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16/07/20 13:57

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 16 July 2020

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at the media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh on Thursday 16  July.

Good afternoon, and thank you for joining us again today.

I’m joined today by the Deputy First Minister and by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nicola Steedman.

I’ll start with the usual update on the Covid-19 statistics.

An additional 11 positive cases were confirmed yesterday - which takes the total now in Scotland to 18,384. 

A total of 630 patients are currently in hospital with the virus - either confirmed or suspected. That is 19 more than yesterday but it includes a reduction of 9 in the number of confirmed cases.

A total of 6 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. That is the same number overall as yesterday but an increase of 1 in the number of confirmed cases.

Since 5 March, a total of 4,138 patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 have been able to leave hospital.

During the last 24 hours, 1 death was registered of a patient confirmed through a test as having Covid-19.  The total number of deaths, under this particular measure, is now 2,491.

Now even one death is of course one too many, but for us to have had just one registered death of a confirmed case in eight days is a sign of the progress we have made.

That said, the total number of deaths is a painful reminder of the heavy toll that this virus has taken, so once again my thoughts are with everyone who has lost a loved one.

We will also today publish updated information about the prevalence of the virus in Scotland.

Our modelling suggests that the R number – the average number of people infected by one other infectious person - remains below 1. And the number of people in Scotland with the virus continues to fall. Our central estimate for last week is that 700 people in Scotland were infectious.

Again, these figures are a sign of the considerable progress that has been made. And so as I always do I want to thank everybody who has contributed to that, including every single member of the public across the country, but in particular our health and care workers for the remarkable job that you do in very difficult circumstances.

There are three issues that I want to cover today.

The first is childcare- an issue which is hugely important for families across the country, and which is also hugely important for the economy – today’s job figures published this morning highlight again the economic impact of the pandemic, and the importance of government and everybody working hard to counter that in the weeks and months ahead.

As you know, childcare services were able to reopen fully yesterday, and so John Swinney will talk a bit more about the childcare which is available now, and which will be available in the months ahead.

Before that, however, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who works in childcare for all of your efforts to enable children to return safely. It is hugely appreciated by all of us.

I also want to thank parents and carers. I can only imagine how much disruption the closure of childcare settings has caused for you over these past few months. But I want to thank you for understanding why it has been necessary, and for managing throughout this period – sometimes, I know, in very difficult circumstances indeed.

And finally – in the unlikely event that any of you are watching to this briefing! – I want to say again thank you to all of the children across the country who have been affected by the closure of childcare facilities and of schools.

I hope that in the last few days you’ve been able to play with your friends a bit more; and I hope that you are looking forward to going back to nursery or, in a few weeks’ time, going back to school.

But I know how difficult it has been for you to stay indoors for much of the time over the past few months, and I know that not being able to see your friends hasn’t been much fun at all, but you have all been brilliant, and I want you to know that everyone is really proud of you.

The second issue I want to cover is shielding.

The statistics now show that the prevalence of the virus in Scotland is low, and is, at this stage, getting lower. That means that we can update our advice to people who are shielding, in line with the routemap that we set out for you last week.

From tomorrow, therefore, we advise that you can if you wish stay in any holiday accommodation, including hotels and bed and breakfasts. You can also visit outdoor markets and public gardens.

And in a change that I hope will be particularly welcome, non-cohabiting couples can meet without physical distancing, even if one or both of you is shielding, and even if neither of you lives on your own. 

We hope to be able to pause the need for shielding altogether at the end of this month – although even if we do that we will still encourage those in the shielding group to take extra care in things such as physical distancing and hygiene.

I know that the prospect of returning to something more like your normal lives will be welcome for many of you, if not all of you, but I appreciate that it is also likely to be quite daunting.

The Scottish Government will provide more information for you nearer the time, and we will do everything we can to support you in this transition.

In addition the Economy Secretary has asked the UK Government to ensure ongoing financial support for anyone who has been shielding, and who may not be able to go back to work, or to work from home.

In addition, I think that those of us who aren’t shielding should also think about how we can help all of you during this transition.

Wearing masks in shops and on public transport, making sure we all keep 2 metres away from others wherever possible, that’s the best way we can all help to give shielding people the confidence to go out and about safely.

And if you’re an employer, please be sensitive to the concerns of any employees who may be shielding.

If it turns out that we are able to confirm next week that shielding will be paused from 31 July, please reach out to people who might be going back to work; have honest conversations about how you can support them; and try to think creatively about how you can make your workplace safer for them.

