Categories
Coronavirus Health

Increasing capacity and accessibility of testing

First of 11 planned walk-through sites set up.

People who suspect they may have coronavirus (COVID-19) will be able to receive a test at a walk-through testing centre.

The clinically-approved and risk-assessed model means people can access testing in semi-permanent centres, both indoor and outdoor, just days after a site has been agreed.

Work has begun to set up the first of eleven sites planned to be up and running before winter.

Appointments will be available through NHS Inform to students and the wider community for the first of these, to be housed in the Victory Memorial Hall in St Andrews. Testing is expected to commence at this site in the coming days.

Consideration of location of the further 10 sites which will be easily accessible by bike, wheel or foot is underway including in the Highlands, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Containing and suppressing this virus relies on testing being accessible to everyone. These walk through testing centres will further increase Scotland’s testing capacity ahead of potential spikes as we move into winter.

“They can be operational in a matter of days, and we are working at pace with NHS National Services Scotland and local authorities to roll out more across the country so that more people have access to local testing.

“We will continue to adapt our testing strategy in line with the different stages of the pandemic. However, testing is only one effective intervention that we are using to manage the virus and it remains vital that people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practise good hand and cough hygiene not just for their own safety but in order to protect others.”

NHS Fife Deputy Director of Public Health Dr Esther Curnock said:

“The new walk-in testing site in St Andrews is an important resource for the local population and will play a vital role in helping to limit the spread of the virus in north-east Fife.

“With the prevalence of COVID-19 now much lower than it was at its peak, it is easy to think that the virus in no longer a risk to our health, however, that is far from the case.

“It is crucial, therefore, that people arrange to be tested as soon as any symptoms develop, such as a new continuous cough, a fever, or a loss or change in the sense smell or taste, and isolate immediately rather than waiting on the result of their test.”

Background

Scotland’s COVID-19  Testing Strategy.

Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University of St Andrews, said:

“We’ve been in discussions for some time with the Scottish Government and NHS Fife about local testing facilities, and this is a positive and prudent development.

“The new testing centre will support the many steps the University is taking to keep our staff, students and local community safe, including our own Covid Rapid Response Service which will support quarantining and contact tracing, and monitor adherence to public health guidelines.”

Co-Leader of Fife Council Cllr David Alexander said:

“We are delighted to have been involved in getting one of Scotland’s first walk-in test centres up and running in St Andrews. With a high student population, a huge turnover of tourists and a centre of hospitality, St Andrews seemed to be an obvious choice for a test centre like this.”

Co-Leader of Fife Council Cllr. David Ross added: “These facilities are accessible for everyone in the area and will provide an invaluable resource in the fight against the spread of Covid-19 in our communities.”

Categories
Coronavirus Health

Scotland’s COVID-19 Testing Strategy

Testing approach adapts as prevalence changes.

The Scottish Government has published its updated Testing Strategy setting out the role testing continues to play in tackling coronavirus (COVID-19).

The strategy focuses on a number of key areas of testing:

  • Whole population testing of anyone with symptoms (Test & Protect)
  • Proactive case finding by testing contacts and testing in outbreaks
  • Protecting the vulnerable and preventing outbreaks in high risk settings by routine testing
  • Testing for direct patient care, to diagnose and to treat, and to support safe patient care as NHS services restart
  • Surveillance to understand the disease, track prevalence, understand transmission and monitor key sectors

A key development to strengthen surveillance work and help prevent the spread of the virus will be for all contacts of COVID-19 index cases to be offered testing regardless of whether they have symptoms. At present, recent close contacts of those people with a positive test result, are asked to isolate for 14 days. While they will still have to do this, they will now also be advised to get a test, allowing for further contacts to be identified and potential, wider outbreaks contained.

In addition, from September, Scotland will participate in the ONS Covid-19 Infection Survey which is currently operating in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This represents the single biggest expansion to date of asymptomatic testing for surveillance purposes in the pandemic. The survey will eventually see approximately 15,000 individuals in Scotland tested during every two-week rolling period. This equates to approximately 9,000 households.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“The publication of our Testing Strategy clearly sets out the role of testing in our response to COVID-19, which will continue to evolve as the scientific and clinical understanding of the virus develops.

“We know that meeting this challenge requires a comprehensive set of public health measures to drive the number of cases down – intelligence, anticipation, prevention, mitigation and response and clearly testing has a crucial role – it allows us to get ahead of the curve and track down and contain the virus as far as possible.

“We will continue to adapt our testing strategy in line with the different stages of the pandemic. However, testing is only one effective intervention that we are using to manage the virus and it remains vital that people continue to follow physical distancing advice and practise good hand and cough hygiene not just for their own safety but in order to protect others.”

BACKGROUND

Scotland’s Testing Strategy

Test and Protect was rolled out across Scotland on 28 May 2020.

People with any of the following symptoms should self-isolate and book a test at nhsinform.scot/test-and-protect or call 0800 028 2816 if they are unable to access the online service:

  • a High Temperature or Fever
  • a new continuous Cough
  • a loss of, or change in sense of Smell or Taste
Categories
Business Coronavirus

Investing in our future workforce

£10 million for apprenticeships.

Scotland’s future workforce will be at the heart of rebuilding the economy following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said.

Announcing £10 million for a range of measures to recruit and retain apprentices, including additional funding for the Scottish Government’s Adopt an Apprentice programme, Ms Hyslop said the funding would help modern and graduate apprentices who are facing redundancy as a result of COVID-19 get back into work.

Ms Hyslop said:

“The young people who will make up our future workforce are among those who have been hardest hit by this pandemic. As such, it is crucial that we support them and ensure they are at the heart of our economic recovery from COVID-19.

“This targeted funding will extend the reach of our support for apprentices, including our Adopt an Apprentice programme. Combined with our commitment of at least £50 million for youth employment and the Youth Guarantee, we will ensure no one is left behind.

