Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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The First Minister:

The public generally will have a degree of anxiety, given what they are reading in the newspapers and watching on the television, but that will be heightened for those who already suffer vulnerabilities, whether those are health vulnerabilities or the vulnerabilities that come with age. To go back to a point that I made earlier, it is important for us all as politicians—as First Minister, I take this responsibility very seriously—to be frank and honest with people but not to seek to sensationalise, and to base our decisions on good-quality scientific advice and not on reasons of political expediency.

To reassure people in such groups, I again point to the importance of the containment phase. We may not be able to contain the virus indefinitely, but every day and week in which we manage that and thereby take a potential future peak out of the winter period and into spring and summer, we help to reduce the impact. The messages to all of us to wash our hands properly and to follow the advice on what to do when we cough and sneeze are important. I am very aware that politicians telling people how to wash their hands sounds patronising, but it is really important. If all of us who are healthy do that, it helps to protect those who are more vulnerable. In all of our planning for potential escalation, it is absolutely the top of our priority list to make sure that we target resources to the most vulnerable.

I appreciate the support from across the chamber as we take forward those plans. I again say that the situation is potentially very serious, but we are not powerless in the face of it. There are many things that we can and will do to reduce the impact as much as possible, and that is what I am focused on as First Minister, as is the health secretary and indeed the entire Government.