As I’ve said before, the relaxation of shielding measures is good news, but it will be prompting some understandable stress and anxiety. All of us can take sometimes small steps, that might make a big difference for people who are shielding.

The final issue I want to cover relates to mental health. Most of the focus on Covid so far – for very obvious reasons – has been on its physical impact.

However, we are also increasingly thinking about the mental health of people who have had Covid.

There are now, for example, more than 500 people who have been discharged from intensive care or high dependency units in Scotland.

Being in intensive care is obviously a traumatic experience – and many Covid patients have had to go through that, without any prospect of being visited by friends and family at any time while they have been in hospital.

So although we know that most people will make a full recovery, with the help of their loved ones - some people we know will need additional support.  

Scotland already has a very effective programme, which is used by several health boards, for helping patients who have been in intensive care.

The Inspire programme uses specialists from different disciplines; it puts former intensive care patients in touch with other people who have had the same experiences; and it encourages them to join community organisations or other groups which can help them through.

And so we plan to learn from that in supporting Covid patients.

I am delighted to confirm today that Dr Nadine Cossette – a psychiatrist with NHS Lothian – has agreed to lead on this work. It is an important way of ensuring that people who have had Covid get the long-term help that they need to recover.

Before I hand over to John Swinney and then to Dr Steedman, I want to stress again today that as the figures demonstrate, we have now got to a position – it’s been hard earned, and it has not been easy – but we’ve now got to a position where, at this stage, there are very low levels of the virus in Scotland.

However, as you hear me say every single day, the only way to ensure that things remain that way, is to continue to stick to the rules. 

Every single one of us have a duty – and I think it is a duty that all of us have as citizens – to remember that the decisions we take as individuals right now have an impact on the collective wellbeing of us all. That is more important now as we emerge from lockdown than it has been at any point over the last four months.

So I want once again to remind you all of Facts - the five key, vitally important things all of us should remember in absolutely everything we do.

  • Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces. They are mandatory in shops and on public transport, but our advice is in any enclosed space where physical distancing might be more difficult, wear a face covering.
  • Avoid crowded places. Not just crowded places indoors – that is especially important – but even outdoors, avoid crowded places.
  • Clean your hands regularly and thoroughly and if you’re touching hard surfaces clean them too.
  • Two metre distancing remains the general rule and the strong advice we give to everyone.
  • and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms. Remember, if you have a new cough, if you have a fever, if you suffer a loss of or a change in your sense of taste or smell, don’t wait to see if you feel better. Act immediately. Self-isolate and go to the NHS inform website, and book a test. It is by doing that, that you give our test and protect system the opportunity to break the chains of transmission.

So if all of us remember these 5 basic measures, all of us can help to stay safe, protect others, and save lives.

So my thanks, again, to everyone who is doing the right thing, and sticking with these rules. If we all keep doing it then we will continue to make the progress that we’ve seen in recent weeks.

Before I leave today there is one other issue that I want to update you on, which relates to a temporary change to the regularity of these daily briefings.

For the next two weeks we are going to be moving to three briefings a week, on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays. That means there will be no tomorrow or on Monday – I will next see you here on Tuesday.

The reason for that is, when you watch these briefings you see those of us who stand at the podiums, but these briefings involve a lot of work on the part of people behind the camera. This allows us to give people a bit of a break over the next two weekends in the summer period.

We will return to five-day-a-week briefings at the start of August as we go into that period running up to the return of schools, when I am sure there will be a lot of questions, not just from the journalists but parents and young people will want to hear regular updates about our progress.

So we do intend to return to the five-day-a-week briefing, but we intend to give people a little bit of a break over the next two weekends, before we go into next, I’m sure, very busy period.

One other change is that of Tuesday next week when I return for the next briefing, we will be at the slightly earlier time of 12.15 every day and that is likely to be a permanent change. So try to remember, if you are planning on tuning in, to tune in just that 15 minutes early to get the update that we will give you.

Obviously for Mondays and Fridays over the next two weeks we will put out the daily update through the Scottish Government website.

My thanks to all of you for joining us today and as always for complying with the guidance that we ask you to comply with, and that’s the note that I will leave you on.

We are making so much good progress here and we must make sure it continues, so please remember Facts: Face coverings, avoid crowded places, clean your hands, clean hard surfaces, two metres distance, and self-isolate and get a test if you have symptoms.

I can’t stress this enough: if we all stick to these five basic measures, it is possible for us to keep this virus under control, and get that greater normality back into our lives, with perhaps the greatest prize of all – to have children and young people back in full-time education come the middle of August.

So thank you again very much, and I will see you again on Tuesday at 12.15pm.