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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Thursday, April 16, 2020

Leaders’ Virtual Question Time 16 April 2020

Agenda: Covid-19 Update, Questions to the First Minister


Covid-19 Update

Welcome to the Scottish Parliament’s party leaders’ virtual question time. As so many others are doing around the country, the Scottish Parliament is adapting to the practices involved in working remotely at this difficult time. Tomorrow, at 2.30 pm, we hope to expand this virtual question time format to include up to 20 MSPs putting questions to four cabinet secretaries.

Today, however, we have the party leaders putting questions to the First Minister. I am pleased to say that we are joined, from St Andrew’s house, by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and, from their homes and constituencies around the country, by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Jackson Carlaw; the leader of Scottish Labour, Richard Leonard; the co-leader of the Scottish Greens, Alison Johnstone; and the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie.

Before we turn to our first question, I ask the First Minister to update us on the Scottish Government’s response to Covid-19.

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I wish to give a brief update on some of the key statistics in relation to Covid-19 in Scotland. I can report that, as at 9 o’clock this morning, 7,102 positive cases have been confirmed, which is an increase of 354 on the figures that were reported yesterday. A total of 1,799 patients are currently in hospital with either confirmed or suspected Covid-19, which is an increase of 51 on yesterday. As of last night, a total of 196 people were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, which is an increase of one on yesterday.

I am afraid to say that in the past 24 hours 80 deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed, through a test, as having the virus, which takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 779. Yet again, I extend my condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one, and I extend my thanks to all health and care workers and, indeed, to everyone who is keeping essential services going across the country.

Notwithstanding that difficult and upsetting news, we firmly believe that the lockdown is having a positive effect. For example, although we still see fluctuations, we are not seeing, at this stage, significant or sustained increases in the number of people in hospital or in intensive care with the virus. However, we know that the lockdown measures take time to work, so we must continue to exercise caution in our predictions. We are by no means through this yet.

Later today, I will be joining COBRA, where each of the four United Kingdom Governments will take a decision on extending the current lockdown beyond the three-week period that we set out initially. I will give a further update after that meeting, but I want to be clear now that the decision of the Scottish Government is informed by advice from the chief medical officer and our own scientific advisory group, which is chaired by Professor Andrew Morris.

I am as keen as anyone is to lift the restrictions, but I will not begin to do so until I am convinced that we have done as much as is necessary to suppress the virus and that we have a clear plan in place to continue to contain it once the measures start to be lifted. Over the next week or so, we will work to develop that plan and share the approach with members and the public.

However, for now, my message continues to be: stay at home, except for the essential permitted purposes, and follow all the public health rules. That continues to be the way that we will slow down the spread of the virus and protect the national health service from being overwhelmed and, crucially, it is the best way to continue to save lives.

I thank everybody for their compliance so far.