First Minister COVID-19 update

Media briefing 23 March, St Andrew's House, Edinburgh

Good afternoon everybody, thank you for joining us today. If I can begin, today, with an update on case numbers.

As of 9 o’clock this morning there have been 499 positive cases confirmed in Scotland, which is an increase of 83 from yesterday. And as always, I want to be very clear that these numbers are likely to be, and almost inevitably are, an underestimate.

It is with sadness that I also have to report today that there have been four further deaths of patients who had tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total number of deaths to 14. All of our thoughts are with their families at this time. 

And I want to, again, thank the NHS staff who continue to care for those who are suffering from this virus.

These figures – even as underestimates – underline the scale of the challenge that we face – and the importance of the steps that we are taking, as a country to slow down the spread, reduce the peak and crucially save lives.

So I want to repeat the advice that we are giving to people, and I have used the term advice, but I want to repeat the message I gave yesterday. This is not to be seen as optional. What I am about to set out should be considered rules that we are expecting people to comply with.

And that is important because if we all comply with these measures we will help to protect ourselves, we will help to protect our families and loved ones, we will help to protect our National Health Service and the country as a whole. And we will reduce the number of people who die from this virus.

So if you have had symptoms of coronavirus – which again is a new and persistent cough or a fever – you must isolate yourself for seven days.

In addition, if you are in a household where someone has symptoms, you must isolate for 14 days.

For everyone, you must stay at home unless it is absolutely essential to go out, and that includes working from home, wherever possible.

Stay away from crowded places - even out of doors. And when there are other people around, stay two metres distant from them.

That advice is for everyone, but it is especially vital if you are over 70, eligible for the flu vaccine, or pregnant.

And at all times, follow the advice on washing your hands, using tissues and not touching your face.

I said yesterday and I want to repeat again today; life should not be carrying on as normal right now. That is not an easy thing to say, it is not something I say lightly. But life should not feel normal for you right now. So if it is, then you are not doing the right things. And I want to ask you today to please put that right.

I’m very grateful to everyone who is complying with the advice. It’s clear that the vast majority of people are making very serious efforts to limit their social contact.

I also want to thank the pubs, restaurants, gyms, cafes and cinemas that have closed. And again make clear to any that are thinking about not complying with that advice, we will within days have emergency powers and we will use them. But nobody should rely on that, please do the right thing now.

Many shops have also taken the decision to close, and I thank them for that. My message today to shops that are still open is this and it is clear, if you are not providing essential items like food and medicines, then please also close now.

However, today it has been clear to me that there are still too many pe