Coronavirus: Nicola Sturgeon praises 'courage' after care worker death

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Nicola Sturgeon has praised the "courage" of health service staff after it emerged a home care worker who contracted coronavirus had died.

The first minister said the carer from West Dunbartonshire was among 222 people who had died in Scotland after testing positive, an increase of two.

A total of 3,961 people have contracted the virus, although Ms Sturgeon said this figure would be an under-estimate.

There are 1,599 patients in hospital, 199 of them in intensive care.

Ms Sturgeon said the number of deaths was "artificially low" and would likely rise later in the week when more figures become available.

The care worker who died was Catherine Sweeney, from Dumbarton.

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image captionCatherine Sweeney was described by her family as having "incredible warmth, care, and dedication"

In a statement released by her family, they said: "Catherine was well known, and well respected within the community of Dumbarton, where she was born and raised. She was a caring and generous person, especially when it came to her time, having dedicated over 20 years of her life as a home carer to unfailing serving the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

"After a lifetime of service to the community, we know she will be sorely missed, not just by her loving family, but by many others for her incredible warmth, care, and dedication. A whole community shares in our grief."

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman also said a "huge effort" was being made across health and social care, with 12,725 retired staff and medical and nursing students having come forward to volunteer to help fight the outbreak.

She said the response "shows the incredible dedication of our healthcare community" and offered her "deepest and most sincere thanks".

Scotland's coronavirus cases. .  Figures updated at 12:45 on 6 April 2020.

Ms Sturgeon announced the latest figures at her daily press conference, at which she introduced Dr Gregor Smith as her interim chief medical officer.

Dr Smith has stepped in after the resignation of Dr Catherine Calderwood, who agreed to step down after she admitted breaching her own advice by visiting her second home in Fife.

Ms Sturgeon also revealed the "very sad news" of Ms Sweeney's death.

media captionCoronavirus: Stocks of all items of PPE are "adequate"

"I want to take the opportunity to convey my thoughts and condolences to their loved ones," she said.

"The death is a reminder that people working in our health and care services are not only showing immense dedication and expertise, they are displaying great courage.

"I'm sure everyone in Scotland once again is reflecting on the considerable debt we owe each and every one of them."

The death of a home care worker announced today by the first minister underlines an important message.

Just when the public's tolerance is being tested, people are dying while trying to help others.

It helps us re-focus our minds and remember. This is going to get worse.

If you look clinically at the number of reported deaths, they have not risen sharply in the past few days. However, they aren't the full picture. This is in part because of the way the figures are recorded, focusing currently on deaths in hospital.

The government is preparing us for a change when deaths happening in the community, such as care homes, are added in - probably from the middle of this week.

Nicola Sturgeon and the new figure alongside her new interim chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, had to get across a difficult message. Dr Smith for his part was explicit that his team must "model good behaviour".

The risk is his predecessor may have undermined the "stay at home" message at the worst possible time. It's Easter and there is concern public fatigue with lockdown may be showing.

By emphasising the dedication and risks taken by healthcare workers, the new team hope they can re-establish trust and persuade the public to stay the course and stay at home.

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In response to questions, the first minister said the government "will be seeking to establish" whether the worker had the recommended personal protective equipment (PPE).

Ms Freeman said that stocks of all items of PPE are "adequate" and that there is a direct ordering and distribution line for carers as well as primary care workers and hospitals.

But Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie claimed that access to protective clothing and equipment for health and social care staff is a "problem across Scotland".

Ms Baillie added: "Supplies are rationed because there is simply not enough and the strategy appears to be determined by that shortage of supply, rather than what health guidance dictates.

"This is simply not good enough and is putting lives at risk. The Scottish government must act urgently to protect our brave frontline workers. It is our duty to do so."

Virus 'does not discriminate'

Ms Sturgeon said a "rapid increase" in cases of coronavirus and deaths was expected to continue over the coming days.

Full figures from the weekend are yet to be confirmed, and a new system will be rolled out on Wednesday that will see deaths where the virus is "suspected" to have been a factor included in the total.

The current statistics only include cases where a laboratory has confirmed that the patient died after contracting the virus.

The first minister said Scotland had quadrupled its capacity for tests to 2,000 a day, and that work was continuing to make testing available to key workers and their families.

Ms Sturgeon also sent her best wishes to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was admitted to hospital for tests on Sunday after displaying "persistent symptoms".

She said this was a reminder that the virus "does not discriminate" in who it infects, adding that "we all hope he makes a very speedy recovery".

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