Categories
Community Coronavirus Health Public Health

Vaccine Programme Exceeds Expectations

786,427 people have received first dose.

A total of 786,427 people have now received their first Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination in Scotland, including 93% of over-80s living in the community.

Some 99% of older adult care home residents have received a first dose, along with 89% of staff in older adult care homes. A total of 272,365 frontline health and social care workers have also been vaccinated, exceeding the initial target of 230,000 staff provided by health boards.

This week, following the opening of new mass vaccination centres, including the Edinburgh International Conference Centre and Aberdeen’s P&J LIVE at TECA, there has been a 49% increase in the number of vaccinations carried out compared with the previous week.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Scotland’s COVID-19 vaccination programme is now delivering ahead of our expectations, thanks to the enormous efforts of our vaccination teams. I would like to thank everyone who is working tirelessly to make this a success, and also every individual who has taken up their offer of a vaccine.

“Our aim is to vaccinate as many people as possible with both their first and second doses. The vaccine deployment plan was predicated on an uptake of at least 80% in each cohort – though so far we are significantly exceeding that for care home residents and staff, frontline healthcare staff, and over 80-year-olds in the community. If you are aged over 80 but have not yet received your invite, you should contact your GP surgery so they can assist.

“We hope to see a significant drop in the disease due to the vaccination programme, however this will take a number of months to evaluate fully. In the shorter term, we are monitoring the uptake rate but we also have a comprehensive surveillance system in place to monitor outcome of vaccine efficacy and disease reduction.

“Each health board is working hard to get the vaccine into people’s arms as quickly as possible, and everyone eligible will be offered the vaccine as we work our way through the priority groups.”

Background:

Uptake rates for the COVID-19 vaccine so far are higher than the flu vaccine programme in 2019-20 and 2020-21, which was 79% for those aged over 65 in 2020.

Our deployment plan sets out our plan for how we will roll out vaccinations in Scotland to vaccinate 4.5 million people.

Categories
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 Health Social Security

More Help With Free Personal and Nursing Care

Savings for people with dementia and other care needs.

Adults who pay for their residential care in Scotland will be better off from April as a result of a change to the rates of allowances they receive for personal and nursing care.

Those who ‘self-fund’ their residential care receive an allowance in recognition of their personal and nursing care costs.

Regulations laid in Parliament will raise these allowances by 7.5 per cent, well above the normal annual increase, in recognition of the increasing cost of providing care, particularly for people with dementia.

The change is backed by an additional £10.1m in Local Authority funding to cover the increases.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“I am pleased to confirm that we will increase the allowances paid to people who are paying self-funder rates for their residential care by 7.5%.

“Care home costs have been rising above inflation for a number of years and this is an important step towards to bringing the rates closer to the actual cost of personal and nursing care.

“The Independent Review of Adult Social Care will be published later this week and in responding to its recommendations there will be opportunities to consider wider reforms to the way residential care is funded and delivered, to ensure the highest standards of care and wellbeing for people who use adult social care, and support for their families, carers and the workforce.”

Background

The Scottish Government has legislated to ensure that adults of any age, no matter their condition, capital or income, who are assessed by their local authority as needing personal care, are entitled to receive this without charge.

Free nursing care is similar and has been available to all who are assessed as requiring nursing care services, without charge.

People resident in care homes who have capital above the higher Capital Limit (currently £28,500) are known as self-funders. Local Authorities make payments to cover the personal care (currently at £180 per week) and nursing care (currently at £81 per week) part of self-funder care home fees. These are paid directly to the residential care provider on a weekly basis.

Under the normal inflationary measure used to calculate allowances, these payments would have increased by 1.94% this year. This year’s increases are shown in the table below.

Year Personal Care Nursing Care Annual Increase

1 April 2019 £177 £80 1.57%

1 April 2020 £180 £81 1.84%

1 April 2021 £193.50 £87.10 7.5%

Categories
Children Coronavirus Education Health Mental Health

Physical and Emotional Welfare of Children

COVID support for teachers.

