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07/09/20 14:16

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister's speech 7 September 2020

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

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

I’m going to run through the usual daily statistics before commenting in a bit more detail on the trend in these statistics we’ve been observing for the past few days .

Firstly, the daily picture, an additional 146 positive cases were confirmed yesterday.

That represents 2.4% of the people who were newly tested yesterday and takes the total number of cases now to 21,543.

A full health board breakdown will be available as usual later, but the provisional information I have is that 78 are in Greater Glasgow & Clyde, 19 in Lanarkshire, 13 in Lothian and 9 in Ayrshire and Arran.

The remaining cases are spread across 6 different health boards.

I can also report that 256 patients are currently in hospital, which is 12 more than yesterday.

In addition, 5 people are in intensive care, which is 1 more than yesterday.

In the past 24 hours, no deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days.

The number of deaths under that measurement therefore remains 2,496.

That figure reminds us, and should always remind us, of the impact of the virus has had. Again, I want to send condolences to everyone who is grieving a loved one.

As I indicated a moment ago, I want to spend a little bit of time today reflecting on the increase in cases we have seen in recent days – and especially the figures we saw over the weekend.

Yesterday we had more than 200 new cases in Scotland - 92 of them were in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

That continues a rise in cases that has been apparent for some weeks.

If I can take you back 6 weeks, to a statement I gave to parliament about lockdown restrictions, and at that point 6 weeks ago, we were recording an average of 14 new cases a day.

Just under three weeks ago, it was 52 cases on average that we were reporting every day.

Now, if you look back over the last 7 days, the average number of cases being reported is 152.

Yesterday, the percentage of positive tests, among people being tested for the first time, was 2.3% and today it is 2.4%. Two weeks ago that figure was regularly below 1%.

So we have a very definite trend at the moment. In some ways, it shouldn’t surprise us. In recent weeks we have opened up most of our economy. We had to get some normality back to our economy as we know lockdown does other harm to people. As we have released ourselves from lockdown, we have also released the virus from lockdown.

People are meeting and interacting more often. And of course, this kind of increase that we are experiencing in Scotland is not unique to us

We are seeing similar increases in other countries across the UK but also across Europe and many of the parts of the world.

But while it may not be surprising, this is after all an infectious virus, we must take this trend seriously and if we want to avoid closing parts of our economy down again - as we all do - we must step up our other ways of keeping COVID under control.

This really is a key moment.

So I want therefore to be pretty frank with you today in my assessment. Let me be clear that cuts both ways.

I’ll be frank first of all about some of the differences between the situation we are in now and the situation we faced earlier in the year. It is important to give some context and take care not to overstate the situation.

But I’ll also be frank about the reasons why we can’t afford to slip into a sense of complacency, and about the things we need to do to keep the situation under control and continue to bear down on this virus which has always been our objective.

So first, the context, which I think is important to give.

The last time we had over 200 cases on a single day like we did yesterday, was on the 8 May and on that day we had 225 cases.

However, notwithstanding that headline similarity, there are important differences between the situation now and earlier in the year.

For example, the 225 reported on 8 May represented around 7% of people tested.

Yesterday’s 208 cases was 2.3% of people tested.

So the point I’m making here is that earlier in the year, the daily case numbers were probably more of an underestimate of true prevalence than our daily numbers now - because we are now testing more people now.

Also on 8 May, there were 75 people in intensive care with COVID, and more than 1,000 people in hospital.

That compares to 5 in ICU today and 256 in hospital - and as I said last week, we think that some of the people counted in our hospital figure now may have recovered, so we are looking closely at this.

And generally, we are not so far seeing the recent increase in cases reflected in a significant increase in new admissions to hospitals or intensive care. And that has been a feature of increases in cases in other parts of the world as well. While the scientists don’t fully yet understand why that is the case, it may partly reflect the fact that right now, younger people make up a higher percentage of positive cases – and although they can get seriously ill, they are less likely to do so.

So all of this provides important context for you to listen to me and hopefully take seriously what I say, it is important that I’m not overstating things, that I don’t sound as if I’m scaremongering to you, so that context is important to give.

But - and this is my main message today – that context cannot and must not be a source of complacency.

The view that I hear more often these days - that because of these differences, we no longer need to worry, and that continued restrictions are an overreaction - is in my view, dangerous.

Let me give three reasons for that, three reasons why we really must take this very seriously.

First, we must remember that even for younger people, this can be a really nasty disease - many people, they are often referred to as COVID long haulers. Many people, including some young people are suffering long term health effects, even if they never go into hospital or intensive care.

Second, and this is perhaps the most important point, if transmission takes hold again, even if it starts in the younger, healthier part of the population, which it appears to be doing because younger people are interacting more, it won’t necessarily stay in that part of the population, it will eventually seep into older and more vulnerable groups. To be blunt, some young people will infect their older friends or relatives.

