Scotland marks ‘grim and distressing’ milestone as Covid-19 deaths pass 5,000

More than 5,000 people have now died with coronavirus in Scotland, according to the latest figures from the National Records of Scotland.

They show 278 deaths were registered that mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate between November 9 and 15, bringing the total number of fatalities to 5,135.

Speaking during the Scottish Government briefing in Edinburgh on Wednesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the figures are “really grim and distressing”.

She added: “Sometime in the future when we are through this pandemic we will want to consider how we as a country commemorate the lives that the virus has taken.”

Ms Sturgeon said 54 coronavirus deaths and 1,264 positive tests were recorded in the past 24 hours.

The death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – has risen to 3,377, while the total number of cases since the start of the pandemic is 84,523.

The First Minister said Tuesday’s decision to put 11 local authority areas into the toughest levels of restrictions was motivated by a goal of having as few additional lost lives as possible before the end of the pandemic.

Areas in the central belt of the country were moved from Level 3 to Level 4 on Tuesday, with the restrictions coming into effect on Friday.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Ms Sturgeon reiterated the decision was made to tackle the spread and the number of deaths from Covid-19, as well as to ensure hospitals do not become overwhelmed and to increase the chances of families being able to meet at Christmas.

She said work is being done across the UK to allow people to meet during the holiday.

The Scottish Government is in discussions with the rest of the UK administrations in the hope of creating a four-nations consensus on the issue.

“We are all desperate for some normality around Christmas and I absolutely include myself in that,” Ms Sturgeon said.

“The Scottish Government right now is working very closely and well with the other UK nations to try to agree a way for that to happen – we want to have the same position across the UK, given family patterns that exist.

“But we know that people coming together when a virus is circulating will increase the risks of it spreading.”

The First Minister said meeting at Christmas requires the prevalence of the virus to reduce in the coming weeks.

Addressing the Scottish Government’s decision to keep schools in Level 4 areas open, Ms Sturgeon said the benefits “outweigh” the impact full-time education has on the spread of coronavirus.

She outlined the details of a new report from Public Health Scotland, which showed three-quarters of all schools did not report a single case of Covid-19 in the first nine weeks of this term.

In total, 1,621 pupils tested positive for the virus during that period, the equivalent of 0.2% of the total cohort.

Responding to calls to close schools in higher prevalence areas, Ms Sturgeon said: “While we will continue to listen carefully to all concerns, these findings do reinforce our view that, at this time, the benefits young people gain from being in school outweigh the overall impact on transmission rates.”

The First Minister also said travel restrictions due to be put into law this week do not sit easily with her.

The guidance will make it illegal to travel into and out of Level 3 and Level 4 areas.

While Police Scotland have said they will not be putting up roadblocks or stopping vehicles they suspect to be violating the regulations, some have railed against the plans – with Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles describing the move as “draconian”.

Sticking to travel rules is essential to stop the spread of #coronavirus.

New travel restrictions for Level 3 and 4 areas will become law from 20 November. Some exceptions apply.

Find out more ➡

Stopping the spread starts with all of us.

— Scottish Government (@scotgov) November 17, 2020

Ms Sturgeon said: “Let me be very candid – I know that it doesn’t sit easily with anybody, including me, to be told that you can’t travel freely within the country, I absolutely understand that.

“But many countries have restrictions like this in place right now to help stop the virus spreading from area to area and that’s particularly important in Scotland, where we are deliberately trying to take a more localised approach – we are trying to avoid the whole country having to go into Level 4 restrictions.

“To be blunt, we can only keep relatively low levels of restrictions in areas with low levels of the virus if we ensure that people don’t travel to these areas from other parts of Scotland with high levels of the virus.”

Addressing those who have previously been shielding during the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon said people with pre-existing health conditions should consider shopping at quieter times, as well as work from home if possible.

For those who cannot work from home, arrangements should be made with employers to ensure the safety of vulnerable people, she said.

A letter from interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith will also be sent to those who were previously shielding, which can also be used if employers fail to make workplaces sufficiently safe as justification for the affected person not turning up.