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16/09/20 13:28

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

Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a media briefing in St Andrew's House, Edinburgh

Good afternoon everyone, thanks again for joining us today.

As usual I’ll give the rundown of the daily statistics about Covid in Scotland.

Firstly the total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 267. That’s the same number as yesterday but that is a coincidence. This represents 3.6% of people newly tested and the total number of cases now is 23,283.

Now let me remind you that these are positive cases reported yesterday.

Because of the processing backlog that I’ve spoken about in the last couple of days more of these than normal  may be from swabs that have been taken over the last few days.

However, as I said yesterday, when we look at whether case numbers are rising or not, we look at results by the date the sample was taken not just the date in which the test was reported so I can assure you that the backlog doesn’t in any way distort our trend analysis of what’s happening with the virus. On the basis of that analysis we are unfortunately very clear that cases right now are rising.

In terms of the health board breakdown of today’s reported cases, 105 of them were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 45 in Lothian, 40 in Lanarkshire, 16 in Grampian and 15 in Forth Valley.

The remaining 46 were spread amongst the other six mainland health board areas.

I can also confirm that 51 people are in hospital which is an increase of three from yesterday. That figure now is based on the new measurement that I spoke about yesterday for recording the number of patients who are in hospital with Covid. Our old measure was capturing some patients who had Covid previously but were now in hospital for reasons not related to that.

And again under that new measure I can report that six people are in intensive care, which is the same number as yesterday.

I am also sorry to have to report that in the past 24 hours, one further death has been registered of a patient who tested positive for Covid and that means that the total number of deaths, under this daily measurement, is now at 2,501.

The National Records of Scotland has also just published its weekly report on deaths. 

That includes deaths of people who first tested positive for Covid in the previous 28 days as our daily figures do but also cases where Covid is a suspected or contributory cause of death.

The latest NRS update covers the period to Sunday 13 September. It therefore does not include today’s death, or the one I reported yesterday. 

Up to Sunday, we had recorded 2,499 deaths in our daily figures. Three of those deaths had been registered in the seven days up to Sunday.

Today’s update shows that, by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths with either a confirmed or a presumed link to Covid was 4,236. Five of those were registered in the previous week. That is three more than in the week before.

Three of the deaths were in hospital, and two were in care homes.

These figures of course remind us again of the dreadful impact this virus has had, and indeed continues to have.

Every death from Covid including of course the one I have reported on today represents the loss of someone that many people across the country loved, so my condolences again go out to everybody who has suffered a loss as a result of this virus.

It’s also important to point out that while the number of deaths now is much lower thankfully than in the spring and early summer, the need for me to report deaths is a more regular feature of these briefings now than it has been for some time.

This is another reminder that cases are rising and we cannot afford to be complacent about that.

Unless we act to stem community transmission now, it is highly likely that cases of serious illness and deaths will rise in the weeks to come.

It may take some time for that to happen given the incubation period and the course we know the virus takes and of course we hope it won’t be to anywhere near the same extent that we saw earlier in the year but if community transmission continues to rise, as night follows day, we will see more cases of people in hospital and unfortunately more cases of people dying.

That trend is already visible in some other countries that saw this rise in cases happen again earlier than we did, for example France is seeing that increase in hospital cases and deaths now too.

The reason I am saying this is simple. It’s to really underline how important it is that we do act now, all of us, to limit our interactions as much as possible and stop the virus spreading.

I’m joined today by the Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and the Chief Nursing Officer.

The Economy Secretary will confirm some additional support for cultural organisations, and will also talk about analysis being published today by the Scottish Government.

Today’s figures for economic output published this morning showed that GDP fell by almost one fifth in Scotland during the period from April to June.  And yesterday’s unemployment figures showed that unemployment over the past year has risen from 110,000 to 128,000.

That rise is smaller than it would have been without business support from both the Scottish and UK governments, and in particular without the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme.

The Scottish Government is not able to implement a Job Retention scheme of our own since we do not currently have the borrowing powers to do so.

That is why we welcomed the UK Government’s scheme. It has protected around a third of the workforce in Scotland. Even now, when more sectors of the economy have opened up, it is still supporting more than 200,000 jobs in Scotland.

The UK Government currently plans to end the job retention scheme at the end of October.

The Scottish Government’s very firm belief is that it should be extended in some form or another well into next year.

Ending it at the end of October as is currently planned will lead to a sharp increase in unemployment and it will also harm our longer term economic prospects.

The economic problems that Covid is causing will not end in a month’s time, so our economic support should not end in a month’s time either.

Extending the scheme would be in line with the approach of countries like France and Germany and it would be, in my view, in the long term interests of the economy.

So it is something we will continue to make the case for throughout the next six weeks and I am hopeful that we will see some positive developments in that regard.