“Apprenticeships are not only valuable for our young people, they are a key way for all employers to invest in their workforce, and provide the skills the economy needs both now and in the future.

“Our focus is on protecting jobs, creating jobs, ensuring quality jobs and supporting skilled jobs. By taking this action to protect and support skilled jobs now, we will rebuild a stronger, fairer and greener future for Scotland.”

Frank Mitchell, Chair of Skills Development Scotland, said:

“This welcome announcement underlines the importance of apprentices to the Scottish economy and the crucial role they will play in supporting individuals and businesses in the recovery from COVID-19.

“We will continue to liaise with the Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board and other employer organisations on the development and delivery of employer incentives and subsidies. SDS is also fully engaged with the work Sandy Begbie is leading on the development of a jobs guarantee for young people in order to maximise the use of all available incentives towards the retention and recruitment of apprentices.”

Further immediate investment to support economic recovery from COVID-19 was set out last week by the Scottish Government, with additional funding for workforce training and digital technology announced.

The Flexible Workforce Development Fund, which helps employers upskill and reskill their existing workforce through college courses, will be increased from £10 million to £20 million. Meanwhile a further £1.5 million will be invested into the Digital Boost programme – almost trebling the capacity of the initiative for the remainder of this financial year.

Background:

Skills Development Scotland are working with employers to identify other measures to recruit and retain apprentices.

Skills Development Scotland manage the Adopt an Apprentice programme on behalf of the Scottish Government.

In April 2020 the Scottish Government extended the Adopt an Apprentice programme to include Graduate Apprenticeships to offer £2,000 to employers who employ a redundant Graduate Apprentice.

Graduate Apprentices who have been made redundant from 1 February 2020 will be eligible for the programme.

Categories
Business Coronavirus

Rebuilding better

Actions for economic recovery from COVID-19.

Targeted measures to build a stronger, fairer and greener economic future for Scotland in the wake of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been announced.

Publishing responses to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery report and the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board report, Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop outlined key actions to generate significant economic growth, combined with a focus on supporting jobs, skills and training.

These initial measures include:

Investing at least £50 million to support Youth Employment, including the Scottish Job Guarantee

Embedding Foundation and Graduate Apprenticeship places as part of our wider college and university provision, as well as extending Fair Start Scotland services

Introducing a Transition Training Fund to support individuals facing redundancy and unemployment in those sectors most exposed to a downturn providing opportunities to upskill and transition into employment

Maximising help for those facing redundancy through the Scottish Government’s PACE support programme

Making it easier for SMEs to compete for public sector contracts and supporting them to make greater use of digital technology
exploring options to alleviate planning restraints, build capacity and deal more quickly with complex applications

Inviting leaders from business and other organisations to work with senior civil servants to ensure key Scottish Government policies maximise opportunities for economic benefit

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said:

“We all acknowledge the scale of the challenge facing Scotland’s economy as result of COVID-19, but we also recognise this is an opportunity to do things differently and crucially to rebuild a stronger, fairer and greener economic future. The Scottish Government’s focus will be on protecting jobs, creating jobs, ensuring quality jobs and supporting skilled jobs. We are working quickly to achieve this and many of the actions outlined today are already well underway.

“No one should be left behind and our work to prioritise those hardest hit by this pandemic is clear through our commitment of at least £50 million for youth employment and the Scottish Job Guarantee, as well as our dedicated Transition Training Fund which will provide opportunities to upskill and transition into employment.

“We are also focused on generating significant economic growth through further action to support our small and medium sized businesses, proposals to alleviate planning restraints and our commitment to continue working closely with business leaders to ensure we are doing all we can.

“Ultimately, the best way to secure our recovery from the economic challenges of COVID-19 is to eliminate the virus. That is why it is so important that we continue to invest in Test and Protect, and why all of us must continue to follow the guidelines – particularly around social distancing and hand hygiene.”

Background:

The  response to the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery is based around the following six themes:

Business recovery and growth
Engagement and partnership approach
Employment, skills and training
Supporting people and places
Investment-led growth for wellbeing impact
Monitoring progress and outcomes

The  response to the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board report gives detail of actions based around the following priority areas:

Assistance to support business retention
Assistance for those facing redundancy
Training to enable unemployed people to transition into employment
Helping vulnerable people into employment

Categories
Coronavirus Health

Further £50 million for social care sector

Funding to help meet COVID-19 related costs.

The social care sector will receive up to £50 million further additional funding to help meet additional costs related to coronavirus (COVID-19), Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced.

Following an agreement between the Scottish Government and COSLA, the funding will be allocated to Integration Joint Boards (IJB) across Scotland to ensure the sustainability of the social care sector throughout the ongoing pandemic.

The additional resource comes on top of the £50 million previously allocated to the social care sector in May for COVID-19 related costs.

Scotland’s 31 health and social care partnerships have all put in place mobilisation plans and any additional expenditure will be expected to align with these plans. The funding will support social care providers with COVID-19-related costs such as a reduction in occupancy due to the virus, additional staffing or sickness costs, infection prevention and control and PPE.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic the social care sector has played a crucial and critical role in Scotland’s response. I know that it has been hugely challenging for social care staff and providers to deal with what is an unprecedented situation and all social care and healthcare staff working on the frontline have my sincere thanks.

“This second tranche of funding will bring our total extra allocation to the social care sector since May to £100 million, a sign of our practical commitment to continuing to support the sustainability and resilience of the sector.

“I am very clear that we will meet any increasing need for social care as a result of the pandemic and we will continue to work closely with COSLA and NHS Boards to ensure they have the resources required.”

COSLA’s Health and Social Care spokesperson Councillor Stuart Currie said:

“COSLA welcomes the announcement from Scottish Government in relation to a further allocation of funding to enable Health and Social Care Partnerships to continue to support the social care sector in their pivotal role responding to COVID 19.

