Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Health Secretary's statement - 26 February 2021

Statement given by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Friday 26 February 2021.

Good afternoon and thanks for very much for joining us again. I will start with the usual update on today’s statistics.

The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 581. That represents 3.3% of the total number of tests and takes the total number of confirmed cases in Scotland to 200,987.

One hundred and sixty one of those new cases were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 105 in Lothian, and 97 in Lanarkshire. The remaining cases were spread across 8 other health board areas.

Nine hundred and twenty four people are currently in hospital – that is 43 less than yesterday and 80 people are in intensive care, which is a reduction of 9 from yesterday.

But I regret to report that 27 additional deaths have been registered in the last 24 hours, of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. That takes the total number of deaths registered, under that definition, to 7,111. Once again I 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 be helping me to answer the journalists’ questions. Before that, there are two main issues I want to update you on.

The first is about our vaccination programme. I can confirm that as of 8.30 this morning 1,542,929 people in Scotland have received their first dose of the vaccine. That is an increase of 26,949 since yesterday.

In addition, 8,679 people have received their second dose. And that brings the total number of people who have had their second dose to 65,340.

As you know, the Scottish Government provides a daily breakdown of the numbers of people who have had their first dose. That includes figures in each of the different age groups that we have started vaccinating.

From today, Public Health Scotland will begin to publish first dose statistics for all age groups. In addition, they have also refined some of the ways in which we record the age of people being vaccinated and that should make our figures more accurate. For example, previously where someone was over 69½ they would have been included in the figures for the 70-74-year-old cohort. Under the revised system, reporting will be based on a person’s age as it would be on the 31st March. That brings us into line with the approach taken in England and Wales. And as a consequence it also means that the percentage figures I am reporting today are calculated on a slightly different basis from the ones previously reported.

So using Public Health Scotland’s revised figures, I can confirm that 94% of 65 to 69-year-olds have now received a first dose of the vaccine. That is a significant increase on the percentage of 85% that we reported yesterday.  Some of that increase is due to our reporting changes.

But the figure shows very clearly that we are on track to offer a first dose to everyone aged between 65 and 69 by early March.

And we now expect to be able to offer a first dose to everyone over 50 and to all adults with an underlying health condition by the 15th of April – although as always that is of course subject to supply.

At that point, we move into second phase of the vaccination programme and this will involve vaccinating the rest of the adult population, which again supplies permitting we hope to do by the end of July.

This morning, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation published advice on how to approach that next phase. They advise that we should prioritise vaccinations for the rest of the adult population on the basis of age – with 40 to 49-year-olds vaccinated first, followed by 30 to 39-year-olds and then 18 to 29-year-olds.   

JCVI of course looked at a range of risk factors such as occupation, gender, ethnicity, and deprivation. But, they conclude that – even among groups with a heightened exposure or vulnerability to the virus – age is still the most significant factor.

On that basis, the JCVI believe that an aged-based approach to vaccination is the quickest and most effective way of protecting the most vulnerable. They also advise that – in logistical terms – it is the most efficient way of rolling out the vaccine to the remaining adult population. And I can confirm that together with the other governments in the UK,  the Scottish Government has accepted the JCVI advice.

The second issue I want to highlight relates to support for the health and social care workforce.

The Scottish Government is determined to support our health and care workforce in whatever way we can and that includes providing help for their mental health and wellbeing.

Last year, we established a National Wellbeing Hub, and a national wellbeing helpline to help health and care workers who need additional support. The wellbeing hub has been visited on nearly 80,000 occasions.

Today we are formally launching a new service called the Workforce Specialist Service. It will supplement local staff support arrangements that are already in place. This service will therefore be able to provide confidential and expert care for professionals who are suffering from a range of issues – including stress, anxiety, depression or addiction.

Details of how to use the Workforce Specialist Service are available through our National Wellbeing Hub which can be accessed at

So if you are a regulated health or social services worker, and feel that you would benefit from mental health treatment and care, please do find out more. Working in the caring professions is stressful at any time – and I know it has been especially difficult over the last year. We know that we need to support staff and help them to recover. That is, above all, part of our duty of care to our workforce. But it is also essential for health and social services in the months ahead. We need a strong and resilient workforce with time to recover in order to start to resume services which were paused during the pandemic.

The new service is an important additional way in which we are trying to support health and care workers at a time when they are still doing so very much to help and support all of us.

Those were the two 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 - for now - remains the same. Please stay at home. In any level 4 area – which of course is all mainland Scotland - you must only leave the house for essential purposes. You cannot meet up with other households indoors. And if you meet someone outdoors, you can only meet with one other person from one other household.

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

And when we do have to leave the house, please continue to remember FACTS. Wear face coverings when you are likely to come into close contact with other people; 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.

Above all else, though, please stay at home as much as possible. I know how difficult that is. And I really do appreciate your patience and the sacrifices I know you are making. But we need to keep going. This is a promising time, but we are not there yet. The past couple of months have seen good progress, but we really don’t have any room for error right now.

So it’s vital that all of us continue to stick with rules and the guidelines.

That is how we make it safe to ease the restrictions more quickly. It’s how we continue to protect each other, while vaccination programme continues. And it’s how we continue to protect our NHS and save lives.

So thank you, once again, to all of you who are doing just that.

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