First Minister’s Question Time

– in the Scottish Parliament on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Before we start First Minister’s question time, I ask the First Minister to update us on the Covid situation.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

T he total number of cases reported yesterday was 858—4.4 per cent of all tests reported—and the total number of positive cases is now 109,296. A total of 1,012 people are now in hospital, which is 19 fewer than yesterday, and 50 people are in intensive care, which is one more than yesterday. I regret to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further 30 deaths were registered of patients who first tested positive over the previous 28 days. The total number of people who have died under that daily measurement is now 4,203. Again, my condolences are with everyone who has lost a loved one.

Shortly, we will publish the latest estimate of the R number. We expect that that will show that the R number has risen slightly this week and is now around 1 again, as opposed to just below 1. That underlines the importance of having taken a cautious approach to this week’s levels review and why we have reinforced our guidance to people ahead of the Christmas period. I will briefly re-emphasise that guidance.

First, the safest way to spend Christmas this year is to stay within your own household and in your own home. My strong recommendation is that that is what people should, do if at all possible. Any interaction that you have with another household should, if possible, be outdoors. However, if you consider it essential to meet indoors with someone from another household—pragmatically, we recognise that some people might—you should limit both the duration and the numbers as much as possible.

The five-day period over Christmas is a limited window, not a period of time that we think that it is safe to meet for. My recommendation to anyone who considers it essential to form a bubble is to not meet up with people in it on any more than one day over the Christmas period and to keep the duration as short as possible. People should also limit numbers as far as possible. Three households and eight people is a maximum that tries to account for the fact that families come in all shapes and sizes—but the smaller, the better. Please make sure that you keep a safe distance from others, wash your hands and surfaces, and keep windows open. Lastly, we recommend against travel from high-prevalence to low-prevalence parts of the United Kingdom, and that includes advising against travel between Scotland and tier 3 areas of England.

The five-day window of opportunity over Christmas is a pragmatic recognition that some people might not be willing to leave loved ones alone, and therefore it is an attempt to put some risk-reducing boundaries around that. I reiterate that our clear advice is that the safest way to spend Christmas this year is to stay within our own homes and households and to keep any interaction with other households outdoors. We now have a real prospect of vaccination within weeks for many and within months for most. All of us should therefore should do all that we can to keep one another safe until then.

Finally, Christmas aside, I briefly remind everyone how important it is to stick to the general rules and guidance. The postcode checker on the Scottish Government’s website is there if you do not know what the rules are in your area. Please do not visit one another’s homes, stick to the rules on travel and follow FACTS: wear face coverings; avoid crowded places; clean hands and surfaces regularly; keep 2m distance from people in other households; and self-isolate and get tested if you have symptoms. As always, doing all those things is the best way of protecting ourselves, our communities and one another, and of protecting the national health service as we go further into the winter.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you. The First Minister will now take questions. I encourage all members who wish to ask a question to press their request-to-speak buttons.