“COSLA will continue to work closely with Scottish Government to ensure that resources are released to enable Partnerships to meet all reasonable costs identified within Local Mobilisation Plans to address the challenges currently being faced by the sector.”

Background

This announcement will extend the principles for social care sustainability payments to social care providers until the end of September, and will continue to support local authorities, IJBs and social care providers with financial challenges relating to COVID-19.

The Social Care Staff Support Fund is a separate commitment. It continues to remain in place until the end of September to ensure social care workers do not suffer financial hardship if they are ill or self-isolating as a result of coronavirus. Employers should pay eligible staff their expected income and reclaim any additional costs from Integration or Local Authorities. Guidance on eligibility and administration is available on the Scottish Government website.

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Results Day

138,000 learners receive their results.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has congratulated all learners who have today received their results.

With exams cancelled for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, young people are receiving qualifications based on a combination of teacher judgment and national moderation by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA), which show that:

The National 5 pass rate was 81.1%
The Higher pass rate was 78.9%
The Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9%

In 2019:

The National 5 pass rate was 78.2%
The Higher pass rate was 74.8%
The Advanced Higher pass rate was 79.4%


Deputy First Minister John Swinney today met senior pupils at Stonelaw High School in South Lanarkshire to discuss their results and how they dealt with the challenge of learning during lockdown. He also took part in a video call on digital learning platform e-Sgoil with pupils from around Scotland to congratulate them on their results.

Mr Swinney said:

“In the face of an incredibly tough few months for pupils and teachers, we can today celebrate the achievements of all learners. Young people have received awards that recognise their hard work and allow them to move onto the next stage in their lives.

“Scottish exams have never before been cancelled. I am immensely grateful to all teachers and lecturers who worked incredibly hard to assess achievement this year, and to the SQA for developing the certification model – without either, young people could not have received qualifications.

“There was a rise in pass rates at National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher. While comparisons with previous years need to be considered carefully, given the disruption to learning this year this is a good set of results for our learners. I am pleased to see the number of skills based awards, that teach vital knowledge and experience valued by employers, rise by 18% to 64,221.

“This year’s results also show there has been a narrowing of the attainment gap at grades A-C between the most and least disadvantaged young people, which is now narrower this year for National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher than last year, or indeed the average for the last four years.

“All exam systems rely on an essential process known as moderation to uphold standards. This ensures an A grade is the same in every part of the country, making the system fair for everyone, and across all years. As the national exams body, only the SQA can maintain the consistency and the integrity of our qualifications. This year, by necessity, the moderation model is different and has been subject to additional scrutiny.

“Teachers and lecturers applied their judgements against national standards and today’s data shows that three out of every four grade estimates were not adjusted by the SQA.

“133,000 entries were adjusted from the initial estimate, around a quarter of all entries. 6.9% of those estimates were adjusted up and 93.1% were adjusted down, with 96% of all adjusted grades changed by one grade.

“Without moderation, pass rates at grades A-C compared to last year would have increased by 10.4 percentage points for National 5, by 14 percentage points for Higher and by 13.4 percentage points for Advanced Higher – annual change never been seen in Scottish exam results. I know teachers and lecturers will always want the best for their pupils but I believe that teachers have acted professionally.

“I know that learners who did not achieve what they were expecting will be disappointed, however the SQA will be operating a free appeals process this year. The appeals process is an integral part of awarding this year, and will play an important role in giving schools and colleges the opportunity to present evidence in support of teacher and lecturer estimates. The SQA has ensured that sufficient resources are in place to support this process and priority will be given to learners who need their grades to meet a conditional university or college offer.

“This year has been exceptionally challenging but these robust processes mean we have upheld standards so that all learners can hold their heads up and move onto the next phase in their life, whether that be further study, employment or training.“

Background

Detailed information on attainment statistics, and the SQA’s full awarding methodology, Equality Impact Assessment and Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessment, is available from the Scottish Qualifications Authority

Students and parents can get further information and support from the  Skills Development Scotland helpline.

Categories
Coronavirus

Emergency funding to prevent homelessness

The UK government must reconsider its position on people with no recourse to public funds (NRPF) according to Housing Minister Kevin Stewart.

The move follows a letter from Minister for Immigration Compliance Chris Philp which again stated that there were no plans for the Home Office to suspend its approach to those with NRPF, despite the ongoing public health emergency.

More than £875,000 has been provided by the Scottish Government and local authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that people with no access to financial support are kept safe and secure. The Scottish Government and its third sector partners have repeatedly called for the UK government to lift these restrictions during the pandemic to enable everyone in our society to be treated fairly and equitably.

Mr Stewart said:

“The Scottish Government is determined for our most vulnerable citizens not to be abandoned at a time when they need our help the most.

“The economic impacts of the pandemic are pushing thousands of people further into poverty and harming their work opportunities. However, thanks to a rapid and coordinated response in Scotland, we have been able to accommodate people who would otherwise be facing destitution, so they can protect themselves and others during the COVID-19 crisis.

“As a result, many people restricted by the UK Government’s harmful approach, who were previously sleeping rough or in unsuitable night shelters, are now being supported in hotels and other self-contained accommodation.

“I am therefore appalled at the UK government’s refusal to do the right thing and immediately lift the restrictions on those who currently have no recourse to public funds for the duration of this public health crisis and would again call for them to act.

“Their unreasonable and heartless restriction also affects women and children fleeing domestic abuse who have to leave with little resources or belongings and non EEA nationals who lost their incomes and found themselves far from their families and homes as a result of the pandemic.”

Categories
Coronavirus

Further funding for tourism

Lifeline support for sector.

Two new funding packages worth £15 million will support the tourism sector as it continues to feel the impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

A £14 million Hotel Recovery Programme will help to secure up to 3,000 jobs at Scotland’s larger hotels until the start of the summer 2021 tourism season. Eligible businesses can apply for individual grants of up to £250,000 in addition to a suite of wrap-around business support and advice.

