Good afternoon. Thank you for joining us for today’s briefing.
I want to start this afternoon 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 15,621 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 18 since yesterday.
A total of 1,002 patients are in hospital with COVID-19 – including 646 who have been confirmed as having the virus. That represents a total reduction of 17 since yesterday, although the number of confirmed cases is unchanged.
A total of 25 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. That is an increase of five since yesterday.
I am also able to confirm today that since 5 March, a total of 3,801 patients who had tested positive for the virus, have been able to leave hospital. I wish all of them well.
In the last 24 hours, no deaths have been registered of patients who have been confirmed through a test as having COVID-19 – that means that the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, remains at 2,415.
I would however offer a note of caution about reading too much into today’s figure. We know that fewer deaths tend to be registered at the weekend than on other days of the week - it is still very likely that further COVID deaths will be reported in the days ahead.
And, as always, I want to stress that the numbers I am reading out are not simply statistics. Every one of those 2,415 people who have died, was an individual whose loss is a source of grief and sorrow to many. I want to send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.
As Health Secretary, I also want to once again thank those working in our health and care sectors. That thanks is due to everyone working across all settings – in GP practices and COVID assessment centres; in emergency dental and eyecare; in NHS 24; in care homes and in hospitals; and also to our paramedics, to procurement staff, and to the porters, cooks, cleaners, and maintenance staff who help to keep our healthcare services running.
All of us owe you an immense debt of gratitude. Your work is essential to the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland.
The week ahead is Carers Week, and so the main focus of my remarks today will be on young carers.
However before that, I want to update you briefly on two issues.
Firstly, the border control measures - which implement a 14 day period of self-isolation for all those arriving in Scotland from outside the Common Travel Area. Those have been made today, and will come into force tomorrow. The Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf, will say more about them in a few minutes.
Secondly, I want to say something about the issue of wearing medical grade face masks across the NHS.
As part of our framework for remobilisation of the NHS, which we published last week, we know it is crucial to ensure the right personal protective equipment is available.
So that means we do not make snap overnight announcements – instead, we are working with clinicians, professional bodies, NHS boards and unions about how best to implement the use of PPE across the NHS. We will provide you with an update on that later this week.
The final issue I want to talk about is Carers Week.
There are approximately 690,000 people in Scotland who provide care and support for another family member, neighbour or friend.
Carers Week provides us with an opportunity for us to recognise, and celebrate, the contribution they make.
I know that the COVID crisis will have been a difficult time for many carers. You will have been worried about your own health, and the health of the people you care for.
Those worries will in some cases have been heightened by not being able to physically meet other people during lockdown, and could also have been accompanied by concerns about your employment and future prospects.
For all carers, I’d ask you to remember that help is available, and that you should seek support if you need it. Carers centres are operating online and on the phone – they can provide you with information, advice and support.
There are approximately 29,000 young carers in Scotland – that’s young people aged 18 or less who provide care for someone else. In many cases, young carers have fewer opportunities than other people of their own age - since they have more responsibility and less free time.
We already provides a small Young Carer Grant for carers aged between 16 and 18 who care for more than 16 hours a week.
But we recognise that the COVID-19 outbreak will have been especially tough for many young carers – many of whom will not have been able to take a break from their caring responsibilities at all.
Today, therefore, we are providing a further £300,000 of support for young carers - almost 2/3 of which will be allocated to Young Scot.
This funding will help to provide vouchers and subscription packages to improve carers’ quality of life – it will also help us to expand our small grants scheme, called “Time to Live”. It is a small but I hope significant way in which we can support young people, while they provide support for family members or loved ones.
I am just about to hand over to the Justice Secretary and the National Clinical Director. But before I do that, however, I would like to re-state once again our key public health messages.
The message remains stay at home.
Do not meet other people indoors. There are now of course a few more reasons to leave home but, because the chances of the virus being transmitted to other people is far higher if you are indoors, our message is do not meet people indoors.
When you do meet other people outside, do not meet with more than one other household at a time, don’t meet more than one other household a day, and keep to a maximum of eight people in a group.
Please stay two metres apart when you do meet.
Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly.
Avoid touching hard surfaces that other households will then touch - and clean any surfaces you are touching.
Do not travel more than five miles from your home.
Please do not travel to beauty spots or rural locations. Car parks in these locations remain closed and they are closed for a reason – to stop crowding, so please don’t ignore that. Don’t park on verges or at the side of the road as an alternative, that is unsafe. And if where you go is crowded, change your plans and go elsewhere.
If you have symptoms, please contact NHS 24 or visit the NHS Inform website to get a test and follow the advice on self-isolation.
And please, remember that your decisions as an individual do not just affect your own welfare - they affect the health and wellbeing of us all. My decisions affect you and your decisions will affect me.
Fundamentally, your life should not be feeling, just yet, as though it is returning to normal. If it does, then please ask yourself why, when all these restrictions are in place.
The reason we have been able to start emerging from lockdown, is because all of us, together, have reduced the number of COVID cases, and slowed the rate at which the virus spreads. We have only achieved that, because so many of you have done the right thing, and have stuck to the rules.
So thank you to everyone who has played a part in that progress. And please, stick with it. By keeping to the rules, we will continue to protect ourselves and our communities. And we will bring forward the time when we take further steps out of lockdown.
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