Publication - Speech/statement

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Health Secretary's statement 19 April 2020

Statement given by the Health Secretary Jeane Freeman at St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Sunday 19 April.  

Published:
19 Apr 2020
Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Health Secretary's statement 19 April 2020

Good afternoon. And thank you once again to all of you for taking part in this media conference.

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 8,187 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 367 from yesterday’s figures.

As always, let me be clear that these numbers will be an underestimate.

A total of 1,797 patients are in hospital with COVID-19 - that is an increase of 4 from yesterday’s figures.

And a total of 174 people were last night in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. And that is a decrease of 8 from the numbers reported yesterday.

It is with sadness that I can report that a further ten cases have been registered of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 who have died. That takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measure, to 903.

Those figures should be treated with some caution. While people can now register death at weekends, we expect that registration numbers will still be relatively low over the weekend. And this should be taken into account when looking at today’s figures.

And of course, although it is important to know these numbers, we should never think of the number of deaths as simply a statistic. Each death represents an individual whose loss is a source of great sorrow to many. And I want to extend my deepest condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones.

As Health Secretary, I also want to once again thank those working in our health and care sector for the incredible work that you do.

That thanks is due to all staff - not just to the doctors and the nurses, but also to the porters, paramedics, cooks, care workers, cleaners and many others in our health service and our social care sector.

Your work right now is more essential than ever to the health of our country. And all of us owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

It remains the case that the best way for all of us to help our health and care workers, is to follow public health guidance.

So please stay at home, unless it is for essential purposes such as exercising once a day, or buying food or medicine.

When you do go out, stay 2 metres away from any other person, and don’t meet up with people from other households.

And wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.

These restrictions are tough – and they probably seem especially tough on sunny weekends. And the more weeks that pass we do them but they do continue to be essential. They are the way in which all of us, each one of us can slow the spread of the virus, protect our NHS, and save lives.

There are two issues I want to briefly update you on today.

The first is to confirm that a major consignment of personal protective equipment, or PPE, arrived at Prestwick from China yesterday. It included 10 million fluid-resistant face masks, as well as equipment for use in intensive care units and laboratories.

This consignment for our work here in Scotland, is the latest result of the 24/7 efforts being made by our NHS Scotland procurement service, together with other public sector partners all of it aimed to make sure that health and care workers have the equipment they need.

In the last two months, we have distributed more than 80 million pieces of PPE to staff in the NHS. At the end of March, we provided two months’ worth of stock to GPs.

16 million items have been distributed to the social care sector since the PPE helpline for that sector was launched a month ago, building on their own stocks and orders. And this month, we have worked with unions, local government and the care sector to agree updated guidance on PPE for care workers.

We are not complacent about the position here – there is a large global demand for this equipment. But we have the supplies of PPE both in stock and on order and we monitor our supplies constantly.

Tomorrow my officials will also join a regular four nations call to discuss the allocation of PPE that has been procured on a four nation basis, and that which is being bought through donations or has been gifted to the NHS. All of that is in addition to the national procurement exercise we undertake in Scotland, part of which was that shipment from China.

And I would repeat that if any health or care worker has concerns about the equipment they are using, they can contact us by e-mail, so that the issue can be resolved. That e-mail is monitored closely by ministers and we act on it as swiftly as we can. The e-mail address to use is covid-19-health-PPE@gov.scot.

The second issue I want to update you on is the position in relation to the NHS Louisa Jordan.

On the 30 March, the First Minister announced the construction of the NHS Louisa Jordan as a safe-guard, in order to support the capacity of the NHS in Scotland.

I can confirm that 3 weeks after that announcement, that construction will be completed today, and the NHS Louisa Jordan will stand ready to accept patients from tomorrow. While we remain confident that we will not require it to do so in the immediate future, it is a vitally important part of our planning and assurance that the NHS in Scotland is prepared.

The work to deliver the NHS Louisa Jordan at such pace has been a significant effort.

It could not have been achieved without all the contractors involved in the planning, construction and equipping of the hospital. They have our very grateful thanks – but we also take this opportunity to thank contractors who continue to work on other NHS Scotland projects. Your continued commitment to deliver, is allowing us to ensure quality care for patients in the future.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Jill Young who has joined us today, for her leadership of the project, and the NHS staff who have come from across NHS Scotland to plan this facility. You are truly an inspiration to all of us.

The decision on whether patients need to be admitted to the Louisa Jordan will be reviewed on a regular basis as the data on case numbers continues to come forward. As I’ve said before, I hope that this facility will not be needed. But it is valuable to have this extra capacity, and I am grateful to everyone who has helped to deliver the hospital at such speed.

Before moving on, I want to say something about reports in the media today of plans for a three stage approach to lifting lockdown, and to claims that schools may open in the next few weeks.

These are not plans that the Scottish Government has seen - and from what we have read, they are not plans we would currently endorse.

We have committed to publishing later this week our initial thinking on how Scotland plots our way forward. This will focus on the issues that have to be weighed up, and the changes that will be required for society to adapt as safely as possible to the presence of the virus.

We confirmed only three days ago, that the current lockdown remains in place for another three weeks. We will use that time to assess the evidence and the options before we make any further decisions.

In the meantime we need people to continue to use that time to stay at home, to abide by the rules, to practise social distancing and to continue to slow the spread of the virus. Because it is all of that effort that is securing where we are today.

I will now hand over to the Chief Executive of the NHS Louisa Jordan, Jill Young. And then to Professor Jason Leitch, our National Clinical Director.