The Programme will be jointly administered by the Scottish Government’s enterprise agencies and builds on the existing funding and support for tourism businesses through the Creative, Tourism and Hospitality Hardship Fund and the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund.

VisitScotland will also deliver £1 million in grants to self-catering businesses that have not received any other Scottish Government COVID-19 support. Businesses that apply and meet the criteria will be eligible for a one-off £10,000 grant to support them through the winter season.

Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing said:

“We recognise the important contribution the hotel sector makes to tourism and the wider Scottish economy, supporting approximately 46,000 jobs across the country.

“Scotland is home to many of the world’s iconic hotels and they, like much of the sector, have suffered considerably this year from the impacts of coronavirus. The Hotel Recovery Programme is a dedicated funding package designed to safeguard jobs in these establishments and offer some security until the new tourist season begins in summer 2021.

“The Scottish Government is doing everything in its power to support the tourism industry, however without significant borrowing powers at our disposal this action will always be limited. Whilst we very much welcome measures taken by the UK Government, such as accepting our call to cut VAT rates for the tourism industry, longer-term support for jobs is necessary. I hope the UK Government responds positively to our ask for an extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.”

Background

The Enterprise Agencies (Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise and VisitScotland) will begin taking expressions of interest for the Hotel Recovery Programme in late August. Businesses that meet the criteria for the Programme will be eligible for both grants and a holistic business review with bespoke support based on their individual needs.

The Hotel Recovery Programme comprises £9 million in revenue and £5 million capital.

Applications for the self-catering support scheme will open in early August. VisitScotland will work with The Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC) to review applications received for the self-catering support scheme.

Further details and opening dates for both funds will be announced in due course.

Categories
Coronavirus Social Security

Extra funding to support low income families

Scottish Welfare Fund payments rise to £37.6 million.

Funding of £37.6 million was allocated to support people and families on low incomes in times of need in the 12 months to 31 March 2020 – an increase of 7% on the previous year.

Scottish Welfare Fund payments included £12.9 million in Crisis Grants – up 24% – and £24.7 million on Community Care Grants.

The fund received 296,870 applications for help, with the most common reason families gave being their benefits or other income had been spent – up 27% on the previous year.

Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“This is further evidence that the UK Government’s benefits cuts are hitting the poorest in Scotland the hardest, with more and more people struggling just to make ends meet and being pushed to rely on food banks, or suffer from the stress of debt and rent arrears.

“That’s without taking into consideration the significant financial impact that coronavirus (COVID-19)is having on some of those earning the least in our society.

“We took early action in March to more than double the Scottish Welfare Fund to £80.5 million this year in response to the expected impact of coronavirus, and we have made an additional £110 million available to support people struggling to access food during the pandemic.

“That funding will help local authority partners continue to support people at this time and we would encourage anyone in need of support to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund.”

Background

Scottish Welfare Fund annual statistics 2019/20 

Categories
Coronavirus Health

Adapting NHS resources to respond to COVID-19

A successful pilot at the NHS Louisa Jordan has seen 315 patients receive orthopaedic and plastic surgery outpatient consultations since the start of July.

Built at the Scottish Events Campus (SEC) in Glasgow at the beginning of the outbreak, the hospital has not been required to treat coronavirus (COVID-19) patients due to continued suppression of the virus.

Following the successful three-week project by NHS Lanarkshire, plans are now in place to expand the services offered at the hospital and increase the number of patients it can receive daily from health boards across Scotland.

New services to be offered include key diagnostics such as X-rays, CT scanning and ultrasounds, as well as speciality dermatology appointments.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“We always hoped that the NHS Louisa Jordan would never be needed for the COVID response and thanks to the continued collective efforts of people across Scotland to suppress the virus, that has been the case.

“When it comes to tackling this virus, we have all had to be flexible and adapt to the ‘new normal’ and that includes our health service. Although the NHS Louisa Jordan has not been required to treat COVID-19 patients, it remains a vital asset in our phased approach to resuming NHS services safely where we can.

“It is providing capacity to reduce waiting lists and improve outcomes for patients across Scotland. I am pleased that while it stands ready to treat patients with the virus at just a few days’ notice, the NHS Louisa Jordan is making a valuable contribution to our health service now, even while the virus remains under control.”

Chief Executive of NHS Louisa Jordan Jill Young said:

“As a national resource for the NHS in Scotland, we are proud to be playing our part in ensuring that more patients are receiving the safe, effective and person-centred care, they need during the current situation.

“NHS Louisa Jordan was created through teamwork with a spirit of collaboration which has been shown across NHSScotland during these challenging times. We look forward to working with NHS Boards across Scotland to help deliver key outpatient and diagnostic services for patients.”

Background

Established to help ensure NHS Scotland had extra capacity to treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHS Louisa Jordan has stood ready to accept patients since 20 April 2020.

The hospital was named after Glasgow-born First World War nurse Sister Louisa Jordan who died on active service in Serbia in 1915 as part of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals for Foreign Services.

1036 bed bays were built at the hospital, with capacity to treat an initial 300 patients. The estimated set up costs for NHS Louisa Jordan is approximately £31 million, with operational and decommissioning costs yet to be determined.

More information on NHS Louisa Jordan is available online.

Categories
Coronavirus Health

COVID-19 testing for under-fives

Testing eligibility extended for young children.

Children under the age of five who are displaying potential coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms will be eligible for testing from today.

Currently, children under five who have potential COVID-19 symptoms are not routinely tested and a test is only carried out if there is a pressing clinical need to do so – for example a young child who needs to be admitted to hospital and whose condition may be due to COVID-19 or a young child who is in hospital for some reason whose condition unexpectedly deteriorates.

