Shielding Groups, Lockdown & Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Health Secretary’s speech 31 May 2020

This blog post is my interpretation of what I heard and not a script in the complete sense of the word. There is a full script of today’s ministerial statement here. It also filters out all the political, repetitive fluff that happens on most of these updates. 

I do welcome debate to my blog, but any aggression or general being horrid will be deleted and blocked.

Anyone with symptoms (persistent cough, fever or loss of sense of taste or smell) take immediate steps to book a test.

Click here to be taken to the NHS booking service.

If you don’t have access to the internet call: 0800 028 2816.

If you are contacted by Test and Protect to say you have been in contact with someone infectious, then you MUST SELF ISOLATE for 14 days.

To prevent infection:

  • Stay at least two metres apart.
  • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cough etiquette.
  • Wear a face covering in enclosed spaces.
  • Clean all surfaces regularly.

Two hands with blue acrylic gloves on. There is a mask stretched flat between them with the words "COVID-19" written on it.

Speakers Present

Health Secretary: Jeane Freeman

National Clinical Director: Prof. Jason Leitch 

Chief Nursing Officer: Prof. Fiona McQueen

Opening Statement: Health Secretary

Statistics 28th May 2020:

Positive cases: 15,400 – an increase of 63 from Friday.

Patients in the hospital with suspected/confirmed COVID-19 infection: 1,073 – a decrease of 143 since Friday.

Patients in intensive care with suspected /confirmed COVID-19 infection: 27 – a decrease of 13 since Friday.

Patients discharged from hospital after having suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection (total): 3,688

Deaths since yesterday suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection: 9.

The total number of deaths suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection: 2,362 – 31 since Friday.

Every one of the people we have lost to COVID-19 was loved and is now profoundly missed, and in the future, we will want to mourn that loss.

COVID-19 is still fatal; hundreds are in hospital with new infections are being registered continuously.

Recap of lockdown changes that took effect on Friday

Central advice is still Stay At Home – This is the best way of stopping the virus.

  • You can meet with one other household.
  • There should be a maximum of eight people in a group (ideally less).
  • Must be outside (including private gardens).
  • At least two-metre separation.
  • Don’t touch the same surfaces.
  • If the distance to someone else is so far that you would need to go to the bathroom, then do not go.
  • You can relax and sit or sunbathe in parks and open areas.
  • You can travel, preferably walking or cycling for recreation.
  • No more than 5 miles.
  • Do not crowd on tourist spots or beauty areas.
  • If an area appears crowded, go elsewhere.
  • Be rigorous in your hand hygiene.

Find the whole route map here.

The reverse of lockdown and the needless death of more people is a certainty if people don’t take the guidelines more seriously.

Shielding Individuals

Changes to the guidelines the UK government made yesterday apply to ENGLAND ONLY and do not apply to those shielding in Scotland.

They are working on a more individual approach to shielding methods rather than the current blanket approach.

NHS Scotland

Published today “A Framework for NHS Mobilisation

Shows core principles that will underpin the restart of some paused services in the community and hospital setting.

It is cautious, phased and based on evidence.

Remobilisation will happen in stages.

There will be close monitoring of virus prevalence and R-number.

Aim: To resume essential services & continue to suppress the virus.

First will be the services whose absence is having a detrimental effect on peoples lives while also keeping sufficient capacity for any surge in COVID-19 patients.

They are also going to build on the improvements to some GP practices, especially the digital aspects such as digital consultations.

Mental health support will be more widely available.

Emergency dentistry services will expand.

Local dentists will prepare to open.

Urgent elective surgeries will restart.

Further down the line, other services will resume, such as cancer screening and chronic disease management.

Looking ahead to winter and restocking and replenishing supplies for regular flu season alongside COVID-19.

Chief Nursing Officer: Statement

Our services have always been there and will continue to be there for those with urgent need and suspected COVID-19.

The GNO addressed the reduction in contact with GPs and emergency attendance to hospitals.

You are not bothering the NHS; please contact us if need be.

There is always social distancing within all hospital care settings.

Handwashing and hand gel use encouraged.

Staff will be wearing their PPE.

This weekend has had worrying scenes of disregard for the current guidelines.

Clinical Director: Statement

Also shows worry for this weekends scenes of disregard for the guidelines.

A reminder that the downward trend of the virus prevalence can also go up.

Illustration of people waiting at a bus stop. They have COVID-19 cartoons on them. The bus shelter states “stay home”

Transportations System

We should all be travelling on public transport as little as possible.

Some people who cannot work from home will be returning to work today.

Some guidelines for those people:

  • Do not travel if you feel unwell.
  • Do not board a method of public transport if it is unsafe to do so.
  • Wear a face covering on public transport.
  • Be at least 2 metres away from your fellow travellers.
  • Travel at off-peak times if you possibly can – your workplace should be making allowances for that to happen.
  • Be patient.

A black and white photo of a woman holding up a book with a large "?" on it.


Question: Ryan Mair, STV:

Owner of a private care group has said that “3 months of mixed messages, mismanagement and missed opportunities. They feel betrayed by the Scottish governments handling of the COVID-19 crisis”.

What is the response to this statement?

What is your assessment of the Scottish Governments handling of the COVID-19 crisis?


The cabinet secretary welcomes a conversation directly with the care group owner. They disagree with the assessment by the private care group owner. There was guidance given on COVID-19 to the care home sector, and they should have had their outbreak contingency plans for other threats such as flu or norovirus.

Some private care homes reported failing of their PPE, and the Government stepped in to assist. Some care workers were fearful of a reduction in income due to testing positive as the terms and conditions of their contract do not meet the ethical work requirements. The Government have financially supported these people in the absence of these requirements.

