Today’s announcement… what has changed?

On a day Scotland reported over 1,000 new Covid-19 cases, the First Minister has announced new, tough, but necessary, measures to address the rising challenge we again face from the coronavirus.

Since the First Minister updated Parliament just over two weeks ago, the average number of new cases being reported each day was 285. That was up from 102 three weeks previously, and now, we are reporting an average of 788 new cases each day.

In addition, in the 7 days up to Monday, the number of people in hospital with Covid increased by almost 80%.

Sadly, the number of people who died with Covid last week was the highest for 14 weeks. In fact, there was the same number of deaths in the last week alone as in the whole of the previous month.

The increase in the numbers of people in hospital with, and sadly dying from Covid reflect the rise we are now seeing in new cases among older age groups. In the second half of September, cases were rising most rapidly in the younger age groups. However, in the past week, cases in people over 80 years old increased by 60%, and cases in the 60 to 79-year-old age group more than doubled.

That challenge we are facing is also set out, starkly, in an evidence paper published today by the Scottish Government’s senior clinical advisors – the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer and the National Clinical Director.

This can be read using the link below:

https://bit.ly/2I2OP9r

Everyone has already made so many sacrifices over recent months, so I know today’s announcement will be disappointing.

The measures will, unfortunately, have a significant impact on many businesses. The Scottish Government has announced that they are making available an additional £40 million to support businesses that will be affected by these measures over the next two weeks. The government will work with the affected sectors – especially hospitality – in the coming days to ensure that this money provides the most help, to those who most need it.

For the rest of this month, businesses can also use the UK Government’s job retention scheme. However, that now requires a significant contribution from employers – so one of the things the Scottish Government will discuss with businesses, in relation to their new support package, is how they can mitigate some or all of that contribution.

It is important for the morale of all of us that we don’t forget that progress has been made. It might not feel this way, but the situation now is better than it was in March.

We are benefiting from the sacrifices we made over the summer. By driving the virus to very low levels then, we have helped to ensure that – even after several weeks of increases – the estimated total number of cases in Scotland is currently just 13% of the peak level back in March.

Cases are rising, but they are not rising as quickly as they were then.

In addition, we now have Test and Protect teams across the country, who are doing exceptional work. Test & Protect is now bearing a lot of the strain of controlling the virus.

And, we understand more now about how to reduce the risk of transmission – for example, by meeting outdoors rather than indoors if possible, wearing face coverings, cleaning hands thoroughly, and keeping our distance from people in other households.

So, while there are significant restrictions still in place – and they are hard and painful – we are living much more freely now than in the spring and early summer.

What are the changes being made for those living in South Lanarkshire and across the Central Belt?

Because of higher levels of infection in the central belt, the Scottish Government is introducing stricter restrictions in the following five health board areas – Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire & Arran, Lothian and Forth Valley.

The measures are intended to be in force for 16 days, from Friday 9October at 6pm to Sunday 25 October inclusive – in other words across the next two weeks and three weekends.

Across South Lanarkshire and the Central Belt:

  • In these areas, all licensed premises – with the exception of hotels for residents – will be required to close indoors and outdoors, though takeaways will be permitted
  • In addition, snooker and pool halls, indoor bowling alleys, casinos and bingo halls will close in these areas for two weeks from 10 October
  • Cafes which don’t have an alcohol license will be able to stay open until 6pm to support social isolation
  • Contact sports for people aged 18 and over will be suspended for the next two weeks – with an exception for professional sports
  • Indoor group exercise activities will not be allowed – although the current rules will remain in place for under 18s. Gyms can remain open for individual exercise.
  • Outdoor live events will not be permitted in these five regions for the next two weeks
  • Avoid public transport unless it is absolutely necessary – for example for going to school or to work, if home working is not an option
  • The advice is not to travel outside the health board area you live in, if you don’t need to
  • Likewise people in other parts of Scotland should not travel to these areas if they don’t need to.

What will not be changing?

  • Schools, colleges and universities are not being closed
  • People who shielded over the summer are not being told to return to staying completely indoors
  • The remobilisation of the NHS for non-Covid care will continue
  • There are no changes to the advice already in place for places of worship
  • People are not being asked to stay at home
  • Mandatory travel restrictions are not being imposed at this stage
  • The Scottish Government is not insisting that people cancel any half term breaks they have planned.

Sticking to all of this isn’t easy, after seven long months. But it is essential. It’s the best way to look out for each other, and now more than ever, we all need that spirit of solidarity that has served us so well.

And hard through it is to believe it right now, all the hard sacrifices we are making will hasten the brighter days that do lie ahead.

So, let’s all stick with it – and above all, let’s stick together.

Thank you, again, for all you are doing.

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