At times like this, things that divide us in normal times just seem so much less important and we are very much reminded of that again today. Right now all of us are just human beings united in a fight against this virus. And as we know the Prime Minister, as well as leading the UK Government’s response, is currently in hospital fighting his own personal battle against coronavirus.
I chaired a meeting of the Scottish Government’s Cabinet this morning, and we recorded our very best wishes to him. So now and I’m sure I do this on behalf of all of Scotland I want to send ever good wish to him, his fiancé and to his whole family. We are all willing you on Boris, get well soon.
The Prime Minister’s admission to intensive care is a terrible reminder of the fact that, as I mentioned yesterday, this virus does not discriminate. Absolutely anybody can get it. And, of course, absolutely anyone can pass the virus on to other people.
That is why we have put in place such severe lockdown restrictions.
And for the avoidance of any doubt, let me state very clearly how I expect people to be behaving.
People should be staying at home, except for essential purposes – such as one piece of exercise a day, and a trip to buy essential food or medicines from the shops.
People who are displaying Covid-19 symptoms should self-isolate – not going out at all – for seven days, and members of their household should self-isolate for 14 days.
People should not gather outside in groups of more than two, unless they are part of the same household, and people should not visit each other’s homes.
And all non-essential businesses should be closed.
These restrictions can of course be enforced by the police.
I understand that these are incredibly tough measures, particularly as the weather gets better.
They would have seemed unimaginable even just a few weeks ago. But they are vital to reduce the number of people who fall sick, and to save lives.
So once again, I want to thank everybody who is doing the right thing, and staying at home.
By staying at home, all of us are slowing the spread of the virus, we are protecting the NHS, and we are saving lives.
I also want to stress that the Prime Minister’s illness will not affect the co-operation on key strategic decisions which takes place, where appropriate, between the Scottish Government, the UK Government and the other devolved governments.
My ministers have for a number of weeks joined UK ministers for regular meetings on health, public services and the economy – that will continue. Indeed Joe Fitzpatrick, the Minister for Public Health is currently taking part in a discussion with Matt Hancock and others.
And last week, prior to his admission to hospital, myself and other First Ministers had written to the Prime Minister requesting an early COBRA to assess the impact of the lock down, and to discuss next steps.
I’ve got two other issues I want to cover.
First I want to update you, as usual, on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid 19 in Scotland.
I can confirm that, as at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 4229 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 268 from yesterday’s figures.
As always, let me be clear that these numbers will be an underestimate, these are cases with a laboratory confirmation.
A total of 199 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid 19. That is the same figure that was reported yesterday, but it is important to note it may not necessarily be the same people. A total of 1751 patients, including those in intensive care, are in hospital with Covid-19 - that is an increase of 152 from yesterday.
I can also provide figures for deaths which have been registered in the last 24 hours.
As I said on Sunday and Monday, relatively few Covid-19 deaths – four in total - were registered over the weekend, reflecting National Records of Scotland reporting system is not yet in operation for 7 days a week. Work is underway to change that.
As a result of that, a relatively large number of Covid-19 deaths was registered yesterday. In the last 24 hours, 74 deaths have been registered as being caused by Covid-19 – that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland to 296.
It’s also worth saying - since this is relevant to a subject I’m about to cover - that these deaths will sometimes, but not always, include deaths which have happened in community settings such as care homes. The report we are publishing tomorrow will include fuller figures on those deaths in the community where Covid-19 is presumed.
I focus on the statistics in these conferences because they are important to give some overall sense of how the virus is spreading, but of course each death is not a statistic. Each death represents an individual, and I want once again to express my condolences to everyone who has lost friends, family or loved ones.
I also once again want to thank all those who are working in our health and care services. Your compassion, commitment and expertise is appreciated by us all.
That appreciation definitely includes our nurses and midwives. Today is the World Health Organisation’s World Health Day – they have decided this year to focus on the contribution made by nurses and midwives.
So it is appropriate that the chief nursing officer, Fiona McQueen, is here. She will give an update on NHS Louisa Jordan and about student nurses who have volunteered to join the NHS workforce early to help tackle Covid-19.
The Cabinet Secretary will then talk about the £5.3 million of additional support we are announcing for Community pharmacies, who are having to meet unprecedented demands at this particular time.
Before they do that, the second issue I want to cover is what is an understandable concern around support for those living and working in our care homes.
The Care Inspectorate is in regular contact with care home, and has confirmed, for example in relation to Castle View, that appropriate infection control procedures are in place there. The Care Inspectorate will continue to provide advice and support to that home and others.
And the Scottish Government is working with the Care Inspectorate to understand the broader impact of Covid-19 on the care sector, so that we can support health and care workers as well as possible. Care Workers are included in those key workers who should have access to testing and the Cabinet Secretary is also looking to see how testing of care workers can be increased, as our overall testing capacity – including for NHS staff – is increased.
The importance and dedication of those who work in the care sector is recognised by me and recognised by the government. Where there have been issues, for example with PPE, we are working to resolve that and as I said yesterday have distributed 6 million items of PPE.
Care workers are doing a remarkable job in very difficult circumstances. We will support them as they do that.
And in many ways that brings me back to one of the points I made at the start.
Clearly, there are some forms of support for care workers – and people in the health and care service as a whole - which only government can provide and that includes the provision of PPE.
But everyone can do their bit. All of us can support health and care service workers by doing the right thing, and by staying at home whenever possible.
By doing that, we can all play our part in slowing the spread of this virus. We can give our health and care services a chance to cope. And we can all do our bit to save lives. So thank you once again for doing that.
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