Statement given by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh on Tuesday 25 May 2021.
Good afternoon everyone. Thanks for joining us today.
I’m joined today by the Chief Medical Officer, who will help me later on answer questions.
Before then though, I want to provide an update on the state of the pandemic. You’ll be pleased to know that this does include some notes of cautious optimism and I’ll come back to that later on. But firstly I will run through today’s statistics as usual.
The total number of positive cases reported yesterday was 318.
149 of these are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board area, 54 in Lothian, and 34 in Lanarkshire.
The total number represents 2% of all of the tests carried out, and means that the total number of confirmed cases now stands at 232,661.
Currently, there are 97 people receiving hospital treatment – which is 3 more than yesterday.
And 6 people are receiving intensive care, which is 1 more than the position yesterday.
Sadly I have to report that 2 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours which means that the total number of deaths registered, under the daily definition, is now 7,666.
As always, particularly on days like today when we are reporting deaths, I want to convey my condolences to everyone who has lost someone as a result of the virus.
Let me also briefly give an update on the vaccination programme.
As of this morning, 3,138,366 people have received a first dose of the vaccine.
And that’s an increase of 16,421 since yesterday.
In addition to that, 29,035 people got a second dose yesterday, and that brings the total number of second doses now to 1,881,214.
And as those of you who are quick when it comes to adding up different figures will have already worked out that means as of today more that 5 million doses of vaccine have now been administered in Scotland.
That is a fantastic milestone but also a massive logistical achievement for all our vaccinations teams across the country. So I want to say a very big thank you again today, to all of them.
Now as I indicated earlier on, what I want to do today is really give a brief overview of the current situation but also a bit of an insight into the factors that we need to weigh up in the days ahead as we try to get Glasgow back onto a similar track to the rest of the country and, as we try hopefully, to make sure that all of us continue our path out of restrictions and back to something much closer to normality.
Today’s figures show quite a similar pattern to the one that we’ve been seeing now for the past couple of weeks.
So in summary, we are seeing a rise in cases overall just now – if you look back over the past 16 days, case numbers albeit from a very low level have actually doubled and while some of this will be down to increased testing, the test positivity rate has also been creeping up as well.
Now, some of the increase in case numbers being recorded just now will be due to the easing of restrictions over the past month. As we know, when we mix more, the virus does have more opportunities to spread. That is why it is so important as we do ease restrictions, that all of us continue to follow basic public health advice on things like distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene.
But another important factor in the recent rise in cases does seem to be the presence of this April-02 variant, which is thought to be more transmissible than other variants, including the one that was identified in the UK back at the turn of the year.
Case numbers are rising just now, but it is important to put all of that into context – because although case numbers are rising, they do still remain quite low relative to the situation we experienced in the early part of this year.
The same is true in terms of hospital and ICU admissions. Numbers are increasing – so last Tuesday, there were 70 patients in hospital and 4 in intensive care.
And as of yesterday, there are 97 in hospital and 6 in intensive care.
Again, though, context is important. Back in January, at the peak of the second wave, there were more than 2000 people in hospital as a result of Covid and today that figure is 97, so that gives you a sense of context.
And obviously, a really important difference between January and now, is the scale and the extent of vaccination.
And an increasingly vital part of our consideration as we go forward, is understanding the impact of vaccination and the extent that this is enabling us to change our response to the virus.
Up until now, we have sought to respond as quickly as possible to rising case numbers and the reason for that is simple, we have known that increasing case numbers lead within 3 to 4 weeks – almost like night follows day – to significantly increased hospital and ICU admissions and unfortunately to increased numbers of deaths.
That means the priority has been to stem increases in case numbers as quickly as possible – and that has made tough restrictions necessary.
Of course, while we are still developing our understanding of the impact of vaccination – and given that people’s health and, in some cases, lives are at stake – a significant degree of caution is still appropriate. That is why we have so far we have opted to keep Glasgow in level 3.
But increasingly, we are monitoring whether and to what extent vaccination might be breaking that link between rising case numbers and significantly rising cases of serious illness and death.
And if that does prove to be the case, as we hope it will, then we hope that our response to this virus can increasingly evolve as well.
In short, while care will still be needed, because there will always be people who require hospital treatment, it might mean that we don’t have to react quite so aggressively with tough restrictions in the face of rising case numbers.
Instead we hope that we will be able to rely more on enhanced public health interventions like testing and vaccination, and of course on good public health practices on the part of the public.
