Good afternoon. I’m joined today by Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable of Police Scotland and Professor Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director.
I want to start with an update on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid 19 in Scotland.
As at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 5275 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 318 from yesterday’s figures.
As always, let me be very clear that these numbers are an underestimate.
A total of 1,832 patients are in hospital with Covid-19 - that is an increase of 51 from yesterday.
And a total of 207 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid 19. That is a decrease of five on yesterday.
And it is with sadness that I can report that there have been 48 further deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid 19. That takes the total number of deaths in Scotland to 495.
Every one of those statistics represents a human being, someone who was was loved and leaves behind grieving friends and relatives. I want to extend my deepest condolences again to everyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.
And I also want once again to thank from the bottom of my heart all of those working in our health and care sector. At 8 o’clock last night, people across Scotland once again demonstrated their appreciation for the incredible work that you are doing. All of us owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
There are a few things I want to briefly update on today.
As you know, COBRA met yesterday. Following that meeting, the position and the advice from all four Governments across the UK is unchanged. Scotland – like the rest of the UK – will remain in lockdown through the Easter weekend – and into next week.
At the moment, we simply do not have enough evidence on the impact of the restrictions, to have confidence yet about when we can come out of them. As that evidence becomes available we will be able to review the situation, but for now, the message remains exactly the same as it has been. People need to stay at home.
I know how difficult that will be – particularly over this Easter weekend. Ordinarily, it’s a time for seeing friends and family, getting out and about, or taking a short break. None of that will be possible this year. And so for all of us, I know this weekend will be especially tough.
However, I’m very confident that the vast majority of people will continue to comply with these rules.
As I said at the outset I'm joined by the Chief Constable today who will say a little bit more shortly about how these measures are being enforced, and his presence here today also gives me the opportunity to thank and pay tribute to our police officers for the difficult job they are doing extremely well right now,
But from the data, we know that travel in Scotland has now been reduced – almost entirely – to that which is essential. And so I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their patience – and for the sacrifices that I know all you are all making.
I also think it’s important as we head into this weekend to reiterate what the rules are.
Other than for a few very specific reasons, people should not be going out. You should not meeting up with people from other households. You should observe social distancing measures when you do go out. And - if you or other people in your household show signs of Covid 19 – you should be isolating completely.
For the Easter weekend especially, it’s maybe worth stressing that nobody travelling – unless it is absolutely essential. That includes travelling for holidays or to second homes – in rural or island communities. These areas may be less populous, but they are especially vulnerable to the impact of the epidemic.
None of us, including me, want these restrictions to be in place for a single minute longer than they need to be. But I want to stress very clearly today, what we cannot do. We cannot allow ourselves to become complacent against this virus and these measures prematurely. If we did that, we would risk undoing all of the work we've put in so far. And we would risk seeing the virus spread out of control, potentially very quickly. And we know that that would cost more lives.
So all of us need to continue to comply with the guidance. It gives us our best chance of slowing the spread of this disease, protecting our NHS – and of course saving lives.
I have three other items I want to update you on today.
The first concerns the expansion of NHS capacity. Later today, I will visit the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital at the SEC in Glasgow – to see for myself the preparations that are underway. And obviously, during that visit, social distancing measures will be observed at all times.
Over the past week, more than 20,000 square metres of flooring have been laid at the new facility. Partitions between beds have been erected and 8,000 pieces of medical equipment have been ordered. As a result, the NHS Louisa Jordan is on track to be operational by mid-April.
The site will initially create capacity for 300 extra hospital beds, with the ability to expand to over 1,000 if required. Our current hope and current expectation is that this hospital will not need to be used but it is important that we prepare now so that it is ready if it is necessary.
The second point I want to touch on is the economic impact of COVID-19.
This morning, as I do every Friday morning, I chaired the Cabinet sub-committee on the economy.
We know how severe the economic impact of this crisis is, and is going to be. And we know in turn that an economic crisis, occasioned by a health crisis, can lead to poverty inequality, and poor health.
So I want to stress that the economic impact felt by many businesses across our country right now is and will be vital to our thinking as we plan, a way forward in a way that protects human health, as our key priority.
The third and final update concerns the relaunch of our campaign to tackle domestic abuse.
We know that anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse and we know that women and children in particular who are subject to domestic abuse will feel even more vulnerable, during this crisis. That’s why we’ve allocated additional funding for organisations like Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland.
The relaunch of our domestic abuse campaign is another important step. Among other things, it will highlight the different sources of help and support that are available to victims.
An important example of that is Scotland’s Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline. That remains fully operational at all hours of the day and night, 24 hours, during this pandemic. People can e-mail or web-chat through their website, or can call them on 0800 027 1234.
We know that there are some victims that will be worried about bothering the police and other services during this crisis. This campaign makes it absolutely clear - these services are open and are there to help you. Do not hesitate to use them if you need them.
And I also want to stress that our national health service is there to help you too. So if you have chest pain or unusual bleeding, for example, it is important that you seek help, contact your GP or, if it is out of hours, contact NHS 24. The NHS is open, and you shouldn't hesitate to use its services.
Let me close by reiterating my main message for today – about the importance of staying at home.
I know that it’s tempting to think that – after almost three weeks of complying with these really tough restrictions – we can allow ourselves one little slip to see our friends, or visit a grandparent on Easer Sunday.
But the risks of that would be enormous. They are not risks worth taking The one time you ignore the guidance could be the time when you get infected with the virus – or it could be the time you pass it on to a loved one, without knowing it. So please, do not throw away all of the good work of the past three weeks. Do not put yourself or loved ones at risk.
All of us need to continue to do the right thing – and follow the guidance. Every day we do that will bring us closer to a return to normality.
So I want to thank people in advance for doing the right thing. I hope you all stay safe. And I hope – in these very unusual circumstances – you all have the best possible Easter weekend.
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