Tragic loss of nurse takes coronavirus death toll in Borders to 27 as number of cases here rises to 248

Coronavirus has claimed another victim in the Borders, ending a nine-day spell without fatalities and taking the disease’s death toll in the region to 27.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 3:07 pm
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing the start of preparations to relax the current Covid-19 lockdown at a briefing in Edinburgh today, April 23.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing the start of preparations to relax the current Covid-19 lockdown at a briefing in Edinburgh today, April 23.

As reported earlier, nurse Angie Cunningham died yesterday, April 22, while being treated for Covid-19, as the disease is also known, in the intensive care unit at the Borders General Hospital at Melrose.

Angie, employed by NHS Borders for over 30 years, was the first coronavirus patient in the region killed by the disease since Sunday, April 12.

That was the longest the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 had remained static since its first five fatalities in the Borders were announced on Monday, March 30.

That figure rose to seven the day after, March 31; eight on Wednesday, April 1; 11 on Thursday, April 2; 14 on Friday, April 3; 16 on Sunday, April 5; 17 on Monday, April 6; 19 on Tuesday, April 7; 20 on Friday, April 10; 22 on Saturday, April 11; 23 on Sunday, April 12; 26 on Monday, April 13; and 27 today, April 23.

She was one of 105 of the health board’s staff to have tested positive for the disease to date, though a further 16 are still awaiting test results.

Angie – described by a trust spokesperson as a “much-loved wife, mother, sister, granny and great-granny, as well as a friend to many more” and a “much-respected and valued colleague within the hospital, providing amazing care to patients” – is among 1,120 coronavirus patients killed by the disease in Scotland so far.

That nationwide death toll, announced by Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon at a briefing in Edinburgh today, is up 58 overnight from 1,062.

Across the UK, the number of patients killed by coronavirus is up to 18,100, a rise of 759 on the day before.

Five further cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the Borders today, taking the total for the region to almost 250.

Some 9,409 cases of the illness have now been diagnosed nationwide, up 371 from 9,038 yesterday.

Across the UK, 133,495 people have tested positive for the illness, up 4,451 on the day before.

Some 44,799 tests for coronavirus have been carried out in Scotland so far, with 35,390 returning negative results.

It’s well over a month now since the first two cases of the illness were confirmed in the Borders on Wednesday, March 11, and nearing two months since Scotland’s first case, in Tayside, was announced on Sunday, March 1, after spreading across the world from Wuhan in China.

That figure went up to three on Friday, March 13; five on Saturday, March 14; seven on Sunday, March 15; eight the following Thursday, March 19; nine on Friday, March 20; 10 on Saturday, March 21; 11 on Sunday, March 22; 12 on Monday, March 23; 15 on Wednesday, March 25; 23 on Thursday, March 26; 28 on Friday, March 27; 35 on Saturday, March 28; 50 on Sunday, March 29; 63 on Monday, March 30; 77 on Tuesday, March 31; 87 on Wednesday, April 1; 93 on Thursday, April 2; 100 on Friday, April 3; 110 on Saturday, April 4; 130 on Sunday, April 5; 139 last Monday, April 6; 149 on Tuesday, April 7; 160 on Wednesday, April 8; 167 on Thursday, April 9; 177 on Friday, April 10; 189 on Saturday, April 11; 199 on Sunday, April 12; 204 on Monday, April 13; 208 last Tuesday; 215 on Wednesday; 220 on Thursday; 229 on Friday; 231 on Saturday; 237 on Sunday; 239 on Monday; 240 on Tuesday; 243 yesterday; and 248 today.

The number of cases of Covid-19 in the Borders remains higher than in one of its neighbouring health board areas, Dumfries and Galloway’s total being 235, but is still well below the two others, Lanarkshire and Lothian being up to 1,155 and 1,604 respectively.

Altogether, 148 Scots, four of them in the Borders, are in intensive care receiving treatment for coronavirus, as of last night, with 134 having tested positive and the others awaiting results.