Hundreds of teachers who are new in post, or working in pastoral or child protection roles, are to be offered support to manage the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland have partnered with social enterprise organisation KnowYouMore who will provide coaches for the new online one-to-one sessions. Sessions are already being offered to headteachers as part of a support package funded by the Scottish Government in 2020.

The new programme now includes support for more than 500 teachers in their first four years of post-probation to discuss any personal or professional pressures they are facing as a result of delivering remote learning.

Education Secretary John Swinney, said:

“COVID-19 has placed unprecedented strain on school staff and none more so than those who have pastoral care and child protection responsibilities ensuring the emotional welfare of our children and young people as we recover from the pandemic.

“The teacher support package I announced last year will complement the existing professional training and support already taking place for staff in schools across Scotland. Teachers need to be part of a supportive online community and have the space to stop and think about issues that are causing concern.”

Gayle Gorman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Education Scotland Chief Executive, said:

“Education Scotland is fully committed to ensuring the education workforce feel supported and I’m delighted this next phase of our coaching and mentoring offer is available more widely.

“We have found that it really benefits teachers to know there is someone with a listening ear who are there for them. Our 1:1 coaching and mentoring sessions for Headteachers have proved a really popular way of supporting their wellbeing and now the offer is also open to post probation teachers, teachers new to role and those with pastoral responsibilities. I would encourage more practitioners to sign up.”

Ken Muir, Chief Executive, of the General Teaching Council for Scotland, said:

“GTC Scotland is pleased to be working with our partners in education to deliver this important coaching to support hard-pressed teachers who are doing all they can to maintain quality learning in challenging circumstances. In addition to this coaching, GTC Scotland itself has invested heavily in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of education professionals and will continue to do so throughout the pandemic.”

Background

In September, 2020, the Scottish Government offered school staff new support as part of a £1.5 million funding package to help manage additional pressures as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Categories
Community Environment Health Mental Health

City MSPs Welcome Regeneration Funding

CAMPERDOWN COMMUNITY GROWING HUB TO RECEIVE REGENERATION FUNDING

Dundee’s SNP MSPs Joe FitzPatrick and Shona Robison have welcomed funding to support the Camperdown Community Growing Hub in Dundee through the Scottish Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF).

Schemes around Scotland are to receive a share of £25 million from the RCGF – including the Camperdown Community Growing Hub in Dundee, which will receive £899,305.

The RCGF will support 1,220 jobs and as well as thousands of training places by refurbishing and bringing back into use 26 empty buildings to provide space for community enterprises.

Joe FitzPatrick MSP (Dundee City West constituency) said:

“The Camperdown Community Growing Hub will be a fantastic initiative that will provide vital support for people across Dundee, so I am delighted to see that the SNP Government will be providing this extra funding.

“This project has the potential to help local people to eat more healthily, tackle food poverty, as well as support people with mental health issues.”

Shona Robison MSP (Dundee City East constituency) said:

“The SNP Government’s Regeneration Capital Grant Fund has been vital in supporting community-led regeneration projects and has invested more than £200 million since 2014.

“As we look towards our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, this investment in our communities will be vital.

“The hub at Camperdown will help to tackle inequalities, enable people to develop vital skills, and provide a facility that allows local people to grow healthy food for themselves and others, whilst simultaneously helping to reduce the city’s overall carbon footprint.”

* Photo shows view from City Road Allotments.

Categories
Carers Coronavirus Health

Extra Funding to Support Unpaid Carers

Additional £750,000 investment will help people take a break from caring roles.

An investment of £750,000 in local carer centres will increase support for unpaid carers of all ages, helping them to take a break from caring and access other much-needed help.

This recognises some of the challenges faced by unpaid carers, with many regular sources of support having stopped or moved online due to the pandemic.

It also comes in response to concerns about increasing pressure on carers – particularly while many traditional respite breaks are restricted or unavailable.

