Coronavirus Update: December 2020
- 19 December 2020
Latest information about Covid-19
This page gives you the latest information about Coronavirus in Scotland.
- We know the virus continues to pose real risks.
- We need to interrupt growth in the cases of Covid.
- We have to carefully balance all the different harms caused by the pandemic.
- We are advising against non-essential travel outside of Scotland – to other parts of the UK, or overseas – unless there is an essential reason.
- Vaccinations began on Tuesday 8 December. This is the biggest vaccination programme in history.
- We may now be at the beginning of the end of this pandemic.
- FACTS helps us remember the key measures we need to comply with:
- Face coverings in enclosed spaces;
- Avoid crowded places;
- Clean hands and surfaces regularly;
- Two metre distancing; and
- Self-isolate and book a test - if you have symptoms.
POSITIVE CASES IN SCOTLAND (as at 0900 on 20 December)
- As at 9 o’clock on 20 December:
- 111,543 positive cases have been confirmed, an increase of 934 from yesterday.
- 58 people were in intensive care last night with a confirmed case of Covid.
- Today there have been 3 new confirmed deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid (41 had been reported on Saturday).
- The total number of deaths by that measure in Scotland is 4,283.
ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WITH SYMPTOMS
- The first place for anyone looking for information is www.nhsinform.scot.
- Symptoms are a new persistent cough, a fever, or loss of smell or taste.
- If you develop any of these symptoms, contact the NHS to get tested - do this online at NHS Inform, or call 0800 028 2816.
- You should isolate immediately for 10 days. The only reason to leave your house is for a test.
- When you get a test result, you will be given further advice on self-isolation.
- Anyone in a household where someone has symptoms should isolate for 10 days.
- If your symptoms worsen or don’t go away after 7 days, you should dial NHS24 on 111 - day or night - not your GP.
NEW CHRISTMAS GUIDANCE
- Scotland will significantly tighten the protections against Coronavirus to prevent the spread of the new, highly contagious strain of the virus.
- Last week, it was confirmed that a new variant of the virus had been identified in the UK.
- We already have a concern that this strain may be driving what appears to be faster transmission in some hospitals and care homes.
- Further analysis is required to establish this one way or another.
- That’s why we have decided to act and to act firmly.
To keep people safe, the First Minister announced:
- The planned easing of restrictions around Christmas will be limited to Christmas Day itself - not the previous 5 day window that was planned.
- Legal household limits will still apply - a maximum of 8 people from 3 households - however our advice is to minimise the numbers.
- Where possible, people should celebrate the festive period at home in their own household and meet with others outdoors.
- Other than for specific exemptions, travel between Scotland and the rest of the UK will not be legal.
- Travel within Scotland will be allowed on Christmas Day.
- From Boxing Day, all of Scotland will be have Level 4 restrictions applied, including the closure on non-essential retail and hospitality.
- The only exceptions will be Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, and the other island communities.
- From Boxing Day, in line with existing law, travel across local authority boundaries between areas in level 3 or 4 will not be legal other than for specific exempt purposes.
RETURN TO SCHOOLS IN THE NEW YEAR
- Teachers will return to work as planned and children of key workers and the most vulnerable children, will return to schools as planned.
- For the majority of pupils, however, the holiday will be extended until 11 January and learning will begin online from then until at least 18 January.
- All these measures will be kept under regular review.
SELF ISOLATION CHANGES
- Following the latest scientific advice, the self-isolation period has now been reduced.
- We are confident that doing this will not significantly increase the risk of transmission.
- The change came into effect on Monday 14 December.
- From that date, anyone who is told to self-isolate should do so for a period of 10 days.
- If you are someone who is already self-isolating, then from today onwards – you can stop once you reach the ten day point.
- These changes apply to household members and close contracts of people who have tested positive – whether you are notified by Test and Protect or the app.
- This will have no impact on the £500 payment available for people on low incomes who requite to self-isolate, that will be maintained.