Now, with childcare settings reopening from 15 July, children aged under five who have COVID-19 symptoms will be eligible for routine testing through all routes including drive-in Regional Testing Centres, Mobile Testing Units and by ordering a home test kit.

COVID-19 Testing for all children under 11 years old should be completed by their parent or carer.

Interim Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith said:

“In light of the continued change in lockdown restrictions and the resumption of early learning and childcare, we have reviewed our testing policy for children under five.

“We want to avoid households having to isolate unnecessarily if young children in their family are displaying coronavirus-like symptoms which can be common in this age group.

“I would encourage anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or whose child has symptoms, to get a test immediately to help us supress the spread of the virus.”

Background

Testing eligibility extended for young children.

Children under the age of five who are displaying potential coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms will be eligible for testing from Wednesday 22 July.

Currently, children under five who have potential COVID-19 symptoms are not routinely tested and a test is only carried out if there is a pressing clinical need to do so – for example a young child who needs to be admitted to hospital and whose condition may be due to COVID-19 or a young child who is in hospital for some reason whose condition unexpectedly deteriorates.

Now, with childcare settings reopening from 15 July, children aged under five who have COVID-19 symptoms will be eligible for routine testing through all routes including drive-in Regional Testing Centres, Mobile Testing Units and by ordering a home test kit.

COVID-19 Testing for all children under 11 years old should be completed by their parent or carer.

Interim Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith said:

“In light of the continued change in lockdown restrictions and the resumption of early learning and childcare, we have reviewed our testing policy for children under five.

“We want to avoid households having to isolate unnecessarily if young children in their family are displaying coronavirus-like symptoms which can be common in this age group.

“I would encourage anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or whose child has symptoms, to get a test immediately to help us supress the spread of the virus.”

Background

Test and Protect was rolled out across Scotland on 28 May 2020.

People with any of the following symptoms should self isolate and book a test at nhsinform.scot/test-and-protect or call 0800 028 2816 if they are unable to access the online service:
• a high temperature or fever
• a new continuous cough
• a loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste

Testing eligibility extended for young children.

Children under the age of five who are displaying potential coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms will be eligible for testing from Wednesday 22 July.

Currently, children under five who have potential COVID-19 symptoms are not routinely tested and a test is only carried out if there is a pressing clinical need to do so – for example a young child who needs to be admitted to hospital and whose condition may be due to COVID-19 or a young child who is in hospital for some reason whose condition unexpectedly deteriorates.

Now, with childcare settings reopening from 15 July, children aged under five who have COVID-19 symptoms will be eligible for routine testing through all routes including drive-in Regional Testing Centres, Mobile Testing Units and by ordering a home test kit.

COVID-19 Testing for all children under 11 years old should be completed by their parent or carer.

Interim Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith said:

“In light of the continued change in lockdown restrictions and the resumption of early learning and childcare, we have reviewed our testing policy for children under five.

“We want to avoid households having to isolate unnecessarily if young children in their family are displaying coronavirus-like symptoms which can be common in this age group.

“I would encourage anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or whose child has symptoms, to get a test immediately to help us supress the spread of the virus.”

Background

Test and Protect was rolled out across Scotland on 28 May 2020.

People with any of the following symptoms should self isolate and book a test at nhsinform.scot/test-and-protect or call 0800 028 2816 if they are unable to access the online service:
• a high temperature or fever
• a new continuous cough
• a loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste was rolled out across Scotland on 28 May 2020.

People with any of the following symptoms should self isolate and book a test at nhsinform.scot/test-and-protect or call 0800 028 2816 if they are unable to access the online service:
• a high temperature or fever
• a new continuous cough
• a loss of, or change in sense of smell or taste

Categories
Coronavirus Mental Health

More mental health support for health and social care staff

New helpline will provide round the clock service.

All health and social care workers in Scotland will now have access to mental health support 24 hours a day, seven days a week through a new national helpline.

The Scottish Government is funding the wellbeing helpline for those who need further psychological support, including in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. This follows the success of the National Wellbeing Hub for staff launched in May.

Trained practitioners at NHS 24 will offer callers a compassionate and empathic listening service based on the principles of psychological first aid, as well as advice, signposting and onward referral to local services if required.

Minister for Mental Health Clare Haughey said:

“I am deeply grateful for the hard work, commitment and professionalism of those working in health and social care services at this time of unprecedented challenge.

“The National Wellbeing Hub has had over 30,000 online visits since its launch in May and the new helpline will complement that service. Whatever your role and wherever you work, I would encourage you to make use of the many resources on the Hub, including advice on managing stress and anxiety, fatigue, sleep, relaxation and exercise.

“For those who need one-on-one support, the new mental wellbeing support line will be available around the clock to help staff access appropriate additional support.

“We are continuing to monitor the impact of the pandemic on our valued workforce and will do our best to ensure that appropriate support services are put in place to help them.”

Stephanie Phillips, Director of Service Delivery at NHS 24, said:

“NHS 24 are delighted to support our partners by offering this helpline to complement existing services. Our Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners will respond with compassion and empathy to offer support whenever it’s needed. Health and social care staff look after us – this is one way in which we are looking after them.

“We know that for everyone calling us, being listened to, and knowing that someone cares, is really important in difficult times. This is just as important to our health and social care colleagues as to those they care for.”

Background

The health and social care workforce mental wellbeing support line (0800 111 4191) will be operated by NHS 24 on a 24/7 basis from 10 am on 20 July.

Trained practitioners will provide a compassionate listening service and psychological first aid to callers. They can provide a range of support including directing people to resources available through the National Wellbeing Hub. If needed, and with a caller’s agreement, they can also refer people on to local staff support services.

The helpline is a confidential service for staff. There will be no automatic notifications to GPs or employers. Onward referral will only be with the caller’s consent.

The Scottish Government’s National Wellbeing Hub operated by PRoMIS is designed to be the first point of contact for all employed health and social care staff but also for their families, as well as unpaid carers and volunteers looking for support.