So I’m setting this out really to help all of us understand that this will be a key factor in our decision making in the coming days and indeed beyond that – both in relation to Glasgow but also in relation to the country more generally.
I now want to give a quick update on the situation in Glasgow and in East Renfrewshire. And I’m pleased to say there is some signs for cautious optimism here.
Firstly, it appears that the situation may have stabilised in East Renfrewshire – and indeed case numbers there may in fact have fallen very slightly. That said, it is too early to be absolutely certain so it remains really important that residents continue to come forward for testing and vaccination – and that everyone continues to exercise care.
In Glasgow, the 7 day average of new cases has increased from Friday – from 112 new cases per hundred thousand people, to 137.
That said, it is important to recognise that the extensive public health efforts that are underway in Glasgow will take time to work through – given the scale and complexity of the city – so it is important we don’t lose heart. And in fact, just in the past 2 days or so, we do think that we may have started to see some signs that case numbers in Glasgow are stabilising.
Test positivity has also remained fairly stable over the past few days at around 4%. So that would be another reason to be cautiously optimistic that we’re not seeing test positivity shoot up on an ever increasing basis.
All of that means the enhanced testing and contact tracing, and the acceleration of vaccination is all, we think, having an effect so it is really vital to stick with it.
These are big community efforts, and I want to thank everyone who has played a part.
I know for example that in my own constituency, Glasgow Southside, health teams have been going door to door to encourage testing. Many thousands of testing kits have been distributed, and an additional vaccination clinic has been established in the Glasgow Central Mosque.
That last point highlights the contribution that community and faith groups are making – for example, I know that Imams have been demonstrating how to use lateral flow tests during prayers.
I hope and expect that all of these community efforts will continue to have an impact.
So we will continue to monitor the latest data for these areas – and, returning to what I said earlier, we will be looking not just at the case numbers, but also the data on hospital and ICU admissions, before making the next decision on levels later this week.
The final point I want to make here today is that all of us continue to have a part to play.
And in particular, let me emphasise once again the importance of vaccination.
The latest data shows that 2 doses of either vaccine offer high levels of protection against this new variant. We also expect that vaccines will offer even higher levels of effectiveness against hospitalisation and the risk of dying.
So we are currently working to accelerate the programme as far and as fast as supplies allow. That includes speeding up second doses.
Obviously, we can only vaccinate if everyone comes forward when they get their appointment letter.
At some sites over the weekend, we saw quite a high level of non-attendance for appointments which had been scheduled – though it is important to stress that, overall, uptake rates remain incredibly high.
It is also important to say that when people don’t attend, there will be a variety of reasons for this – and some of them will not be down to the individual, so no one is pointing any fingers here.
On the contrary, we all have to work together to make sure we get uptake rates and keep uptake rates as high as we need them to be.
For all of us that means recognising that getting vaccinated is about protecting ourselves – but it is also part of our civic duty to each other and to our wider communities.
For government it is about making vaccination as easy as possible – and we will continue to explore and implement all possible ways of doing that.
Today, briefly before I finish there are two asks I want to make.
The first is for anyone who thinks they should have had an appointment but hasn’t – in some cases this might be because you have moved house recently, for example.
Please go onto the NHS Inform website to arrange an appointment. The vaccinations section of the site has a section on missing appointments details, which provides a form you can submit. Alternatively, you can call the hotline on 0800 030 8013.
Doing that means that if your appointment has been missed because of, for example, wrong address details, it can be re-arranged.
And secondly, if you are aged between 18 and 29, you can now register online for vaccination. That helps to ensure that your details are correct and up to date.
You can register at this address: www.register.vacs.
I can tell you that in the first 16 hours of this online system being operational yesterday, over 22% of everyone in that age group registered which I think is brilliant.
But if you are in that age group and haven’t done so, please register now.
And if you are watching and you know someone in that age group, please make sure they’re aware of this new system.
And just a reminder – www.register.vacs.nhs.scot.
And that’s the note I want to end on. This is a bump in the road with this new variant. There are some positive signs in these outbreak areas and we need to stick with what we’re doing to make sure that they continue.
But overall, we all have a part to play in making sure we keep this under control.
So continue to follow all of the advice and continue to take all of the necessary precautions and mitigations and if we all do that, and if we all support this incredible work that our public health teams across the country are doing, then I do remain confident that we will stay overall on the right path and that is a path back to the normality that we all crave.
So thank you very much again for listening and bearing with me through that update.