COVID 19: FIRST MINISTER REPORTS A FURTHER 82 DEATHS IN PAST 24 HOURS

By First Minister Nicola Sturgeon 

Yesterday, 1,201 new cases were reported, which is 5.6 per cent of all the tests that were carried out. The total number of cases now stands at 176,533. There are currently 1,938 people in hospital, which is a decrease of 33 from yesterday, and 142 people are in intensive care, which is a decrease of three from yesterday.

However, I regret to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further 82 deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive in the previous 28 days. The total number of people who have died under that daily measurement is 5,970. Yet again, I send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Due to a hold-up in the processing of data from yesterday, I do not yet have the figure for the total number of people who have received their first dose of vaccine. That figure will be published as soon as possible. From the information that I have, though, I can report that around 60 per cent of people over 80 and living in the community have had the first dose of vaccine.

We are on track to complete first doses for over-80s by the target of the end of next week. However, we anticipate that the vast majority will have been done by the start of next week. The over-70s will start to be vaccinated next week, and all of them, along with those who are clinically extremely vulnerable, will have had their first dose by the middle of February.

As we make good progress with vaccination, we also see signs of progress in suppressing the virus. Later today we will publish the up-to-date estimate of the R number, which suggests that it is now below 1. That is not unexpected, given the recent decline in new cases, but it is very welcome and provides further evidence that the lockdown restrictions are working.

That said, case numbers remain very high, and our national health service remains under severe pressure. For example, the number of people in hospital with Covid is still approximately 30 per cent higher than it was at the peak last spring, although we are starting to see, from the numbers that I have reported today, welcome stabilisation in those figures.

It is therefore vital that cases continue to fall, which is why we have already confirmed that lockdown restrictions will continue until at least the middle of February. As everyone is aware, we are also considering and implementing further measures to help to keep the virus under control, both now and in the longer term. Those measures include tougher travel restrictions—we will set out more proposals on that in the coming days—and further on-going improvements to our test and protect system.

However, for the moment, the single most important thing that all of us can do to protect each other and to keep the virus under control is follow the current rules. Put simply, that means that we must all stay at home as much as possible. We should leave home only for essential purposes such as caring responsibilities, essential shopping, work that genuinely cannot be done from home and essential exercise.

All of us should exercise responsible judgment on what is really essential and what is not. We should not have people from other households in our houses, nor should we go into theirs, and on any occasion on which we require to be out of our homes, we should follow the FACTS advice. Face coverings should be worn when, for example, we are doing essential shopping; avoid places that are busy; clean hands and surfaces; use 2m distancing when talking to people from other households; and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms.

All that will help us to continue with the progress that we have made in the past couple of weeks. It will protect us, our loved ones and our communities and, of course, it will help to protect the NHS. My advice to everybody continues to be to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

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