They have taken the best decisions that they have been able to make at the time they thought appropriate. Focus is on what is happening right now. While ensuring the health and safety of all people affected in any way.

Question: Stephen Godden, BBC

Do you think the changes to the shielding guidance in England and Wales have come too early?

Should those shielding in Scotland expect similar changes and when?


The decisions of the UK are their own.

The evidence used to make this change has not been shared by the UK government to the Scottish Government.

There will be no reduction to the shielding people in Scotland are at too high a risk for the current guidelines.

The focus is on keeping everyone as safe as possible.

Question: Katrine Bussey, PA:

Is there any Test & Protect figures available?


No. But no problems have been reported.

Question: Christine Lovell, The Sun:

The signal in this transmission was awful. I have made the best guess at what the question was.

Are Scotlands numbers of deaths, especially in care homes, being underreported?


JF: They are confident that the numbers are accurate. National Registers of Scotland publishes weekly reports of deaths in Scotland including those that are confirmed COVID-19 deaths and those that make mention of COVID in the death certificate. The location of fatalities is also available. We need to reflectively analyse the figures to investigate what are the contributing factors to the excess deaths.

JL: Excess death cause identification is not an exact science. If COVID-19 is mentioned anywhere on a death certificate, which makes up the mortality statistics, excess numbers are not robust enough, yet for analysis country to country, this will come in due course. COVID-19 is known to affect the poor more than the rich, and this is also a variable country to country. 

Question: Mark McGlaughlan, The Times:

Would you have locked down sooner if you had the furlough scheme in place?

If there is a reversal of the lockdown, is there guarantee by the chancellor that the same finances will be in place?


The intent all along is to make the best of the situation in hand. Every step out of and if need be back into lockdown will be lead bu scientific evidence, the R-number and virus prevalence. It is the hope that the UK government would continue to support the plan based on scientific evidence.

Question: Dan Sanderson, The Telegraph:

To what extent do you think the flouting of the rules this weekend could have been affected by Dominic Cummings’s actions? 

Prof Leitch – are you expecting a spike in infections to occur as a result of this?


Strong polling evidence that Scotland is still sticking to the rules with the majority of people despite the actions of Dominic Cummings.

JL: Is hopeful that there will be no spike; however, in around two weeks, we will know what this weekends behaviour has caused in terms of a peak of infection. No one is immune, and you are not protecting yourself; you are also protecting everyone else.

Question: Tom Magner, Carers World Radio

If you are an at-home carer, who has to make the stark choice between risking care standards in your home and earning money or maintaining the care level but relying on state benefits?


If ANYONE not just carers is being pushed back into work in such an instance, then you should contact your local MSP as they want to know that is happening.

JL: None of the clinical advice is financial advice. Not being able to follow clinical advice because of unfair financial pressure is wrong. Raise any issues with your union and your Government.

FM: Good employer practices mean that the employer should respect and embrace any clinical advice and provide correct and appropriate PPE.

Question: Andrew Learmond, The National

Does what we have discussed regarding those shielding mean that at the moment it is not safe?

There are reports that there is evidence to say that certain people in shielding are not as vulnerable as once thought – is this true and if so are you taking the evidence into account?

And if this is the case, will there be people taken off the shielding lists?


They are working on a more individual approach to shielding methods rather than the current blanket approach. All advice will be brought forward carefully after a lot of careful analysis of evidence.

JL: He worries about those in the shielded group. The Scottish shielding advice ends on 16th June. Who qualifies as “shielded” is always in flux and moves around based on evidence from scientists.

Question: Michael Blackley, Daily Mail:

Concerning the 921 patients discharged into care homes in March. You the evidence didn’t show the need for concern, but the evidence seems to be that it was disregarded rather than non-existent


The didn’t dismiss any concerns at any point. These are clinical decisions made individually.

JL: There were guidelines in place for the receiving care homes to make sure that they were following guidance on social distancing and virus containment, alongside the other advice at the time.

Question: Paul Richard, The Daily Record:

Prof Devi Sridhar has called for the scrapping of the shielding group as it allows the young and the able to circulate and hides away the old and the disabled. Do you agree?


No, they have not been “hidden away”. Prof Sridhar advises us on our shielding guidelines, and it is currently the case that this is the best course of action for the current members of that group.

Question: Calum Ross P&D, 

How will we cut down on unnecessary medical travel in Scotland? How will those with very long journeys to hospital be affected by guidelines?


Lots of Scotland is rural, and the introduction of digital primary and community communication practices is a massive step in helping those in these areas. Todays Publication will be tweaked and customised for each area as needed. People on the islands of Scotland have had to leave less for assistance. The lessening of travel has lessened the impact of the prevalence of COVID-19 on that same island.

Question: Paris Gourtsoyannis, The Scotsman:

Will advice for those in the shielding category differ from condition to condition on or before 16th June? A repeat of the previous question regarding the transfer of patients early in the outbreak from hospitals to care homes.


Shielding is not the law and who is in the shielding group is continually changing. A repeat of the previous explanation regarding care home patient transfer, in short, the scientific evidence was followed and advice published in early March regarding the protection of care home residents. 

Question: Tom Gordon, The Herald:

Fewest people tested in one day within careworkers since the 28th April, ⅕ capacity – was this capacity overestimated?


The demand led group – the careworkers sign up for themselves to be tested and surveillance testing. Government-initiated which is 70+ in hospital settings, those in ICU, those in respiratory wards. The level of available testing isn’t for now but for the future if this easing of lockdown increases virus prevalence.

A brown dog with its face out a car window. The dog looks like it is smiling,
A good boy enjoying a drive.

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