Coronavirus update from the First Minister (21 April 2020)

First Minister NicolaSturgeon: “As of 9am this morning, there have been 8,672 positive cases confirmed, an increase of 222 since yesterday.

While I would still urge caution in interpreting these figures, I remain cautiously optimistic that, while the numbers being admitted to hospital are still fluctuating, they appear to be broadly stable. Secondly, the number being admitted to intensive care are reducing.”

“It’s not too long ago we were seriously worried about the potential for our hospital capacity to be overwhelmed by now. The fact it’s not is down to the planning done in the NHS, but more than that, it is down to the high compliance with the lockdown restrictions.

My thanks to all of you for helping us ensure the NHS has been able to cope, although the work they do is very difficult and very challenging.

Each of these deaths represents much, much more than a statistic. They each represent an individual who was loved by family and friends and whose loss is a source of intense grief. I want to extend my sincere and deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Dealing with this public health emergency has, in itself, created an economic emergency. It estimates Scotland’s economic output could fall by a third during this process of social distancing, broadly in line with last week’s projections for the UK as a whole from the OBR.

It is likely there has been a significant increase in unemployment since the end of February. Since March 15th there have been 130,000 new claimants for Universal Credit in Scotland. In the comparable period last year that number was 15,500.

The Scottish Government’s immediate focus, working with the UK Government, has been on trying to mitigate the impact of this economic shock on people’s wellbeing and on protecting the economy’s productive capacity for the future.

Our overall package of support for businesses in Scotland now totals more than £2.3bn, including business rates relief for many sectors and grants for small businesses.

The Economy Secretary will set out later today how £100m of funding we announced last week will be used to support people, for example those who have become recently self-employed and might not be eligible for other forms of support.

The health of the economy is one of the things we must consider as we think about how to emerge from this period of lockdown. The plans we will publish this week will set out some of the factors we will have to weigh up working to a point when we can allow some businesses to reopen, albeit with some social distancing measures in place. But the economic harm being caused by this virus is not in itself a reason to come out of lockdown early.

Indeed, dealing with this public health emergency and continuing to suppress the virus is an absolute prerequisite for a sustainable economic recovery.

The work we will publish towards the end of this week will set out in more details the principles that will guide us as we seek to restore as much normality as we can to everyday life without risking a resurgence of this virus that we know can and is doing so much harm.

I am very grateful, just as I am to every individual who is complying with these restrictions, to all businesses who’ve acted responsibly by closing their businesses or by ensuring safe social distancing.

When I spoke to you last Tuesday I said The Scottish Governement would launch a new mental health campaign. That campaign, the Clear Your Head campaign, starts today.

It highlights practical steps that all of us can take to look after our mental health better – sticking to our routine, staying active within the current guidelines, staying in touch with people, and taking a break from news or social media from time to time.

It also points people to places you can get help and advice, for example, NHS Inform, helplines including NHS24 Breathing Space, the Samaritans and the Scottish Association for Mental Health.

What the campaign recognises is that the current lockdown is really tough for everyone. Everyone will be experiencing it differently but it is tough for everyone, without exception. And it is OK not to be feeling OK at times right now.

We all need to be looking out for each other, to show kindness and compassion, solidarity, even as we stay physically separate. We should also do what we can to look after our own mental health, and the campaign provides good advice on that.

These restrictions are tough and they will get tougher, not easier. And I know everybody is feeling that increasingly. But they are essential, and as some of the statistics show, they are making a difference.

By staying at home we are helping to slow the spread of this virus, we are protecting the National Health Service, and we are saving lives.”