Categories
Coronavirus

COVID-19 antibody testing

Health boards have been advised by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to focus on using coronavirus (COVID-19) antibody tests to improve understanding of the virus and in the clinical management of patients.

The CMO Dr Gregor Smith has written to all NHS boards outlining that as there is currently insufficient clinical evidence showing the degree of protection antibodies give, or the duration of any protection, the only clinically safe option is to assume no meaningful immunity from a positive result until evidence shows otherwise.

Currently antibody tests are used in Scotland for surveillance measures to provide population-level information on COVID-19 and these tests will continue to be used in this way. So far 4,431 antibody tests for surveillance purposes have been completed.

Dr Smith said:

“Having assessed the research available, there is currently insufficient clinical evidence to absolutely conclude that people who have recovered from COVID-19 are protected from either a second infection or from infecting others.

“Until such evidence exists the main public health benefits are for research purposes or in the clinical management of patients. The World Health Organisation and SAGE have warned there are potentially negative impacts on public health if individuals assume immunity from a positive result and adapt their behaviour in a way which could increase the risk of continued transmission.

“On this basis, advice to health boards is not to offer on-demand antibody testing.

“Our approach is being kept under ongoing review. If clinical evidence around immunity changes we will swiftly roll out a national antibody testing programme in order to realise the potential health, social and economic benefits this would offer, and are preparing now for that prospect.”

Background:

WHO advice on antibody tests

SAGE advice on antibody tests

The Scottish Government is currently investigating new research opportunities and is encouraging health boards to participate in the UK-wide SIREN study which will examine potential immunity in healthcare workers and inform our understanding of prevalence.

In total 4,431 antibody tests for surveillance purposes have been completed as of 19 June.

Categories
Business Coronavirus

Further route map detail announced

Indicative dates for Phase 2 and early Phase 3 measures announced to help planning.

Provisional dates for the relaxation of travel restrictions, restarting of the hospitality industry and reopening of hairdressers are among further route map measures announced today (Wednesday 24, June) by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Setting out indicative dates, the First Minister stressed that while sustained progress has been made to suppress coronavirus (COVID-19), the changes remain contingent on scientific and public health advice.

Physical distancing of 2 metres continues to be required in Scotland. The First Minister confirmed that the Scientific Advisory Group is providing advice on higher transmission risk settings and physical distancing and that she will provide a further update on 2 July, ahead of the proposed dates for re-opening hospitality.

Detailed sectoral guidance will be published ahead of indicative dates and the Scottish Government will join with the retail sector in a campaign to encourage the use of face coverings in all shops.

Indicative early Phase 3 dates announced today are intended to give businesses time to prepare for reopening while adhering to public health and physical distancing measures to protect workers and customers. Final decisions on moving into Phase 3 will be taken in line with the statutory three-weekly review cycle, due on 9 July.

Indicative Phase 2 dates:

• 3 July – Travel distance limit for leisure will be lifted
• 3 July – Self-catering holiday accommodation will be permitted, providing it requires no shared facilities between households
• 6 July – Outdoor hospitality can commence subject to the Scientific Advisory Group review

Indicative Phase 3 dates:

• 10 July – People can meet in extended groups outdoors, with physical distancing
• 10 July – Households can meet indoors with up to a maximum of two households, with physical distancing
• 13 July – Organised outdoor contact sport can resume for children and young people, subject to guidance
• 13 July – All dental practices begin to see registered patients for non-aerosol routine care, and work will begin to return aerosol generating procedures to practice safely
• 13 July – Increasing capacity within community optometry practices for emergency and essential eye care
• 13 July – Non-essential shops inside shopping centres can reopen, subject to the Scientific Advisory Group review
• 15 July – All childcare providers can open subject to individual provider arrangements
• 15 July – All holiday accommodation will be permitted
• 15 July – Indoor hospitality can reopen, subject to the Scientific Advisory Group review
• 15 July – Hairdressers and barbers can reopen with enhanced hygiene measures
• 15 July – Museums, galleries, cinemas, monuments, libraries will reopen with physical distancing and other measures, such as ticketing in advance

Announcing the route map changes, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The sacrifices that have been made – and I know how hard and at times painful they have been – have suppressed the virus. They have also protected the NHS, and have undoubtedly saved a significant number of lives.

“They have also brought us to the position where we can now look ahead with a bit more clarity to our path out of lockdown, and I hope details announced today will provide people and businesses with more certainty in their forward planning.

“But let me be clear that each step on this path depends on us continuing to beat the virus back. That is why we must do everything in our power to avoid steps being reversed.

“The central point in all of this is the virus has not – and it will not – go away of its own accord. It will pose a real and significant threat to us for some time to come.

“Maintaining our progress also means all of us abiding by public health guidance. Wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces, avoiding crowded places, washing our hands and cleaning surfaces regularly, maintaining physical distancing, agreeing to immediately self-isolate and get a test if we have symptoms – all of these basic protections matter now more than ever as we all get out and about a bit more.”

Previously announced Phase 2 measures commencing Monday:

• Indoor (non-office) workplaces resume once relevant guidance is implemented. This includes: factories, warehouses, labs and research facilities. But excludes: indoor workplaces due to open in Phase 3 (e.g. nonessential offices and call-centres)
• Street-access retail can re-open once guidance is implemented. Interiors of shopping centres/malls remain closed for non-essential shops until Phase 3
• Outdoor markets can re-open once guidance is implemented
• Relaxation on restrictions on housing moves
• Outdoor sports courts can re-open
• Playgrounds can re-open
• Registration offices open for high priority tasks
• Marriages and civil partnerships allowed with minimal attendees, strictly outdoors only
• Zoos and garden attractions can open for local access only (broadly within 5 miles) until 3 July
Updated route map can be found here

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Free school meals extended

Additional £27.6 million to help feed pupils and other key groups.

