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29/03/20 15:31

First Minister COVID-19 update

Media briefing, St Andrew's House, Edinburgh

Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for coming.

I want to provide you with a further update on Scotland’s response to the Covid-19 epidemic.

First, I can confirm that, as at 9 o’clock this morning, there have been 1384 positive cases confirmed - an increase of 139 from yesterday. As always, let me be clear that these numbers will be an underestimate.

A total of 95 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid 19.

And it is with sadness that I can report that there has been 1 further death of a patient who had tested positive for Covid 19. That takes the total number of deaths in Scotland to 41.

I want to extend my condolences to all of those who have lost loved ones.

I want to again thank all of the health and care staff who continue to care for people suffering from the virus. And I want to thank the many other people who are helping to keep essential services going at this time.

I also want to thank people across Scotland.

I said on Friday that this would be a weekend unlike any we have had previously.

I know that staying at home - and not meeting up with friends and family - is a really difficult thing to do. Made even harder by the fact the sun is shining. And so I am grateful to everyone who has and continues to do the right thing. By staying at home, all of you are slowing the spread of the disease, protecting the NHS and saving lives.

Nevertheless, we are now at a stage where the number of Covid-19 cases in Scotland is growing rapidly. That is already putting pressure on our NHS and our care service, and is likely to put even greater pressure on them in future.

We are therefore helping to prepare our health and care services to deal with that.

An area of concern that has I know been expressed in recent days is around the provision of personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of our health and care services, so I can confirm today some new steps to improve the supply of personal and protective equipment - or PPE - for those who are working in the front line.

Over the last four to six weeks, around 34 million items of personal and protective equipment have been delivered to hospitals across Scotland which are providing care for COVID-19 cases and other conditions.

In addition, all health boards now have a single point of contact to manage local PPE supply and distribution. This should help to ensure that the right equipment reaches the people who need it.

This week, we will also deliver up front eight weeks’ worth of PPE to all GP surgeries. Those deliveries will start tomorrow, and should be completed by the end of the week.

And we are employing additional staff to meet the need to prepare PPE orders for the social care sector. To meet the demand in the care sector, we are also employing additional delivery drivers, making greater use of longer delivery hours, and using more external delivery companies.

Taking all of this together, I want to underline that we are absolutely committed to the safety and wellbeing of the people who work in our health and care services. These measures will help to protect them, while they protect and care for us.

Now as ever, the best way to support our NHS is to follow the rules and to stay at home as much as possible.

But I know many people who are currently fit and healthy and perhaps no longer for the time being at work or university are looking for other ways to help.

The Scottish Government has over the last week been working with a number of partners to identify the best way to tap into that desire to help.

We wanted to take a bit of time to get this right, so that when people are signing up to be volunteers, we know that that offer can be acted upon and utilised as quickly as possible.

Tomorrow, we will be launching a new campaign called “”Scotland Cares”, which will encourage people to volunteer – if they are in a position to do so – and make it easier to register their interest.

To take part and register interest – from tomorrow – people can go to the ReadyScotland.org website - where you will be able to choose one of the following options.

For returning health and care service workers, you will be directed to information about the arrangements currently in place in NHS Scotland.

For general volunteers the site will direct people to information about becoming a community reserve volunteer.

And we are grateful to one of the partners we are working with, the Red Cross, who will co-ordinate community reserve volunteers around the country.

And it will also direct people to information about volunteering opportunities with existing organisations through Volunteer Scotland.

The site means that people who are able to, will be able to contribute in a way which makes a real difference within their local community. It helps people to help each other, as we all get through this together.

The wider campaign, which will be on TV and radio from tomorrow will also emphasise the importance of lending a [clean] hand to neighbours and family – and importantly – how to do so safely.

Finally – the Scottish Parliament will meet for one day this week, in reduced numbers to ensure proper social distancing is in place.

At that sitting of the Scottish Parliament this week, members will be asked to consider, and I hope pass, emergency legislation specifically for Scotland.

Amongst a number of other things, that legislation will ensure that no one can be evicted from their home during this crisis. It will increase to 6 months, in most cases, the minimum period of notice that a landlord can give to a tenant before eviction. The legislation applies to tenants in both the private sector and the social housing sector - and will provide all tenants with additional security at this immensely difficult time.

We expect to publish the legislation, and introduce it to parliament, on Tuesday. Parliament will then consider the legislation on Wednesday.

The final point I want to emphasise once again this afternoon is that for all of us, the single most important way in which we can help our communities and help the NHS is to stay at home whenever possible – unless it is for essential purposes such as buying food or medicine, or exercising.

I am sure that this weekend has been difficult for people – and there are more weekends like this to come.

I know that lots of people have been keeping in touch with each other by social media, or phone, or various video platforms over this weekend – we all need to keep on doing that as we support and help each other.

I have been heartened over the weekend by images of rainbows, drawn by Scotland’s children, appearing in windows across the country, and tonight the Scottish Government building will light up in rainbow colours to join with them.

These small steps are all part of helping each other through this crisis.

But staying home remains the single most important thing we can do for each other at the moment. So I want to thank all of you for doing the right thing at this particular time. By staying home, you are helping to save lives.