The funding will allow local carer centres to react flexibly to the needs of carers in their areas. Feedback from national and local carer representatives suggests there is a demand for extending existing services such as befriending, counselling or online support groups, as well as offering additional grants for carers which can be used for expenditure such as leisure equipment, hobbies or entertainment subscriptions.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Unpaid carers play a vital role in society but without the right support, caring relationships can break down, which can result additional health or social care support being needed for the cared for person, their carer, or both.

“This funding will enable carer centres to decide how best to promptly meet local need. It is designed to ensure more unpaid carers – including young carers – can benefit from a much-needed break and emotional support.”

On behalf of Scotland’s National Carer Organisations, Don Williamson, Chief Executive of Shared Care Scotland, said:

“COVID-19 has made life hugely challenging for unpaid carers, many of whom are struggling on with little or no opportunity to have any breaks from their caring. We therefore very much welcome this additional funding from Scottish Government which will go towards increasing the capacity of local carer services so they can provide support to more carers, including with accessing breaks, to help them over the particularly difficult winter months.”

Categories
Coronavirus Health

Independent Hospitals to Support Elective Care

Additional capacity to ensure urgent treatment continues.

Five independent hospitals are supporting NHS Scotland with elective care from this week, to ensure clinically urgent patients can continue to be seen and treated.

This additional support comes on top of the extra capacity already being provided by NHS Golden Jubilee and NHS Louisa Jordan for a number of elective treatments and outpatient appointments.

Following arrangements set out in the NHS Winter Preparedness Plan, the private sector hospitals will primarily support planned urgent care and cancer treatment, including breast surgery, urology, and gynaecology.

This will allow those who require planned urgent elective care to continue to be seen and treated, enabling health boards to concentrate on the front line response to COVID-19 and A&E services.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“The additional capacity provided by the independent sector, NHS Golden Jubilee and NHS Louisa Jordan is very welcome, and I am extremely grateful to all staff involved for their continued hard work.

“The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with Health Boards to ensure those requiring urgent elective and vital cancer care can be seen as quickly and safely as possible.

“Even as we expand our vaccination and testing programmes, the number of COVID patients within our hospitals remains very high – so it is absolutely vital that people continue to stay home, protect the NHS, and save lives.”

Background:

NHS Winter Preparedness Plan 2020-21

As of Monday 18 January, the independent hospitals that will support NHS capacity are:

  • Albyn NHS Grampian
  • Kings Park NHS Fife, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Tayside
  • Nuffield NHS Lanarkshire
  • Spire NHS Lothian
  • Ross Hall NHS Ayrshire & Arran, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

More than 10,000 procedures have been performed at NHS Golden Jubilee since services recommenced in July, across orthopaedics, ophthalmology, heart and lung surgery, endoscopy and diagnostic imaging, including:

  • Over 5,000 cardiothoracic and cardiology procedures – both planned and emergency
  • 1,516 orthopaedic patients
  • 2,114 ophthalmology patients (cataracts)
  • 1422 endoscopies
  • In addition, the recently opened NHS Golden Jubilee Eye Centre will perform more than 18,000 procedures each year

NHS Golden Jubilee has also carried out 565 urgent cancer operations to support the NHSScotland recovery plan.

NHS Louisa Jordan has been working with four NHS Boards to provide over 19,000 outpatient appointments across 14 specialties. These include orthopaedics, diagnostic imaging such as CT scanning and general x-ray, dermatology, oral medicine, plastics, rheumatology, breast clinics and occupational health services.

Over 19,000 NHS and social care staff have been vaccinated at the site, including 5,000 on Saturday.

Over 5,200 individuals from NHS Boards, the Royal College, Universities and Colleges have also been trained using the healthcare facilities and simulations on site.

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

Strengthening Lockdown Restrictions

Measures to maximise the impact of lockdown.

Further measures to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and limit non-essential contact will be introduced this weekend.

