First Minister’s Question Time

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th March 2021.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Good afternoon, colleagues. We will begin with First Minister’s question time but, before we turn to questions, I invite the First Minister to update the Parliament on the Government’s response to the pandemic.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

Yesterday, 624 new Covid cases were reported, which is 2.7 per cent of all the tests that were carried out yesterday. The overall number of confirmed cases now stands at 211,854. There are 405 people in hospital, which is 17 fewer than yesterday, and 38 people are currently receiving intensive care, which is the same number as yesterday.

I regret to report that, in the past 24 hours, a further seven deaths have been registered. The number of deaths under the daily measurement is therefore now 7,536. However, the latest National Records of Scotland data, published yesterday, shows that the total number of deaths related to Covid is now closer to 10,000.

On Tuesday, the first anniversary of lockdown, we will commemorate with a minute’s silence all those who have lost their lives, but today I again send my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

Later today, we will publish the latest estimate of the R number. We expect it to show that the R number is around or just below 1.

I can also provide an update on the vaccination programme. I am pleased to confirm that, as of 8.30 this morning, more than 2 million people have now received the first dose of the vaccine, and 41,184 people received a first dose yesterday, bringing the total number of first doses to 2,023,002. In addition, 192,100 people have had a second dose, which is an increase of 10,221 since yesterday. That means that a total of 51,405 people received vaccinations yesterday. Virtually all over-65-year-olds have now had a first dose; so, too, have 74 per cent of 60 to 64-year-olds, 44 per cent of 55 to 59-year-olds and 35 per cent of 50 to 54-year-olds.

Many members will have heard reports over the past 24 hours that, across the United Kingdom, supplies of vaccine will be lower than expected. I have had discussions in the past two days with representatives of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca. At present, we expect that, over the next month, we will have approximately 500,000 fewer doses than we had previously anticipated. For that reason, there may be periods in April when we need to prioritise second doses. I want to be clear, however, that as things stand, we still expect to offer a first dose of the vaccine to the remaining priority groups as set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation by the middle of next month, as planned. To remind people, that includes everyone over the age of 50, unpaid carers and all adults with particular underlying health conditions. We also still expect to have offered a first dose to all adults in the population by the end of July. When you are invited for an appointment, please accept it.

We have always known that supplies will be subject to some volatility, but the roll-out of the programme overall continues to be really encouraging, and it gives us real cause for optimism now about the months ahead. Because of that, we have been able to provide more details about our plans for easing restrictions, and we have some reason to hope for a return to a more normal life over the course of the summer.

However, all of that depends on the continued suppression of the virus. For now, it is vital that everyone continues to follow the stay-at-home rule. It is important that, when we are out and about, we should follow the FACTS guidance. If we all continue to do that, as we vaccinate more and more people, we can expect a steady progression out of lockdown and a return to greater normality over the summer.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, First Minister. Ruth Davidson will ask the first question.