During her update today, Ms Sturgeon said: “A total of 1,748 confirmed or suspected Covid-19 patients are in hospital, and that is a decrease of 28 from yesterday.

“A total of 148 people last night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus, and that is a decrease of seven since yesterday.

“These figures on hospital admissions and admissions into intensive care are very encouraging and do give us real optimism at this stage.

“However in the last 24 hours, I am very sorry to have to report that 58 deaths have been registered of patients who had been confirmed through a test as having the virus, and that takes the total number of deaths in Scotland, under that measurement, to 1,120.

“Once again, it’s really important for all of us to remember that each of these deaths represents a unique, loved and irreplaceable individual, and I want to again extend my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one.

“I also want again to thank all of our health and care workers right across the country.

“This evening, many thousands of us will, yet again, applaud your efforts.

“We are all so deeply grateful to you for the extraordinary work you are doing.”

Ms Sturgeon also announced the start of preparations to relax or end the current lockdown, saying: “The decisions that lie ahead of us, of all of us, are really complex.

“We will, as we have done all along, seek to inform those decisions with the best scientific advice possible, but the science will never be exact, so we will also require to make very careful judgments, and we are in uncharted territory.

“It’s impossible to know with absolute certainty what the impact of our decisions will be in advance.

“That means we must also be prepared to adapt and change course as we go. We want to ease restrictions, of course we do, but we cannot absolutely rule out having to reapply some of them in future should we have evidence that the virus is again running out of control.

“This virus causes real harm, and we see that every day in the statistics that we report, especially in the numbers of people who have died, but the lockdown measures we are taking to contain the virus are also doing damage.

“They’re doing harm to the economy and to living standards, to children’s education, to other aspects of our physical health and to mental health and wellbeing, and the toll of all of that may also, in time, be measured in poorer health outcomes and lives lost, so we must try to find a better balance than the one we have right now.

“As we do so, we cannot, and we must not, take our eye off the need to suppress the virus and minimise the damage that it does.

“Obviously, we cannot guarantee that no one will get this virus in the future – far from it – but an assumption that it is somehow safe to allow a certain proportion or a certain section of the population to get the virus is not part of the approach we will be taking.

“It’s only when we are sure that the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions.

“When we do reach that stage, the virus will be under control only because of the severity of the restrictions we are all living with just now, but the virus will not have gone away.

“As we start to lift the restrictions, the real risk – and it is a very real risk – is that Covid-19 runs rampant again, so a return to normal as we knew it is not on the cards in the near future.

“What we will be seeking to do is find a new normal, a way of living alongside this virus, but in a form that keeps it under control and stops it taking the toll that we know it can do.

“Social distancing and limiting our contacts with others will be a fact of life for a long time to come, certainly until treatments and ultimately a vaccine offer different solutions, so that means possibly for the rest of this year and maybe even beyond.

“That’s why talk of lifting the lockdown, as if it’s a flick-of-a-switch moment, is misguided.

“Our steps, when we take them, will need to be careful, gradual, incremental and probably quite small to start with.

“We will need to assess them in advance and monitor them in action. Sometimes we may even need to reverse things.

“As we go, we will apply our judgment to the best scientific advice possible, we will continue to collaborate closely with the other governments across the UK and we will learn from international experience.

“The fact is that different countries are at different stages of this pandemic, but none of us are anywhere near through it yet and we all face the same challenges.

“Some limited outdoor activity might be able to restart earlier than indoor activity, but – let me be clear – big gatherings and events are likely to be off for some months to come.

“We will also consider whether different approaches would make sense for different areas, though our preference, not least for ease of understanding, will be for as much consistency as possible.

“The path ahead is not an easy one – it is paved with complexity and uncertainty – but with openness, transparency and frankness along the way, I believe that together we will be able to navigate it.

“Moving on from where we are now, as all of us want to do as quickly as it is safe to do, will only be possible if and when we do get this virus properly under control, and that means sticking with the current rules that are in place just now.”