- The changes will also apply to people travelling from countries that are not exempt from quarantine.
- The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency have authorised the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for use in the UK.
- Healthcare workers have begun vaccinating priority groups in Scotland against COVID-19.
- The vaccines, which must be stored at ultra-low temperatures, have been transported to 23 locations around the country.
- Everyone being vaccinated will need two vaccines, between 21 and 28 days apart.
- Those giving the vaccination to others are receiving the injection first.
- The programme will follow the independent advice received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.
- It recommends prioritising those with the greatest clinical need.
- This includes care home residents and staff, those aged over 80 and health and social care workers.
- There are conditions which makes it challenging to transport this vaccine to some locations, such as care homes.
- But vaccinations of care home residents and staff has begun.
- We are aiming to have the first phase of the vaccine protection completed by spring.
- Once the vaccination of the priority groups is completed, we will seek to vaccinate the rest of the adult population.
- This programme will be the largest of its kind ever undertaken.
- NHS Boards will identify locations for mass vaccination and local access, and manage local vaccination clinics.
- We will contact the first priority groups in the coming weeks and urge people to take up the vaccine when they are offered it.
- The Deputy First Minister has asked the SQA to cancel Higher and Advanced Higher examinations in 2021.
- Unavoidable Covid-19 disruption to learning means it is impossible to guarantee all learners will have the best chances of performing to their true potential in exams in the spring.
- By cancelling we are addressing concerns over wellbeing and anxiety, and delivering certainty to learners, parents and teachers and lecturers.
- The assessment of national qualifications needs to be fair.
- Varied levels of absences, especially proportionately higher levels for learners in lower SIMD areas, makes holding exams in 2021 difficult.
EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR SPORTS
- A £55 million emergency sports funding package to tackle lost ticket revenue during the pandemic has been announced.
- The funding will comprise grants and low-interest loans, including £30 million for Scottish Football at all levels of the game.
- Scottish Rugby will benefit from £20 million,
- Basketball, netball, motor sport, horse racing and ice hockey, ice rinks that support Scotland’s world-class curling programmes as well as recreation and professional skating will also receive support.
- The package comes in addition to Sports Scotland’s £1.5 million COVID Recovery Support Fund, in partnership with the Scottish Government.
- Sports Scotland has also loosened the criteria for its £32 million planned annual investment for the sports sector during the pandemic, allowing sports organisations to protect 1,600 jobs.
COVID-19 PROTECTION LEVELS
- Three local authorities moved from level 2 to level 3 on Friday 18 December: East Lothian, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire.
- All other areas will remain unchanged in their levels.
- This means a number of local authorities remain in level 3. These are City of Glasgow, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Stirling, Midlothian, West Lothian, Perth & Kinross, South Ayrshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, City of Edinburgh, and Dundee.
- Argyll & Bute, Angus, Inverclyde, and Falkirk will remain in level 2.
- Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Borders, Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Moray and Highland will remain in level 1.
- People who live in a level 3 or level 4 area must not travel outside their local authority except for essential purposes.
- People living elsewhere in Scotland must not travel to level 3 or level 4 areas, except for essential purposes.
- There must be no non-essential travel between Scotland and other parts of the UK. The guidance around travel is now law.
- Restrictions around outdoor socialising for those in Level 1 are extended to allow eight people from three households to meet outdoors.
- All other areas remain unchanged in their levels.
Additional financial support will be available to areas in Level 4
- £60m will allow these local authorities to help those over winter.
- A £30m discretionary fund will allow local authorities to provide additional support for businesses where they consider that necessary or justified.
- An additional £15 million is also available for newly self-employed people who have not been able to access other forms of support.
- Lastly, we have announced an additional £15 million to local authorities to help the community and social impact of a move to Level 4.
Additional guidance is being given to people living in a Level 4 area
who are on the shielding list.
- We are not advising the same strict isolation as in the previous lockdown.
- Instead, the advice is to be especially vigilant.
