Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Health Secretary's statement - 12 February 2021

Statement given by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh, on Friday 12 February 2021.

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us again.

I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 830.

That represents 5.2% of the total number of tests, and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 190,005.

257 of those new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 133 in Lanarkshire, 119 in Ayrshire and Arran, and 100 in Lothian.

The remaining cases were spread across 9 other health board areas.

1,472 people are currently in hospital – that is 27 less than yesterday.

115 people are in intensive care, who have tested positive for Covid - or been admitted to hospital with Covid - within the last 28 days.  That is 6 more than yesterday.

30 people have been in intensive care with Covid for longer than 28 days, which is 2 more than yesterday.

And I’m very sorry to report that 67 additional deaths have been registered in the last 24 hours, of a patient who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

That means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now 6,666.

And of course, as always, behind those numbers are families and loved ones and friends who are grieving. Every life lost during this pandemic has been a source of grief and heartbreak to many. So I once again want to send my condolences to all of those who have lost a loved one.

I am joined today by our National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, who will help me answer questions shortly.

Before that, though, there are three issues I want to focus on.

The first is about the progress in our vaccination programme.

As of 8.30 this morning, 1,113,628 people in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine.

That is an increase of 64,881 since yesterday, the highest reported increase since the vaccination programme commenced in December.

I can’t at this point give you detailed percentages for each of the groups covered and how well the vaccination teams are doing, although clearly from that number of 64,881 they are doing exceptionally well.

A technical issue with the data from the GP IT system, one of two systems that feeds into those numbers we report, has delayed that calculation. But that calculation will be on the Scottish Government’s website at 2.00pm today.

So we remain on course to give first doses to all 70 to 79 year olds, and those with a serious clinical vulnerability, by the 15th of February.

After that, subject to supply, we intend to give first doses of the vaccine to all 65 to 69-year-olds by the end of February, beginning of March. 

And we continue to plan for everyone over the age of 50 to have received their first dose in May. However, I have to emphasise again that all of this is subject to supply.

The uptake we’ve seen so far has been both remarkable and very welcome. 

But as the First Minister indicated yesterday, a combination of circumstances – remarkably high uptake; a temporary reduction in supply from Pfizer; and the need to ensure people can receive second doses on time - means that we need to reduce the number of appointments we schedule over the next few weeks.

As soon as supply improves our programme will scale up again, as we have shown that it can, and we remain on target to meet those targets.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made that possible. That includes everyone who is helping to deliver the vaccination programme – our vaccination teams, support staff, our local authority and voluntary sector partners, and the armed forces – and importantly, everyone who is turning up to receive the first dose.

My second update is about an announcement that has been made today regarding dental students. 

This morning, students in their final year of dentistry learned that they will not be able to graduate this summer. Instead, most final year students – and all dental students in other year groups – will have to repeat the academic year. 

This difficult decision has been made on the recommendation of Scotland’s dental schools. They advise that, over the past year, students have not been able to gain sufficient clinical experience  because of the restrictions on dental procedures.

Today’s decision is not one that any of us wanted to take and I do understand how incredibly disappointing it will be for dental students across the country. 

After all your hard work – and through no fault of your own – you’re having to deal with a very difficult setback, one which will inevitably create significant challenges for you. 

The Scottish Government is of course determined to support you through these challenges as much as we can.

That’s why I can confirm that we will provide extra bursaries for dental students who are required to repeat a year. These bursaries will be worth the equivalent of your student loan award – which could be up to £6,750. 

Your dental school will be able to provide further information on the bursaries as well as other help that is available.

Today’s decision is a really tough one – I don’t underestimate that for one minute. But it is about giving dental students the experience which has been denied them this year because of the pandemic.

We need to ensure that people studying dentistry can enter the profession as confident, fully-qualified clinicians. And so we’re providing extra support in order to give them the means and the encouragement that they need to complete their studies. 

My final point I want to cover today concerns funerals.

The restrictions we’ve placed on funeral attendance mean that a maximum of 20 people can go to funeral services. Those restriction are among the most difficult that we have had to put in place. And I know that they cause distress to people who are already grieving.

But the restrictions are vital. Any gathering creates a risk that the virus will be transmitted. And unfortunately that risk is even greater when it comes to funerals where, inevitably and understandably at such an emotional event, people are likely to want to hug and hold each other, or simply to be in close proximity to each other.

We are currently receiving reports about funeral services where more than 20 people are in attendance.

And so I want to remind people that that limit of 20 is still in place, and that unfortunately it is there for a really good reason.

So please, if you are arranging a funeral, think about the restrictions when you are sending out invitations, and when you are telling people about the event on social media.

If you would like to go to a funeral service but cannot go because of the 20 person limit then please respect that fact. Maybe find out if it’s possible to see the service by other methods, such as live streaming. And check with the person organising about the other ways in which you can pay your respects.

But please, don’t simply turn up.  This places the organisers in a terrible position. And it also of course increases the risk that the virus will spread as a result of the event and I know that you don’t want that.

More information about the rules for funerals is available on the Scottish Government website.

For now, I want to thank all of the people who work to arrange funerals and funeral services. We hugely appreciate the contribution you are making to ensure that these events are as fitting, and also as safe, as possible.

And finally, I want to thank everyone who follows the guidance when attending funerals. As I said at the start, I know how difficult these restrictions are and I regret very much that they are necessary. But  they are necessary so please do stick to them for the time being.

Those were the main issues I wanted to cover today.  To close, I want to remind everyone once again of the current rules and guidelines.

The most important rule at the moment, of course, is very clear – you should stay at home.

In any level 4 area – and of course that includes all of mainland Scotland - you must only leave the house for essential purposes. Those include caring responsibilities, essential shopping and exercise.

If you do meet up with someone outdoors, you can only meet with one other person from one other household.

You should work from home if you possibly can and employers have a legal duty to support people to work from home. 

As please,  download the Protect Scotland app if it’s possible.

On any occasion when you do leave the house, please remember FACTS:

wear face coverings when you are doing essential shopping;

avoid anywhere busy;

clean hands and surfaces;

use two metre distancing if you are talking to someone from another household;

and self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

But above all else, please stay at home as much as possible.

That continues to be our very best way of protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our communities. And it is how we can keep the virus under control while the vaccination programme does its work.

So please: stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

Thank you, once again, to everyone who is doing that.

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