Children eligible for free school meals will be among those who continue to be supported over the summer through a package of £27.6 million of additional funding from the Scottish Government.

The funding will ensure councils are able to continue the provision of free school meals during the summer holidays and other food provision to help low income families during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The latest data from local authorities shows that around 175,000 children and young people are currently receiving free school meals – or vouchers or cash payments to buy meals.

The number of children receiving free school food has risen by 53,000 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the impact of the pandemic on family incomes and financial circumstances.

The extra funding will also enable councils to continue to support a range of people who may be facing new or continuing barriers to accessing food including due to reduced income caused if they are asked to self-isolate through contact tracing – until the end of September.

This funding is in addition to the overall package of £30 million allocated to councils in March to provide free school meals and offer food provision to key groups during lockdown.

Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills John Swinney said:

“These are challenging times for families and economic uncertainty has added even more pressure on parents already dealing with the stress of this dire COVID-19 crisis.

“We want to ensure families are given the same support through the summer holidays as we provide in term time in recognition of this unprecedented situation. That is why free school meals provision is essential to support families, children and young people who need some extra help at this difficult time.

“This significant additional funding will allow councils to plan for the summer and to continue the existing provision, whether that be offering nutritious free meals for children or through more direct means allowing families to get food for their families. Councils will have the flexibility to ensure they are able to use this additional funding to put in place provision that meets local needs and circumstances.

“£15 million of this funding is being made available to ensure we continue supporting the range of households who have been or may experience difficulty in accessing or affording food during the pandemic. We know that people are under pressure just now as they cope with the impact of COVID-19 and this funding shows we are doing all we can to help them at this difficult time. This funding is additional to the £350 million we have already made available.”

Background

Since 24 March councils have provided the Scottish Government with data on the number of children receiving a free school meal through the provision of vouchers, direct payments, home deliveries and provision in educational or early years settings. 

Individuals who are unable to access or afford food and cannot get the help they need from family, friends or neighbours are encouraged to call the national assistance helpline. The free helpline number is 0800 111 4000, or can be contacted via a textphone on 0800 111 4114. The helpline is open Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.

Callers will be put through to speak to someone at their local council. They’ll be able to advise on what types of help are available. This might include:

  • food, if you’re not able to get the day-to-day food you need
  • medication, if you’re not able to pick up the prescriptions you need
  • access to local social work services
  • emotional support
  • contact with local volunteer groups

Categories
Coronavirus Education

£6.2 million Funding Boost for Dundee Schools

SNP government announces £50 million package to improve attainment.

MSP for Dundee City West Constituency, Joe FitzPatrick, has said pupils living in Dundee’s most deprived communities will benefit from targeted funding from the Attainment Scotland Fund to help close the poverty-related attainment gap.  

Dundee City Council will receive a £6,223,466 investment from the SNP Scottish Government to support pupils from deprived backgrounds.

To help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, schools and local authorities will have flexibility to redirect some of this funding from existing plans to best support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged families, with a continued focus on equity in education.

The £50 million package is in addition to the £250 million Pupil Equity Funding package announced in May for the next two years and an investment of £9 million to provide 25,000 laptops to assist pupils learning at home.

Commenting, SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“In Government, the SNP has put closing the poverty-related attainment gap front and centre of its plans to improve education.

“This latest funding boost for Dundee demonstrates this Government’s ambition to transform our schools and ensure that every young person gets the chance to succeed in life, regardless of their background.

“The Education Secretary, John Swinney, has also handed councils the flexibility to use this funding to help respond to the coronavirus pandemic so no child gets left behind.

“There’s still a lot to do in reducing poverty and inequality in Scotland – but universal benefits like free school meals for our youngest pupils, free prescriptions and free higher education are helping keep more money in the pockets of hard working families here in Dundee.”

The Attainment Scotland Fund was established to support the Scottish Attainment Challenge in 2015.  This is a £750 million commitment over the course of this parliamentary term. The Attainment Scotland Fund is a targeted initiative focused on supporting pupils in the local authorities of Scotland with the highest concentrations of deprivation.

The nine ‘Challenge Authorities’ are Glasgow, Dundee, Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Clackmannanshire, North Lanarkshire, East Ayrshire and Renfrewshire.
Categories
Business Coronavirus

More support for small businesses

Grants extended to help more companies in need.

Small businesses which share properties but do not pay business rates are now eligible to apply for grants to help with the impact of COVID-19.

The extension to the Small Business Grant Fund will apply to firms occupying shared office spaces, business incubators or shared industrial units and who lease the space from a registered, rate-paying landlord. Separately, eligibility has also been extended to companies occupying multiple premises with a cumulative value of more than £51,000.

Eligible businesses will be able to apply to their local authority for grants of up to £10,000.

It has also been confirmed that the Small Business Grant and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant schemes will close for new applications on 10 July. Latest figures up to 2 June show that £824.541 million has been distributed to 72,622 businesses across Scotland through the schemes, but that new applications have slowed in recent weeks.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

“Our comprehensive package of business support is now worth more than £2.3 billion. Our programme is kept under constant review, and we are always looking for ways to extend eligibility to help more businesses. That is precisely what we are doing.

“New applications for the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant schemes have slowed in recent weeks as large numbers of businesses have already applied. We are committed to ensuring every penny we receive from the UK Government for business support – and more – will be passed to businesses. It is essential that we do not allow funds to sit for too long in schemes that are attracting few applications, so we have decided to bring these to a close next month. That will mean that any remaining money can be re-routed to help businesses in other ways, as we have already started to do for the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund.

“I would encourage the owners of any eligible small business which needs support to consider applying through their local authority during the next five weeks and before 10 July.”

Background

Further details on these grant schemes.

