and anxieties as the rest of us but you go to work each day, putting that aside to care for others. All of us are truly grateful to you for everything that you are doing
I have two issues I want to update you on today.
The first is about people volunteering to join or re-join the NHS and care workforce.
It is now almost four weeks since – as part of our 'Scotland Cares' campaign – we established a web portal for students, and former NHS and care workers, to apply to work in the NHS or the care sector, as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In total, more than 22,000 people have now volunteered.
The volunteers include experienced former staff, doctors, nurses, social care professionals and nursing, medicine, midwifery, and Allied Health professional students who are either now graduated or coming towards the completion of their training.
We are working with NHS Education for Scotland, our health boards and the Scottish Social Services Council to ensure that volunteers can start work as quickly as possible – while still following the correct induction and training processes.
A number of volunteers have been placed with NHS boards, and more than 3,000 are completing their pre-employment checks – which are being fast-tracked - just prior to being deployed.
The Scottish Social Services Council has placed almost 150 people into work in the care sector, and a further 200 are ready and available for deployment.
Not everyone who has applied to help us will be needed immediately.
But please bear with us – your volunteering and your offer to bring your skills and your talents really does matter, and we will need you, as we go through this pandemic.
Having such a large number of volunteers really matters – it provides us with important flexibility, as we look at staffing needs through the different stages of this pandemic.
I am immensely grateful to everyone who has offered to support our NHS and care services in this way.
The second point I want to update you on is support for those who are shielding. That term, as you know, refers to approximately 160,000 people in Scotland, who are at the highest clinical risk from COVID-19, and who are therefore being asked to isolate themselves completely.
A text message service has been in place for almost a month now, so that people who are shielding can ask for support and receive information.
So far, more than 78,000 people have registered for the text service. I would encourage everyone who is shielding to register.
Even if you don’t need additional help at the moment, as many people don’t, registering will be useful if you ever do need that further help.
You should have received information on how to do that – letters to people who are shielding started to go out on 26th March. But I will also read out the number of our national helpline in a minute or so.
One of the services which you can request by text is free delivery of food packages. More than 80,000 food packages have been delivered so far.
In addition, six supermarkets are offering priority deliveries for people who are shielding.
Over 33,000 people have expressed an interest in these priority slots, and we have passed their information on to the participating supermarkets.
Supermarkets have also identified and contacted existing customers who are eligible for priority slots and many have already received deliveries.
And people who were not existing customers of any of the participating supermarkets, received texts last week with details of how to register.
If you don’t have a mobile phone, you can get access to these services through your local authority. Our national helpline will direct you to the local authority that applies to you.
It is a good way of finding information more generally about the support, which is available. The national helpline number is 0800 111 4000, and the line is open between 9am and 5pm every weekday.
I know for many of the people who are shielding, this is a worrying time, and also a very difficult time. Staying at home all the time is necessary for your own protection – but I know that it is even harder than the restrictions which are in place for everyone else.
We are determined to ensure that support is available for you throughout this time – so please, make use of that support if you need to.
Before I hand over to Fiona McQueen, our Chief Nursing Officer, and to Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, I want to emphasise once again the importance of sticking to our public health guidance.
Stay at home – unless it is for essential purposes such as exercising once a day, or buying food or medicine.
When you do go out, stay two metres away from other people, and don’t meet up with people in other households.
And wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
These restrictions are tough – and I know they get tougher as the weeks go by, and especially when the weather stays warm. But they continue to be essential. They are the way in which all of us can slow the spread of the virus, protect our NHS, and save lives.
So thank you once again to everyone who is doing the right thing and staying at home. You are making a difference, and you are saving lives, and I thank you very much indeed.
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