Nobody who lives in a Level 4 area should leave or remain outside their home except for essential purposes.

Working from home arrangements will be strengthened through updated statutory guidance. Working from home should now be the default position for all businesses and services, and only those who cannot do their job from home should be asked to go to the workplace.

From Saturday non-essential click and collect retail services will be prohibited in Level 4 areas and further changes will be put in place to how services open for essential purposes operate. Timeslots will be required for collection and people should not enter a store to collect an item. Businesses providing takeaway food will also operate on a ‘non-entry’ basis only, meaning customers cannot enter the premises when placing or collecting orders.

Restrictions banning the consumption of alcohol in public places will also be introduced.

In a statement to Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“The situation we face in relation to the virus remains extremely serious.

“We must continue to do everything possible to reduce case numbers – this is essential to relieve the pressure on our NHS and to save lives.

“Both individually and collectively, these additional measures – in further reducing the interactions that allow the virus to spread – will help our essential efforts to suppress it.

“At this critical and dangerous moment, please: Stay Home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.”

Background

The new regulations apply to all parts of Scotland currently in lockdown and will come into effect at 00.01 on Saturday

Read the Coronavirus (COVID-19): stay at home guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): local protection levels – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: First Minister’s statement 13 January 2021 – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

Click and Collect services offered by essential retailers can continue but will be suspended across retail other than for:

  • clothing and footwear stores
  • homeware stores
  • garden centres/plant nurseries
  • baby equipment shops
  • electrical goods (including repairs)
  • key cutting and shoe repair shops
  • bookstores
Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

Investment for Cancer Services

New Action Plan for the recovery and redesign of cancer care.

A planned investment of up to £114.5 million will ensure cancer patients continue to have equitable access to care in NHS Scotland regardless of where they live.

The Cancer Recovery Plan will improve patients’ experience of care, and will roll-out innovative treatments – many of which have been expedited by the pandemic – to improve cancer services.

A total of 68 actions will be driven forward across five themes to both redesign cancer services and increase NHS Scotland’s overall resilience to any future rises in coronavirus (COVID-19) prevalence.

The actions will be rolled out before March 2023 and will include:

  • two new Early Cancer Diagnostic Centres, established within the existing NHS infrastructure by Spring 2021
  • a programme of “Prehabilitation” helping patients prepare for treatment
  • a single point of contact for cancer patients to support them throughout their diagnosis and treatment
  • a resource dedicated to the national oversight of clinical management guidelines

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:“Patients are at the heart of this plan and their safety and that of our NHS staff will continue to be our priority.

“I would like to thank healthcare staff, the Scottish Cancer Coalition and other partners for their contributions to the plan and their continued help in supporting cancer patients.

“Throughout the pandemic NHS Scotland has remained open, continuing to provide emergency and urgent cancer care , as well as maintaining COVID-19 capacity and resilience.

“Many innovative approaches adopted during the COVID-19 response will be maintained as part of the Cancer Recovery Plan, including the use of video technology, national approaches to prioritisation, innovative diagnostic techniques, timely triaging, and quicker decision making in regards to new treatment options.

“The Plan will continue the momentum of these approaches to service improvement and re-design, ensuring cancer patients have access to the best available treatment and care across Scotland.”

Chair of the Scottish Cancer Coalition and Head of External Affairs for Scotland at Bowel Cancer UK Claire Donaghy said:“Every member of the Scottish Cancer Coalition has seen first-hand the significant impact COVID-19 has had on cancer services in Scotland, and we are pleased that ‘Recovery and Redesign: An action plan for cancer services’ has been published.

“The Scottish Government clearly recognises the crucial role the third sector has in supporting cancer patients, and we welcomed the opportunity to input into the development of the plan.

“NHS Scotland continues to face unprecedented pressures, and we hope that the 68 identified actions will help to ensure the delivery of improved cancer services and patient outcomes.”

Background

The 68 actions in the plan will focus on five themes: Patient & Family Support, Detection & Diagnosis, Treatment, Workforce and Governance & System Support.

