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Children Community Safety Coronavirus Education Health Public Health

New Measures to Tackle Virus

Supervised quarantine and expansion of testing as gradual schools return announced.

A series of new measures aimed at driving down coronavirus (COVID-19) rates in Scotland have been announced.

Current restrictions, including the ‘stay-at-home’ requirement, are set to remain in place until at least the end of February and schools will continue to be closed to most children for the rest of this month.

Nurseries and Primaries 1 to 3 are, however, now scheduled to return full-time on 22 February, subject to final confirmation two weeks from now that sufficient progress in tackling the virus has been achieved.

In an update to Parliament the First Minister confirmed that a managed quarantine system for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland regardless of which country they have come from will be introduced as soon as practicably possible.

In addition to guarding against the increased importation of new cases, access to testing to find cases and interrupt transmission already taking place in Scotland will be stepped up:

  • from the middle of February, routine testing of healthcare workers will be expanded to cover patient-facing primary care workers such as GPs, dentists, optometrists and pharmacists, as will testing for all patient-facing staff who work in hospices
  • from later this month, regular testing will be offered to support the return to schools and nurseries. Senior phase secondary school students, and all staff in primary, secondary and special schools, including school-based ELC staff, will be able to benefit from routine at-home testing two times a week
  • certain workplaces where the risk of transmission is greater and which provide essential or critical services, such as those within the food processing and distribution sectors and staff within emergency service control rooms, will also be supported to introduce routine workforce testing
  • targeted community testing will continue to be expanded – so that testing is available to people locally, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms
  • from mid-February tests will also be offered to all close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-enabling Test and Protect teams to identify their contacts and track, and break further, chains of transmission

In order to promote people’s ability to self-isolate when necessary, financial support will be significantly expanded to include all workers earning the Real Living Wage or less, as well as those in receipt of a council tax reduction because of low income. The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant will also be extended to people who cannot work because someone they have caring responsibilities for is asked to self-isolate.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“As levels of the virus continue to fall in Scotland, it becomes ever more important that we stop the virus from being imported again. The threat of new variants is real and we must be ever-more vigilant.

“That is why we intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly into Scotland, regardless of which country they have come from.

“We want to work with the UK Government to avoid travellers sidestepping restrictions and arriving in other parts of the UK before travelling to Scotland, however the most effective approach to prevent this and to stop new variants being imported is for the UK Government to introduce a compulsory quarantine for anyone travelling into the UK from overseas.

“Since we still have work to do these measures will not be introduced this week and more detail will follow shortly.

“We believe that targeted community testing can play a particularly valuable role in communities where prevalence is starting to rise rapidly which is why we have expanded our testing programme to identify cases and break chains of transmission.

“Lockdown is starting to slow down the virus. But we also need to pick up the pace in our vaccination programme. We are doing that and will accelerate the programme further over the next fortnight – providing that we have sufficient supplies of the vaccine – as we work towards being able to vaccinate 400,000 people a week by the end of the month. We are making rapid progress in protecting those who are most at risk from COVID-19.”

On schooling, the First Minister added:

“I am acutely aware of the pressure school closures is putting on working parents and on family life more generally.

“Our room for manoeuvre, given the current state of the pandemic, is limited. But the government is determined to use every inch of headroom we have to get children back to school.

“Based on the advice of our expert advisers, if we all agree to abide with the lockdown restrictions for a bit longer so that our progress in suppressing the virus continues, we can begin a phased, albeit gradual, return to school from 22 February.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19): stay at home guidance – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Community testing schemes have already been agreed across seven local authorities, within the health board areas of Fife, Grampian and Ayrshire and Arran, with agreed community testing proposals across the majority of mainland Local Authority areas expected to be agreed by the end of the week.

Categories
Community Safety Coronavirus

Preventing and Eradicating Violence Against Women and Girls

Funding for vital services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Organisations who work to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) are being invited to apply for a share of up to £13 million to help them develop and further their vital work over the next three years.