Applications for a Small Business Support Grant may now be made to the appropriate local authority from tenants that are a registered business or partnership, have a lease signed before 17 March 2020, employ at least one person and have a business bank account.

From 5 May, the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants were extended to businesses with multiple properties. This included businesses with a number of properties whose cumulative rateable value exceeded £35,000 (making them ineligible for the Small Business Bonus Scheme, thereby preventing them from accessing the Small Business Grant) and whose individual rateable value does not exceed £18,000 (thereby preventing them from receiving a Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant). To date, the cumulative rateable value of all such properties held was capped at £51,000, but from 8 June, this is increased to £500,000.

Schedule 3.1 of the Scottish Government’s Summer Budget Revision confirms the budget for the Small Business and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grants as £1.202 billion. 

Categories
Coronavirus

Updated advice for people shielding

Outdoor exercise can be taken from later this month.

People who are shielding are being advised that though they should continue to do so until at least the end of July, they can if they choose,  go outdoors to exercise from 18 June while maintaining strict physical distancing.

Those affected will receive letters from the Chief Medical Officer explaining that the decision on outdoor exercise has been taken after careful consideration by clinical advisors. Prevalence of COVID-19 has decreased and the evidence now shows the risk of outdoor infection is very low if people stay two metres apart. The exercise can be a run, wheel, walk or cycle but those shielding should not meet people from other households. 

In all other respects, the advice for those who have been advised to shield has not changed as there remains a risk of infection in indoor and crowded places where physical distancing may not be possible. However, the CMO’s letter also sets out that work is underway to develop a new approach which allows people to better understand their individual risk and make choices which are right for them. This will be made available over the summer.

The support currently in place for those who are shielding, in terms of free grocery boxes and priority access to online supermarket delivery slots, will continue throughout this time.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“We understand that the challenges of shielding are enormous, and that those shielding want and need clarity about when they can start to lead a less restricted life. 

“Today’s announcement means that, should there be no increase in rates of transmission of the virus, people shielding can go outdoors for exercise from 18 June while maintaining physical distancing of two metres.   

“We know many people may feel anxious about these changes and we would like to reassure everyone who has been advised to shield that they will shortly be receiving a letter from the Chief Medical Officer outlining how they can stay safe when they go outside, should they choose to do so.

“The guidance will remain under review and I want to reassure those who are shielding that we will do what is right for Scotland and only make changes where we are confident that it is safe to do so.

“We are doing everything we can to get the advice right so that people can safely, and gradually, start to make choices that reflect their individual and local circumstances.”     

Background     

The Scottish Government wants to take into account the experience of people shielding as they update guidance so we can respond to issues which are important to them We have been carrying out research interviews with those in the shielding category since 29 April. Public Health Scotland also launched a short survey on experiences and attitudes to shielding on 3 June which runs until 14 June. People shielding and their carers are encouraged to take part at online.

Shielding support and contacts

Categories
Carers Coronavirus Social Security

Extra payment for carers to help through coronavirus

Eligible carers to get an additional £230.10.

In recognition of the additional pressure that unpaid carers are under at this time, the Scottish Government will be making a Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement payment later this month.

This one-off payment is in addition to the regular six monthly Carer’s Allowance Supplement. As a result, eligible carers will get a payment of at least £460.20. This will be paid from Friday 26 June.

As with the current supplement, carers will not need to do anything to get this extra payment as it will be paid automatically to people who were living in Scotland and in receipt of Carer’s Allowance on 13 April 2020 eligibility date. Social Security Scotland will write to eligible carers in advance.

Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People Shirley-Anne Somerville said:

“Carer’s Allowance Supplement was one of the first payments we introduced using our new social security powers. This was in recognition of the contribution that carers make to our society. They provide vital support to family, friends and neighbours.

“Coronavirus is putting even more demands on carers. It is hard emotionally – carers will inevitably be concerned about their own health, and that of the people they care for. However in many cases, it will also be difficult financially.

“The payment will benefit carers who are on low incomes and already have some of the most intense caring roles, providing at least 35 hours of unpaid care weekly to a disabled child or adult in receipt of higher level disability benefits.

“This extra payment is one way of providing some additional help  – and of acknowledging that we know that carers are doing even more right now. We thank them for that.”

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Safe return to schools and nurseries

Scientific advice behind re-opening published.

Education Secretary John Swinney has published a summary of the scientific advice behind the plans to re-open schools and Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings.

In agreement with councils, professional associations and parent representatives, all schools will return on 11 August while ELC settings such as nurseries and playgroups will open over the summer.

The plans are contingent on scientific and medical advice that it is safe to proceed and complementary public health measures, such as Test and Protect, being in place.

The paper highlights:

  • growing evidence that the susceptibility to clinical disease of younger children is lower than for adults
  • generally good evidence that the severity of disease in children is lower than in adults
  • the majority view of the Chief Medical Officer’s Advisory Group is that actions to support distancing guidance in schools where children are in indoor environments for extended periods of time would be appropriate, while a minority believed schools could operate without distancing

Mr Swinney today updated Parliament on the work to re-open schools and ELC settings. He said:

“School closures are considered to have a negative effect on all aspects of children and young people’s progress and development, as well as their wellbeing. That is why we are working to enable as many children and young people as possible to return to education and care settings at the earliest date it is safe to do so.

“The scientific evidence and advice is an important part of that decision, alongside consideration of the other harms caused by ongoing restrictions. That is why I have published a summary of the scientific evidence which has informed our discussions and decisions to date.

“The evidence around coronavirus in general, and that relating to children in particular, is continuing to evolve. Some aspects are not yet well understood – the science cannot in many cases provide us with definitive conclusions.

“The scientific advice that we have received so far leads us towards taking a cautious approach and we will continue to monitor the evidence and advice to inform decisions.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Scientific evidence on schools and ELC settings

More information on the Strategic Framework published last week is here: https://www.gov.scot/news/schools-to-re-open-in-august/