The Cancer Recovery Plan will be delivered with oversight from the National Cancer Recovery Group, co-chaired by Professor Aileen Keel and NHS Tayside Chief Executive Grant Archibald, and is aligned to the NHS Remobilise, Recover and Re-design Framework. It has taken into account the views and experiences of patients and their families and those of a number of stakeholders, from the Scottish Cancer Coalition, including Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, to the Less Survivable Cancer Taskforce.

Re-mobilise, Recover, Re-design, The Framework for NHS Scotland 

COVID-19: Scotland’s route map for transitioning through and out of the crisis

More detail on Health Boards mobilisation plans

Framework for recovery of cancer surgery

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

First Vaccinations in Care Homes

90 year old former carer receives her initial dose.

The first vaccinations in care homes in Scotland have taken place.

90 year old Annie Innes was the first care home resident in the country to receive the vaccine. Annie worked as a carer for over 14 years and has been living at the the Abercorn House Care home in Hamilton for six months.

Staff from NHS Lanarkshire administered vaccines to 52 residents as the roll-out of the vaccination programme continued. Second to receive her first dose at the care home was former bar tender 82 year old Margaret Keating who has been a resident at Abercorn House for just over a year.

Those issuing the vaccines became the first to get their initial doses on Tuesday 8 December.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“I want to thank all those involved in the roll-out of the vaccination programme. It has been a challenge to get the Pfizer vaccine into care homes because of transport and storage requirements but I am delighted to see Mrs Innes become the first care home resident to receive her vaccine and I wish her many more years of good health.

“Throughout the pandemic our priority has been to save lives and keep people safe. Vaccines give us a vital additional layer of protection we haven’t had until now.

“As more vaccines become available over the coming months we will be able to continue to extend the roll-out, but initially we are focussing on residents in care homes for older adults and their carers, as we know that older adults in care homes are at the highest risk of severe disease and death from COVID.”

“Those receiving their vaccines this week will get their second doses early in the New Year. Following advice from the MHRA we are keeping 50 per cent of the stock we have back to allow this to happen,

“Of course, we won’t rely solely on the vaccine to protect our care home residents and that’s why we are also significantly accelerating the delivery of testing kits to all care homes for designated visitors.

“But vital and welcome as the vaccine is, it really matters that all of us continue to follow all the guidance and rules including FACTS. Washing our hands regularly, wearing face coverings and keeping two metres distance from others really does make a difference in keeping us and our loved ones safe and keeping pressure off the NHS so it can care for COVID patients and others who need it’s help. We’ve a few more months to go before the vaccine work has been rolled out fully so meantime, we all need to stick together as we have done so we can get through to the lives we all want to live.”

Health & Social Care North Lanarkshire nurse director Trudi Marshall, who is managing the care home vaccination programme across the whole of Lanarkshire, said:

“This programme represents the biggest logistical challenges Lanarkshire, and the country, has ever faced.

“We’ve very rapidly scaled up our vaccinator nursing workforce and carried out detailed planning, which will enable us to vaccinate 2,990 care home residents and 5,601 staff across 93 care homes. In addition, the safe transport and storage of the vaccines has also been a very complex area of work and our staff have been excellent in meeting these challenges so diligently.

“It’s important to recognise just how much work our staff have put in to the process in such a short time. Care home staff and managers also deserve praise for their fantastic co-operation and help.

“Every day we see just how hard care home staff are working to keep residents safe. In addition, they are also liaising with our Care Home Liaison team every step of the way in planning for the roll-out of the vaccines.

“We have a detailed vaccination plan in place which we are communicating to care homes. While this is a very quick moving and complex operation, we’re dedicated to ensuring they are prepared for our visits and resident and staff have consented to receiving the vaccination.

“I’d urge all eligible care home residents and staff to take-up the vaccine to protect themselves and others. I fully understand we’re all eager to get vaccinated, however I’d call for people across Lanarkshire to please be patient as we work through priority groups.”