The Delivering Equally Safe Fund will support frontline organisations and projects that broaden access to support survivors. Priority areas of the fund include developing a person centred approach, supporting disabled survivors and working with those in remote or island communities.

The new funding will help drive collaboration and innovation towards challenging outdated attitudes and stereotypes, staging early interventions that maximise the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people, holding perpetrators to account for their behaviour and choices, and advancing women’s equality.

Equalities Minister Christina McKelvie said:

“The shocking and unacceptable rise in domestic abuse over the course of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has demonstrated that we still have further to go in our ambition to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

“We have responded quickly to ensure that frontline services could adapt and continue to help people during this public health crisis, providing more than £5.5 million in additional funding.

“Over the last year we continued to prioritise implementation of our Equally Safe strategy in partnership with COSLA and key stakeholders.

“We have been strengthening the law for domestic abuse and sexual violence survivors and those at risk of Female Genital Mutilation, supporting services to redesign at pace during the COVID-19 pandemic to raise awareness and encourage victims to seek support.

“This new fund will build upon and strengthen our efforts in partnership with experts and local front line providers. It will help us to make a step change over the next three years in preventing and reducing all forms of violence against women and girls.”

Inspiring Scotland CEO Celia Tennant said:

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with Scottish Government on Delivering Equally Safe, a significant and cohesive fund with a bold agenda to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls in Scotland.

“We recognize the crucial role the third sector plays, particularly providing specialist support for those most at risk and look forward to working collaboratively, across sectors, towards a Scotland which embraces equality and mutual respect, and where women and girls live free from all forms of violence and abuse.”

Dr Marsha Scott, Chief Executive of Scottish Women’s Aid, said:

“As always, we are glad to see the Scottish Government working to support organisations who can deliver specialist interventions around gender-based violence and to see funding distributed that reflects national policy. Now more than ever, specialist domestic abuse services are facing difficult decisions about how to maintain and deliver their vital services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Delivering Equally Safe Fund will help our services to fill some of that gap and continue to support women, children and young people experiencing domestic abuse while staff assess and make plans for their long-term financial viability.”

Background

Inspiring Scotland are fund managers for Delivering Equally Safe. Full details of how to apply can be found on their website Applications will close on 31 March 2021  (https://www.inspiringscotland.org.uk/what-we-do/our-funds/delivering-equally-safe/)

The fund was originally planned to launch in February of this year, but was paused to allow organisations to focus on demands arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Current recipients of funding from existing Equality and Human Rights budget funding streams have received an extension to existing grant arrangements up to the end of September 2021.

Categories
Community Safety Coronavirus Health Mental Health Public Health

Cautious Approach To Christmas

Joint agreement on festive period but there are still risks, warns First Minister.

The Scottish Government has agreed a cautious and limited relaxation of the rules on household meetings to support people over the Christmas period.

A maximum of three households are to be able to meet in a “bubble” during a short window of time across the festive period.

Households will be able to travel between local authorities and between the four nations during December 23 and 27 to form a bubble, and must only join one bubble.

The five-day period provides time for travel, and for those who may have to work over Christmas. Households are not required to use all five days and should keep visits to no more than one or two days if possible.

Confirming the plans, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it is clear that there is a risk inherent in any relaxation of the restrictions and asked everyone to consider very carefully whether the opportunity to mix for a few days is necessary given the risk of spreading the virus.

She said:

“We know that for some, contact with friends and family is crucial during this time as isolation and loneliness can hit people especially hard over the Christmas period. The “bubble” approach aims to reduce this impact.

“But we must be clear, there cannot be any further relaxation of measures for Hogmanay. Even this short relaxation will give the virus a chance to spread. Our priority is to suppress transmission of COVID-19 and reduce the risk to the vulnerable and those who have spent so long shielding – and that involves abiding by the rules.

“Just because you can mix with others indoors over this time, that doesn’t mean you have to. If you choose to stick with the rules as they are, then you will be continuing the hard work to beat this virus and prevent its spread.”

