First Minister’s Question Time

– in the Scottish Parliament on 24 March 2021.

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Photo of Kenneth Macintosh Kenneth Macintosh Labour

Good afternoon, colleagues. We will start today’s business with First Minister’s question time, but before we turn to questions I invite the First Minister to update the Parliament on the latest situation with the Covid pandemic.

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

For the final time in this parliamentary session, I will give an update on the day’s statistics.

Yesterday, 692 new Covid cases were reported, which is 3.1 per cent of all the tests that were carried out yesterday. The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 215,075. There are 321 people in hospital, which is 20 fewer than yesterday, and 31 people are currently receiving intensive care, which is three more than yesterday.

I regret to say that, in the past 24 hours, a further three deaths have been registered, which takes the total number of deaths under the daily measurement to 7,562. National Records of Scotland has just published its weekly update, which includes cases in which Covid is a suspected or contributory cause of death. Today’s update shows that, by Sunday, the total number of registered deaths linked to Covid under the wider definition was 9,897. Sixty-five of those deaths were registered last week, which was 39 fewer than the week before. That represents a fall of more than 50 per cent in the past two weeks, which is further welcome evidence that the vaccination programme is now reducing deaths in the community as well as in care homes.

That said, the total number of deaths also reminds us of the dreadful toll that Covid has taken. Again, I want to send my condolences to everyone who has been bereaved.

I will also quickly provide an update on the vaccination programme. As of this morning, more than 2,249,612 people had received a first dose of the vaccine, which is an increase of 34,940 since yesterday. That means that we are on track, by the end of today, to have given a first dose to more than half of the adult population, which is a significant milestone. In addition, yesterday, 13,581 people received a second dose, which brings the total of second doses given to 249,252.

From today, Public Health Scotland will publish a daily breakdown of first and second doses within priority group 6, which comprises adults with a particular underlying health condition and unpaid carers. It will also provide more detailed figures on vaccinations for health workers and social care workers, broken down into those two distinct categories. For the first time, it has also just published an analysis of vaccinations by ethnicity and deprivation level.

Returning to today’s figures, a first dose of the vaccine has now been given to virtually everyone over 65, 93 per cent of people aged 60 to 64, 63 per cent of people aged 55 to 59, and 41 per cent of people aged 50 to 54. Today, we will publish an update to the vaccine deployment plan, which confirms that we are on course to offer first doses to all of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s priority groups by mid-April. It also confirms that, supplies permitting, we will have offered a first dose to all adults by the end of July.

All that is encouraging and very hopeful. As we take part in the final First Minister’s question time of this parliamentary term, a return to greater normality for the country is now much more in sight. Of course, that all remains dependent on our continuing to suppress the virus. Therefore, for now, it is vital that everyone continues to follow the stay-at-home rule, except for essential purposes, and to follow all the FACTS guidance. That is how we will continue to protect ourselves and one another. It is also how we will get back—I hope soon—to a much more normal way of life. I thank everyone, again, for all their co-operation and sacrifice.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you, First Minister. Any member who wishes to ask a supplementary question should press their request-to-speak button.