- However, we currently recommend that children who were shielding should not attend school in person in level 4 areas.
- There is a postcode checker on the Scottish Government website to allow people to check the rules in their local area.
- The assessment of what level of protection should be applied to each local authority is broadly based on five key factors:
- Number of positive cases per hundred thousand people over the last week;
- Percentage of positive tests;
- Forecast for new cases in the weeks ahead;
- Capacity of local hospitals;
- Capacity of local intensive care facilities.
- These factors are assessed alongside the views of local public health officials and consideration of local circumstance.
- This can include outbreaks, travel and work patterns and the extent to which health services are provided by neighbouring health boards.
- Levels are being reviewed on a weekly basis.
- Details about the Covid protection levels in the strategic framework, and what you can and cannot do at each level, are on the Scottish Government Webpage.
SUPPORTING STUDENTS TO RETURN HOME AT END OF TERM
- Many students will want to go home to see family and friends.
- Student welfare is of paramount importance. All college and university students will receive early, clear advice on staying safe.
- Those who chose to stay in university accommodation over the holiday period will be supported.
- There will be staggered and early student departure, irrespective of the level the institution is currently in.
- Universities will be asked to ensure in-person teaching and assessment ends early enough to allow students time to get home at the end of term.
- We are offering testing on a voluntary basis to students who are returning home through their college or university.
- Any student who wants to return home for the end of term is advised to take extra care in the period leading up to their departure, only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping.
- Updated guidance has been published for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel – whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the World.
BUSINESS SUPPORT UNDER THE STRATEGIC FRAMEWORK
- Grants of £2,000 or £3,000 (depending on rateable value) is available for businesses required to close by law.
- A grant of £1,400 or £2,100 (depending on rateable value) available for businesses that remain open but are directly impacted by restrictions.
- Grants will be provided regardless of level, to any eligible business, and paid fortnightly (subject to agreement with local authorities.
- We have been undertaking detailed engagement with councils, stakeholders, business and trade unions, enforcement and others
SELF-ISOLATION SUPPORT GRANT
- To support those on low incomes who need to self-isolate we have made changes to eligibility rules.
- This grant is a payment of £500 for people who would lose out financially when they need to self-isolate.
- From Monday 7 December, there are two new changes to widen the range of people who are eligible to claim the support grant.
- You could only previously get the grant if you were asked to self-isolate by our test and protect teams.
- If you meet the other requirements for eligibility and if one of your children has to self-isolate from school or nursery, which that means you can no longer work you can apply for the grant.
- The second change we are making relates to the fact that you can currently only receive the grant if you receive universal credit.
- Now if your local authority believes you would qualify, you will also be eligible.
- This change will help more people to get the grant as quickly as possible, and will reduce the chance of people missing out.
CARE HOME VISITING
- Testing for designated visitors of care home residents started last week (commencing 7 Dec) with a trial across five local authority areas.
- This has taken place in 14 early adopter care homes in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde and Aberdeenshire.
- It is being rolled out across all care homes from this week.
- This adds another layer of protection for care homes.
- We issued guidance on Friday 4th December for care homes over the festive period covering key issues such as visiting.
- The guidance reiterates that care homes, where safe to do so, should have reinstated indoor visiting and those who haven’t should seek to do this urgently.
- We encourage care homes to apply national guidance at a local level with oversight from Directors of Public Health, taking account of local risk factors.
- Our guidance published on 12 October supports increased personal interaction, including hugs or hand holding, as long as strict PPE and infection prevention control measures are met.
- The distribution of testing kits to all care homes from Monday 14 December is going to plan, and we will continue to monitor progress.
- An initial supply of around 37,500 Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) for 1075 adult care homes were issued at the end of last week.
- This is being followed by a larger second batch of around 175,500 tests by the end of this week to supply all care homes with LFD tests until 11 January 2021.
- It is important to note that there are a number of steps that care homes will need to put in place before they can commence visitor testing.
