Sturgeon seeks to reassure Scots as number of coronavirus cases rises

Nicola Sturgeon has sought to reassure people that all appropriate measures to deal with coronavirus are being taken after the number of confirmed cases in Scotland rose to three.

With two new cases of Covid-19 being confirmed overnight – one affecting a person in Grampian and another in Ayrshire – the First Minister said there could be “many more” in the days ahead.

The First Minister spoke about the spread of the virus as she visited an NHS 24 centre at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, where she met nurses, call handlers and health advisers providing information to the public about the outbreak.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated the importance of hand-washing on her visit  (Jane Barlow/PA)

She told Scots: “The reassurance for the public is that all appropriate steps are being taken.”

NHS 24 has set up a special dedicated phone line – 0800 028 2816 –  for people who have no symptoms of coronavirus to call to receive more information, with advice also available on the NHS Inform website.

On Monday alone – the day after the first case in Scotland was confirmed – the coronavirus helpline received 538 calls, with a further 430 received on Tuesday.

By the end of Tuesday, there had been 264,118 visits made to the coronavirus page on the NHS Inform website – with this including 55,000 on Monday.

First Minister @NicolaSturgeon met staff supporting Scotland's public information response to coronavirus (COVID-19) at @NHS24's contact centre today⬇️

— First Minister (@ScotGovFM) March 4, 2020

NHS 24 director of service delivery Steph Philips said: “Over the last 10 days we have received more than 3,000 calls on coronavirus to our helpline and those numbers are increasing, with over 500 calls to the 111 service since Friday in addition to the coronavirus helpline, and we saw another significant increase on Monday following the first positive case in Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon said contact tracing was being carried out for the two new patients to “identify all the people they have been in close contact with so they can be followed up, tested if necessary and given the appropriate advice”.

She added: “The assurance for the public is that health protection teams working on this have all the information they need to make sure that patients are given the appropriate care they need but also that contact tracing is done quickly and robustly and those processes are already under way.”

While the Scottish Government has forecast as many as 80% of Scots could be struck by the virus, the First Minister said this was the “worst-case scenario”.

She said: “People right now are hearing big numbers, that are scary numbers and it is important we continue to put these in context. These are worst-case scenarios.

“Why do we have worst-case scenarios? So we are properly planning for whatever we might be facing in this.

“But those worst-case scenarios are not a forecast of what will necessarily come to pass.”

Staff at work in the NHS 24 contact centre (Jane Barlow/PA)

Ms Sturgeon added: “It is also the case that whatever the number of people who might end up getting coronavirus might be, the vast majority will have mild symptoms, it will be like a cold or a mild case of flu.

“It will be a smaller number who develop complications and need hospitalisation and that happens with seasonal flu every year.

“It is also the case that if you are hearing big numbers that is not about people all being affected at the one time, as with flu these things happen over a period of time.

“But the biggest reassurance of all is that Governments – not just in Scotland but across the UK and globally – have been preparing for this for some time and all the appropriate steps have been taken to try as far as possible to mitigate and minimise the impact coronavirus will have.”

Ms Sturgeon again highlighted the role the public can play in curtailing the outbreak.

She said: “I will keep repeating, the most important thing all of us can do right now is regularly and properly wash our hands.

“The way this virus spreads, that basic, public personal hygiene advice is the most important thing of all.”

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