The economic emergency we are dealing with is of course inextricably linked to and indeed caused by the public health emergency we have faced in these past six months.

Keeping the virus under control as effectively as possible is the best way of keeping the economy safely and sustainably open.

Testing is an absolutely crucial element in doing that. That is why I have discussed difficulties in the testing system over the last couple of days.

The backlog in the UK wide system that we have been concerned about over the past few days is reducing which is positive news.

However, we are concerned to ensure that it doesn’t build up again and that turnaround times for tests improves.

We will therefore continue to monitor these issues closely. I personally am monitoring them very closely on a daily basis right now and will discuss them where necessary with the UK Government.

We will also continue to consider how the Scottish government can use NHS capacity so called Pillar 1 testing capacity to help ease these pressures. However, as I said yesterday there are complexities associated with that and, of course, we would need to be certain that any such action actually helps improve the situation we are facing here in Scotland.

I will continue to update on these issues as necessary and appropriate.

However it’s worth stressing that although we continue to have some concerns over the time being taken to process tests in the Lighthouse laboratories, there are no signs at this stage of people in Scotland facing widespread difficulties in booking a test.

I know there have been reports from other parts of the UK about that and indeed we had some of these problems when schools went back a few weeks ago but right now there are no widespread difficulties for people in Scotland booking a test.

So if you do have symptoms of Covid, the advice of course is to self-isolate and book a test immediately, and that advice remains as important as ever.

We are also working again in partnership with the UK government to make testing more accessible.

To that end, I am pleased that a new walk-in centre is on track to open on Saturday at the Arc Sports Centre in the centre of Glasgow.

As some of you may know, the Arc is part of the Glasgow Caledonian University campus, and is also just a few hundred metres away from Strathclyde University.

The centre will therefore be especially useful for the student population in central Glasgow.

However it is open to anyone. It is easy to reach without a car. And at the centre, additional support is available for vulnerable groups, and people with disabilities.

As with all testing centres we recommend that you book in advance. Although the centre opens for tests on Saturday, bookings can be made through the nhsinform website from Friday onwards.

Alternatively, you can phone to book a test on 0800 028 2816.

We will establish 20 more walk-in centres across Scotland over the autumn and winter. Our initial focus will be on areas with a large student population, that is why the first opened in St Andrews, and we are on track to have four more sites set up in the next two weeks. 

These centres are a further way of ensuring that testing is as accessible as possible to as many people as possible which is why our focus now is on student populations but we will then have a focus on more remote and rural areas and I am sure these centres will be a valuable enhancement to our system in the weeks and months to come.

I’m just about to hand over to the Economy Secretary and then briefly to the Chief Nursing Officer but before I do that, I will end, as I always do, by stressing our rules and guidance.

I’m referring you back to earlier in my remarks when I talked about the likelihood of seeing serious illness and deaths rise if community transmission continues to be an issue.

So this comes back to the importance for all of us right now, limiting our interactions as much as possible to try to stem that spread. And remembering that ultimately that is about saving lives.

That connection right now might seem a bit more abstract than it did back in March, April and May but it is still as real as ever. The actions we take right now to follow the advice could well be stopping somebody becoming seriously ill and dying later on. So in doing all of this it is still all about saving lives.

So please keep to the new rules on gatherings.

No more than six people should meet up together, indoors or outdoors – and those six people can come from no more than two households.

This virus wants to infect new people and once it gets into a household through one person we know that there is a high probability everybody in that house could get infected.  

So we limit the number of households that can meet up together to stop it spreading from one to another. So the limit on households is really important just as the overall limit on people is important.

Second thing I’m asking everyone to do is to please also download the Protect Scotland app if you can. It is quick, simple, but it is potentially very powerful in helping us alert a wider range of people who may have been exposed to the virus and making sure that they are self-isolating and taking away the risk that they are unknowingly passing it on.

We are almost getting to the point where a million people across Scotland have signed up to this which is incredible, fantastic but we need more people to do it. So if you haven’t done it, please do. And if you have remember to encourage your friends and family to do so as well.

Finally as always, please remember the other measures that will stop you from passing the infection on to other people.

The simplest way in which you can do that, is by remembering FACTS. These are the five rules that all of us can follow to protect ourselves and our communities.

  • Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces
  • Avoid crowded places.
  • Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
  • Two metres away from other households whenever you can.
  • and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.

It is really important that we all do these things right now to stem this increase in cases as much as we can, avoid cases rising further, avoid people who are vulnerable to this virus becoming ill and avoid people dying.

We are in a sense back to that fundamental truth that we all took to heart at the early part of this pandemic. What we do as individuals helps save lives and we should remember that right now. So my thanks to everybody for all of your efforts and sacrifices that you are making to that end.