NOTES FROM FM’S DAILY BRIEFING

Further five deaths from Covid-19

By Bill Heaney

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed today that 15,682 people have now tested positive for Covid-19, an increase of 17 from yesterday.

There are 909 patients are in hospital with a suspected or confirmed case (down 78), with 21 being treated in intensive care (up three, though all suspected).

Nearly 4000 (3,858) people have been discharged from hospital after receiving treatment for the virus since 5 March.

A further five people who tested positive have died, taking the total to 2,439 deaths in Scotland by that measure.

Nicola Sturgeon says she has no issue with criticism from political opponents when Peter MacMahon of ITV Border point out that the Conservative spokeswoman on rural affairs, Rachael Hamilton, reckons the potential start date for the tourism sector of 15 July is “too little too late”.

That date was announced last night and has been widely welcomed on Loch Lomondside and other West of Scotland tourist area.

Sturgeon Docherty Hughes and O'Hara 4
FM Sturgeon and local MPs.

Ms Sturgeon said: “None of these decisions are easy. They all involve difficult balances and we are trying to get it as right as possible in the interest of human health and in the interest of the economy.”

The FM was challenged over economic impact of Scottish government’s approach to easing lockdown, but she batted that away: “We can’t see it as a trade-off between suppressing the virus and getting the economy up and running again.”

She said it was the government’s first duty to look after the health of its citizens and that had to take its place behind the economy.

Nicola Sturgeon repeated that she is determined to work out of lockdown in a “methodical way with balanced decisions”.

And added: “If this virus runs out of control again then we are all back to square one.

“We are considering moving to phase two a week today to allow greater social interaction, but change must come at the right pace.”

BBC Scotland’s Glenn Campbell asks if the Scottish government is considering a “support bubble”, as is starting in England, and if the 2m distancing rule is here to stay.

“If we are to come out of lockdown at the right pace and in a way that is sustainable, then we stick to our plan with careful and well-founded decisions,” said the FM.

On the 2m rule, she says that “right now” the evidence indicates that it is the best policy, but that doesn’t mean the government is not willing to reconsider in future. “It’s about relative risk,” she stressed.

Ms Sturgeon said more detailed data will be published on Test and Protect in the coming weeks – “Our preliminary indications are that Test and Protect is already working well. If everyone agrees to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus, all of us will be able to emerge from the lockdown.”

She issued this message and emphasised its importance: “If you have Covid-19 symptoms, book a test immediately via NHS Inform online or phone 0800 028 2816.”

 Test and Protect has tracked 741 virus contacts so far as we gradually return to meeting more people if restrictions are eased next week, the Test and Protect system will become even more important. Up until 7 June, 681 people who reported symptoms subsequently tested positive for the virus, and contact tracing had been completed for 481 of those by yesterday.

Here’s the Scottish government’s route map out of lockdown, including the four phases.

The FM said some of the important steps forward may be phased in over the next three-week period.

Ms Sturgeon again called for a cautious approach and pointed out the government will be in a better position to lift further restrictions if all of us stick with the current guidelines.

She said: “We need to celebrate the progress, but continue to be careful and cautious. A week today we will have a further review of the lockdown restrictions. I am currently very hopeful that at that point we will be able to lift some further restrictions.”

Latest figures from the UK government show that 628,200 people in Scotland are on the Job Retention Scheme.

The scheme currently provides employers with financial support up to 80% of salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month per employee.

The figures for Scotland compare with 6,445,800 furloughed workers in England, 316,500 in Wales and 211,700 in Northern Ireland.

Over £4bn has been spent by the Scottish government on its Covid-19 response to date, the permanent secretary confirms.

Leslie Evans adds that “considerably more” will be spent going forward, both to maintain what has been put in place now and to respond to the damage as we emerge from the crisis.

She highlights the government’s summer budget review estimated £3.5bn of additional spend came from UK government consequentials, though Gordon Wales confirms this has now been increased to £3.791bn after clarifications on spending commitments.

The figures are moving on a daily basis, the chief financial officer added.

DENTIST 2

Meanwhile, dentists are preparing for a return to work in phase two of the Scottish government’s route map out of lockdown, with the next policy review due in seven days.

There is a three-stage plan, explained Dr Ambi Jeybalen to BBC Radio Scotland listeners, while stressing that emergency treatment is currently available at regional hubs.

When phase two gets the go-ahead, practices will open for face-to-face consultation for patients in need of urgent care that can be provided without aerosol generating procedures (AGPs), such as the dreaded drill.

This service will then be expanded for patients who can be seen for routine care, again without using AGPs, although much will depend on the supply of appropriate PPE.

However, AGP work will be undertaken at the emergency hubs by this stage.

Phase three of the route map should allow for a “limited introduction” of AGPs within practices.

The Covid-19 pandemic risks setting the effort to get more mothers into the workplace back by 20 years, the head of a leading women’s rights charity has warned.

Women are often forced to choose between flexibility and job security in a bid to meet their caring responsibilities, making them “dispensable”, the Fawcett Society’s chief executive, Sam Smethers, said.

Ms Smethers added: “If you look back at the last 20 years the big increases in labour market participation have been amongst mothers and single parents in particular.

“What we are seeing now is that that trend is reversed, so unless we correct that, unless we get it back on track, we will literally have a significant step backwards.”

Research by PwC published last month suggested 78% of those who have already lost their jobs as a result of the virus are women.

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