By First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Yesterday, 500 new cases were reported, which was 2.5 per cent of all the tests that were carried out. The total number of confirmed cases is now 204,055. Some 726 people are in hospital, which is 24 fewer than yesterday, and 69 people are in intensive care, which is one fewer than yesterday.

I regret to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further 24 deaths were registered. In addition, three other deaths that were registered recently but were not yet included in the published total have been added. Those three deaths together with the 24 that were registered yesterday mean that the total number of people who have, sadly, died is now 7,398 under that daily measurement. Once again, I send my deepest condolences to all those who have lost a loved one.

We will publish the latest estimate of the R number later today. We expect it to show again that the R number is below 1. That reflects the positive trends that we can all see in the daily figures right now.

I will give a quick update on the vaccination programme. As of 8.30 this morning, 1,688,808 people had received their first dose of the vaccine, which is an increase of 26,729 since yesterday. In addition, 100,058 people have also now received their second dose, which is an increase of 7,508 since yesterday. That means that 34,237 people in total received vaccinations yesterday. Ninety-five per cent of 65 to 69-year-olds have now had a first dose, as have 37 per cent of 60 to 64-year-olds, 31 per cent of 55 to 59-year-olds, and 26 per cent of 50 to 54-year-olds. That age group is of particular interest to me. We still expect to be able to offer first doses to everyone over 50, all unpaid carers and all adults with an underlying health condition by mid-April.

Taking into account all of what I have just reported, I think that there is little doubt that things are firmly heading in the right direction at the moment. The number of cases is falling, the numbers in hospital are falling and the vaccination programme is progressing extremely well. That is why we have been able to set out the timetable for children’s return to school. Next week, I will outline any further changes that we feel we can make at this stage to the level 4 restrictions. In the following week, I will provide more information about the timetable for easing restrictions after 26 April.

There is much to feel optimistic about right now, but I stress that that should not see us throw caution to the wind. Case numbers remain high and, of course, the new variant remains highly infectious. If we want to continue the progress, my advice to everyone is to continue to abide by the stay-at-home rule for the moment. Stay at home except for essential purposes, follow FACTS when you are out, and make sure that, collectively, we continue to keep everything going in the right direction. I thank everybody who is doing that and sticking with it during these difficult times.

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