At that point, we could again see more deaths and serious illnesses. Without overstating this, there already seems to be some evidence of this in France for example, which has seen cases rising now over a longer period than we have.

My third and final reason I suppose, is a closer to home illustration of that point.

Although hospital admissions are very low just now, compared to earlier in the year, it is not true to say they have not risen at all.

In the week ending 31 August, which is the most recent data I can give you at the moment, there were 22 hospital admissions across Scotland for COVID.

Now, that’s a low figure but in each of the previous two weeks, that figure was 14 per week. So it’s gone from 14 to 22.

And in the last three weeks, half of all hospital admissions in Scotland have been in Greater Glasgow Clyde health board area, where of course, we have seen the biggest increase in cases.

So we’d be wrong to say there isn’t a warning there for us already, it might be a faint warning in terms of hospital admissions but it is there and we should listen to it. It tells us that we must continue to act with resolve.

Later in the week, we will have the latest three week review of the national restrictions which continue to be in place. I will confirm the outcome of that review to parliament on Thursday.

However it is worth remembering that we can only, under our own routemap, move from phase 3 of our routemap – which is where we are right now – to phase 4, if, and I quote, “the virus is no longer considered a significant threat to public health”. From the all the latest statistics, it is clear that will not be the case.

And it may be, while no decisions have finally been taken yet, that we have to put the brakes on some further changes too.

Later today we will also review the restrictions that have been put in place for Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

We will of course be considering data - not just for the three local authority areas which currently have restrictions on meeting at home – but for the other local authority areas in that health board region.

The current situation in Greater Glasgow and Clyde is a reminder that if we see a resurgence in cases, restrictions may have to be re-imposed, rather than being relaxed.

But we want to avoid that, if at all possible.

Which brings me to what we all need to do to give us the best chance of avoiding having to close down parts of our economy and society all over again.

Now that we are out of a strict lockdown, we now basically have two key lines of defence against COVID.

One is our Test and Protect system.

I’m please to say, that is working well so far – it is tracing more than 90% of cases and their close contacts. We owe a real debt of gratitude to those working hard to make that system work.

Later this week, we will enhance Test and Protect further by launching our “Protect Scotland” app.

I will say more about the app then, but I would encourage all of you to download it once it is launched.

Let me be clear, it doesn’t track your location and your data is not passed on. Your data remains anonymous, private and confidential.

But if you test positive, the app will help identify people you have been in close contact with, but who are not known to you - for example anyone you have sat close to on a bus or train.

It will help us further contain spread. So downloading and using it will be a small but really, really important individual step we can all take for our collective wellbeing.

Protect Scotland will be an important addition to a Test and Protect system that already works well.

But as I keep saying, important though it is, Test and Protect is our second line of defence.

The first line of defence is us. The decisions we make, and how we behave – these matter more than anything else.

The most important thing any of us can do right now - no matter who we are - is make sure we know what the advice and rules is asking of us. And then make sure we comply.

That means sticking to the limits when we meet up with people indoors.

No more than 8 people from a maximum of 3 households where that is in your home or in someone else’s home, pub or restaurant

And keep physically distanced from people from households other than your own.

And follow the FACTS rules at all times.

• Face coverings should be worn in enclosed spaces
• Avoid crowded places.
• Clean your hands and hard surfaces regularly.
• keep to Two metre distancing.
I know that that can be difficult, but it remains absolutely vital.
• and Self isolate, and book a test, if you have symptoms.

I know all of this is all really difficult but it remains absolutely necessary. It’s inconvenient, it’s tedious and I know it’s really hard to remember but let me say that again, it is really necessary.

The virus is spreading again – the figures I have reported today demonstrate that and for the reasons I’ve set out, it’s not an option simply to do nothing about that or if we’re left to do nothing,
even though I accept this doesn’t seem to be what is happening yet, we risk in the weeks ahead, going back to a mounting toll of illness and death.

So, my plea to everybody is let’s not take that risk, we have come too far. All of us caring and taking steps and making sacrifices for each other. We’ve come this far and it was always going to be difficult as we came out of lockdown and headed into winter but we still have the power, each and every one of us, to stem this tide

So however difficult it feels, that sacrifice that we are asking each and every one of us to make, is less difficult than another lockdown.

So please let’s all at this moment, make the conscious effort, to tighten up on our adherence to all these rules and know that in doing that, we will be helping to protect ourselves protect our families and our wider communities, and protect the National Health Service from a surge of hospital and ICU admissions. And ultimately, going back to where we were at the start, all of this means we will help to save lives and we should not lose sight of that very important objective.

So my thanks for listening. I wanted to a bit of time today just to give some of the context and analysis of the situation we’re in right now.