- 20 Mar 2020
In recent days, we’ve been asked to make changes to our lives that would have been unimaginable a few weeks ago.
COVID-19 is the biggest challenge of our lifetimes.
The number of cases is set to rise sharply.
We must do all we can to slow it down and save lives.
So I want to talk to you directly about what we can all do to help - and offer some words of reassurance in what I know is an anxious time.
All of us must act now to slow the spread of the virus.
Washing our hands regularly is important.
But we must also reduce the number of people we meet and come into contact with.
That means staying at home if you or anyone in your house has a high temperature or a new and persistent cough.
For all of us, it means working from home if possible; avoiding public transport and not socialising in groups.
We’ve also asked people to stay away from crowded places like pubs, restaurants and cinemas.
But I can confirm that, in light of advice this afternoon from our scientists and the Chief Medical Officer that there must be strict compliance for that to be effective. I am now asking restaurants, cafes, pubs, gyms and cinemas to close.
I know how difficult this is.
But it is vital to reduce our risk of getting the virus.
And to reduce the risk of infecting those who are most vulnerable of becoming seriously ill or dying.
In short, it will save lives.
It also gives our NHS the best chance of coping.
We’ve put the NHS on an emergency footing.
We’re taking steps to increase the capacity of our hospitals and intensive care wards.
But those who work in our health and social care services will be tested like never before.
Most of us have friends and family working in the NHS – my own sister and sister-in-law are among them.
The debt of gratitude we owe all of them is enormous.
COVID-19 is a health emergency.
But the steps we take to deal with it are causing disruption in our economy too.
Alongside your concern about the virus, many of you are deeply worried about your jobs and income.
The Scottish Government will do all we can to support you.
As government, we are asking you to take unprecedented steps.
So the level of support we provide to you must be unprecedented in return.
Finally, a crisis like this will have an impact on wellbeing and mental health.
To older people - we are asking you to stay away from your grandkids, from the people you love. That’s hard. But it is for your protection - so you can stay around to see them grow up.
To children - I know this is a strange time. You’re away from school, and won’t be able to spend as much time with friends. The adults around you are probably feeling a bit anxious too. So help them. Follow their advice. Study and do your homework. But don’t forget to have fun. And wash your hands.
And let’s all look out for each other.
At times of crisis, we need each other more, yet we’re being told to stay apart.
But we can still communicate and offer comfort.
Modern technology is sometimes a curse - it can now be a lifeline.
Phone or skype loved ones. Text neighbours or drop a note through their door to see if they need help. Maybe even write a letter to your grandparents.
Support your local business if you can.
But please, do not panic buy. There’s plenty to go round if we all act responsibly.
We are entering stormy waters, and I can’t tell you yet when we will reach dry land.
I can promise you that as your First Minister, I will do my utmost to lead us safely through.
But I need your help.
I need you to follow health advice.
And I need you to look out for those around you.
There’s no doubt that difficult days do lie ahead.
But I close on a note of hope and belief.
This crisis is reminding us just how fragile our world is.
But it is also reminding us what really matters - health, love, solidarity.
With compassion and kindness - and with the dedication and expertise of our NHS - we can and we will get through this.
Thank you, for all you are doing to help.