The approach states:

  • a “bubble” should be formed household to household only (i.e. different people in a household should not pick their own bubble)
  • between 23 and 27 December, people can meet in an exclusive “bubble” composed of three households
  • you should stay with your “bubble” where they are hosting you and you should follow the travel advice for the level you are in (e.g. people being hosted in a level 3 area cannot go on an outing to a level 2 area)
  • within your “bubble”, you can gather in a home, an outdoor place or a place of worship
  • in all other settings – eg. hospitality, entertainment venues – those who have formed a bubble must only socialise with members of their own household
  • households deciding to form a bubble will be advised to limit social contact before and after the period of relaxation

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for festive period

Categories
Community Safety Public Health

Tackling Anti-Social Fireworks Use

Review group calls for tighter control on fireworks.

An expert group that includes police, fire and animal welfare representatives has called for the introduction of no fireworks zones and tighter restrictions on the purchase and use of fireworks.

The independent Firework Review Group has submitted its final report to Ministers, urging a fundamental shift in the way fireworks are bought and used.

The call comes following widespread public support across Scotland to reduce the negative impact of fireworks.

The group, chaired by former Chief Fire Officer Alasdair Hay, has recommended a number of measures be taken forward, including:

  • The introduction of mandatory conditions when fireworks are purchased from retailers
  • Restricting the times of day fireworks can be sold and volume of fireworks that can be purchased at any one time
  • Restricting the days and times fireworks can be set off
  • The introduction of no firework areas or zones
  • The creation of a proxy purchasing offence to prevent adults from buying fireworks on behalf of those under the age of 18

Responding to the report, Community Safety Minister Ash Denham told Parliament:

“I welcome and fully endorse these recommendations and thank Alasdair Hay and the members of the Review Group for their diligent work, especially in recent months during the pandemic.

“We are determined to keep all of Scotland’s communities safe from the harmful use of fireworks and the group’s findings will help us achieve that.

“I will now explore how these recommendations can be implemented, within the powers available to Parliament, and bring forward legislation to make these a reality.

“With Bonfire Night approaching, it is vital the public continues to adhere to the rules on meeting up with other households to help stop the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). If someone does plan on using fireworks I would urge them to please do so responsibly and safely and to be mindful of their neighbours. I would also ask them to consider the various harmful impacts the noise of fireworks can have, including on our veterans, those with sensory issues and on our pets and livestock. Adapting alternative celebrations and sticking to the rules in place can go a huge way to ensuring everyone’s safety.”

Chair of the Review Group Alasdair Hay said:

“I am pleased to set out the recommendations from the Firework Review Group. We have carefully considered the available evidence, and believe a step change is needed in how fireworks are accessed and used by the general public.

“This is not to prevent adults using fireworks sensibly and safely – rather, to ensure all safety requirements are fully understood and adhered to, and the impact on others has been fully considered.”

Background

Firework Review Group: Report to the Scottish Government.

Community Safety Minister Ash Denham’s full statement to parliament.

Guidance on Bonfire Night Safety is available online from the  Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Parent Club.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Promoting the Safe and Appropriate Use of Fireworks in Scotland’ was published in October 2019.

The Scottish Government’s  public consultation on fireworks ran for 14 weeks and closed in May 2019. 16,420 responses were received. It found:

  • 94% of people want to see tighter controls on the sale of fireworks
  • 93% want to see stronger regulations to ensure animals are not caused unnecessary suffering as a result of fireworks misuse
  • 92% feel there should be tighter controls on fireworks use
  • 87% would support an outright ban on the sale of fireworks


The full membership of the Firework Review Group is:

Chair – Alasdair Hay, CBE QFSM

British Firework Association

British Veterinary Association

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde/ Care of Burns in Scotland

Police Scotland

Scottish Ambulance Service

Scottish Community Safety Network

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Scottish Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators

Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland

Veterans Scotland

British Pyrotechnics Association

Community representative Edinburgh

Community Representative Blackburn

CoSLA