- This includes full staff training and we have been working with NHS National Education for Scotland in developing guidance and training for care homes which is now published and is being shared with care homes.
- For any care homes unable to make use of lateral flow tests before Christmas, PCR testing of visitors will be available when necessary to facilitate visiting over the festive period.
- Testing will be offered to one designated visitor, but the visitor can be changed in discussion with the care home.
CARE HOME DISCHARGE
- We have been very clear that proper scrutiny of all aspects of our response to Covid, including in care homes, is essential.
- That will include consideration of whether – based on what we knew at each stage – the guidance in place was both appropriate and properly implemented.
- That is why we have committed to a public inquiry.
- However, while there will undoubtedly be lessons to learn with a new virus, care was taken to put guidance in place considered to be appropriate at each stage.
- For example, from mid-March that included guidance requiring clinical screening of patients being transferred from hospitals to care homes.
- A full list of exempt countries – where travellers do not have to self-isolate on arrival from – is available on the Scottish Government website.
- More contact tracers are being recruited to contact people travelling from countries where a 10 day quarantine is required.
- UK citizens, residents and settled status EU citizens will be allowed to re-enter the UK, but they and their household must isolate for 10 days.
- Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen airports have agreed to develop testing options that could be piloted to understand better the risks.
- However, there has been no commitment to any pilots at this stage.
- Since the start of the outbreak we have significantly increased our testing capacity – with total NHS weekday capacity of over 15,000 tests a day.
- In addition we have UK Government capacity through the Lighthouse Lab network, including the Glasgow Lighthouse Lab.
- Scotland receives a population-based share of this capacity, which is currently over 32,000 per day.
- This means Scotland currently has a total weekday testing capacity of around 47,000 tests.
- The recent clinical review of our Testing Strategy stressed the need for quick turnaround times and continuing to increase Scotland’s testing capacity.
- The review confirmed that we are on track to increase lab capacity in Scotland to at least 65,000 by the end of December.
- We continue to work closely with the UK Government to resolve any challenges with UKG testing or Lighthouse Lab capacity.
TEST AND PROTECT
- Our first line of defence is our individual and collective actions.
- We can only effectively control the virus if we adhere to restrictions and collectively follow the FACTS rules.
- Test and Protect has now been operating for more than six months and is doing what we need it to – identifying positive cases and tracing their close contacts so they can get appropriate public health advice to limit the spread of the virus.
- However, we have always been clear that Test and Protect is not a silver bullet.
- Test and Protect has been challenged over recent weeks due to the volume of cases but the system has continued to successfully operate throughout Autumn.
- We are continually reviewing our approach to contact tracing, and adapting and improving the system as issues are identified.
NRS REPORT OF DEATHS (published at 12:00 on 16 December)
- The National Records of Scotland are now publishing their report on deaths involving Covid-19 on a monthly rather than weekly basis.
- Key headline data will continue to be published weekly through the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 dashboard: https://data.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
- As at 13 December, 6,092 deaths were registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
- Of the number of deaths in week 50 (7 - 13 December) there were 232 where Covid was mentioned on the death certificate. This is a decrease of 8 from the previous week.
- The NRS figures include cases where Covid-19 is entered on the death certificate, but where no formal test was carried out.
- If people die after the initial 28 days, but have Covid on the death certificate as a contributing factor, they would be in the NRS report but not in the daily figures.
- A national helpline – 0800 111 4000 – is in place for Covid support.
- Scottish Government info - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
- For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus
- For resilience planning information - https://ready.scot/
- For young people - https://young.scot/
- For parents - https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/
- For families – The Spark’s Relationship Helpline service: 0808 802 2088
- For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/
- For people with autism - Scottish Autism Helpline: 01259 222022; open 8am-8pm, seven days a week.
- For advice on mental wellbeing - https://clearyourhead.scot
- For charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus
- For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/
- For support available to businesses – www.FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot
- For domestic abuse - https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-on-domestic-abuse/