Coronavirus deaths in Scotland increase by 50

Nicola Sturgeon, Jeane Freeman and Catherine Calderwood on TV today.

By Democrat reporter

It was a far more confident First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who stepped up to the podium to deliver the latest official statement on the impact of the corona virus.

She had looked nervous yesterday when it became increasingly apparent that the pandemic was attracting a great deal of political criticism for the unavailability of PPE equipment for frontline staff and the number of tests being carried out.

Today, however, despite having to deliver the tragic news that a further 50 people with coronavirus – these include at least one man from Dumbarton – have died here, bringing the total to 126.

Nicola Sturgeon said the figure included 10 deaths over the past 24 hours, as well as a further 40 from previous days.

The Scottish government figures have revealed that 2,602 people had now tested positive for the virus, up from 2,310 on Wednesday.

The first minister said “every single death from this virus is a tragedy” and that her thoughts were with families.

She also confirmed that there are 1,282 patients currently in hospital who have been diagnosed with the virus, of whom 162 are in intensive care.

Ms Sturgeon said delays in notifying families about deaths via one laboratory was behind the additional 40 deaths being added to the overall figure on Thursday.

The family of the Dumbarton person who died of the virus have asked The Democrat to respect their privacy at this tragic time for them.

And we have agreed not to publish his photograph and personal details at this juncture.  We have no desire to intrude into private grief.

The Scottish government is also changing the way it compiles data on the number of coronavirus deaths in the country.

Only laboratory-confirmed cases reported by health boards are currently counted, but records from the death registration process will soon be added to this.

From next week, the daily figures will also start to include all deaths where the virus is officially “suspected” to have been a factor, even if it has not been confirmed by testing.

Ms Sturgeon said this would increase the number of deaths on record, but would not speculate about how significant this could be.

She said she was “determined that information continues to be as accurate, comprehensive and up to date as possible” and that her government will be “as transparent as we can be”.

The first minister also said testing for the virus had been “very rapidly expanded”, with a focus on testing key workers including healthcare staff and their families.

She said the government initially had capacity to test around 390 samples a day, but that figure has risen to 1,900 tests a day – with the aim of carrying out 3,500 a day by the end of April at the latest.

Ms Sturgeon said ministers were continuing to look at ways of expanding testing and were taking part in “four country initiatives with the rest of the UK” to add to capacity.

But she said due diligence had to be carried out before new laboratories could be used to make sure testing is safe and has high quality standards.

Council workers in Dumbarton asked their GMB representative if they would be tested soon but were told that would happen only after NHS and other healthcare staff had been dealt with.

She stressed that testing key workers did not in and of itself mean they could return to work, saying: “I don’t think testing is a side issue, but I want to be very clear what testing can and cannot achieve.

“It tells us right now whether someone with symptoms has the virus or not – it doesn’t tell us if they’re going to get symptoms, or whether, once they’ve recovered, they had the virus.”

Ms Sturgeon said there was not an “either/or” choice between testing and social distancing, saying there was “no quick fix”.

She said: “We all want this phase of our lives to be over as soon as possible, but it’s unlikely this will be in us a few weeks. We are in this for the long haul.

“I know how tough this is, but please, please stick with it – you are helping us save lives.”

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