Resident Annie Innes said:

“It’s wonderful to get the vaccine before Christmas.

“I hope it keeps me, my friends here and the staff safe and means we can get back to normal very soon.

“The nurses and the care home staff have been great with us and we are relieved to have been offered the vaccine.”

Background

Remember FACTS for a safer Scotland:

F – Face coverings

A – Avoid crowded places

C – Clean your hands regularly

T – Two metre distance

S – Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

Dundee to Remain in Level 3

More than two million people who have been living under the strictest COVID-19 protection level for three weeks will have restrictions eased this Friday (11 December).

This follows improvement in the number of new cases in recent weeks in the 11 Level 4 local authority areas which will now drop down to Level 3.

Overall, half of all Scotland’s local authorities will move down a level this coming Friday.

The First Minister told Parliament:

“The fall in infection rates in these areas – the most highly populated in the country – have contributed to an improvement in the situation across Scotland as a whole. All of this puts us in a much better position to cope with the inevitable difficulties of winter.

“However, it does not remove the need for a cautious approach. The risks and challenges of the next few months are clear.

“That is why, in reaching decisions today, we have had to consider the potential overall impact of moving to a lower level of restrictions at the same time as the Christmas period begins in earnest.”

The First Minister also announced that Angus, Inverclyde and Falkirk will drop a level going from 3 to 2.

Finally, Dumfries and Galloway and Borders Councils will drop to Level 1, following significant improvements in suppressing the virus in these two areas.

All other areas remain unchanged in their levels.

The easing of restrictions will happen from 6pm on Friday, 11 December.

However, retail outlets in areas dropping down to Level 3 can re-open from 6am on Friday in a move intended to help stores and shopping centres better manage the flow of customers after the period of closure.

However, the First Minister stressed that travel restrictions remain in place and no-one in a Level 3 area, or – until Friday – a Level 4 area, should travel outside their local authority area, except for essential purposes.

There will also be an easing of restrictions on gathering in homes for islands communities which are not linked by road to the mainland. Up to six people from a maximum of two households will be allowed to meet in private homes in Level 1 island communities. Islands with road links to the mainland, however, will not be included in this relaxation.

Background

Levels allocations at 6pm on Friday 11 December except retail which can open from 6am.

Level 1:

  • Highland
  • Moray
  • Western Isles
  • Orkney
  • Shetland
  • Scottish Borders
  • Dumfries & Galloway

Level 2:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Aberdeen
  • Argyll & Bute
  • Angus
  • Inverclyde
  • Falkirk

Level 3:

  • Fife
  • Perth & Kinross
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • City of Glasgow
  • South Ayrshire
  • East Ayrshire
  • North Ayrshire
  • Stirling
  • Clackmannanshire
  • City of Edinburgh
  • Midlothian
  • West Lothian
  • East Lothian
  • Dundee
  • North Lanarkshire
  • South Lanarkshire

The assessment of what level of protection should be applied to each local authority is broadly based on an analysis of five key indicators:

  • number of positive COVID-19 cases per hundred thousand people over the last week
  • percentage of positive tests
  • forecast for new cases in the weeks ahead
  • capacity of local hospitals
  • capacity of local intensive care facilities

These factors are assessed alongside the advice and recommendations of local public health officials, National Incident Management Team, the Scottish Government’s chief clinical and policy advisors, and consideration of local circumstances, such as: specific COVID-19 outbreaks; travel and work patterns; and the extent to which health services are provided by neighbouring health boards. Final decisions are based on all of these factors.

Alongside a table setting out the levels, a detailed analysis paper has also been published setting out the Scottish Government’s assessment and overall decision for each local authority.

Find out more about the COVID protection levels and what you can and cannot do at each level.

The five-level strategic framework aims to tackle COVID-19 with measures strong enough to reduce virus prevalence while proportionate to the scale of the problem in different parts of the country – and in a way that minimises, as far as possible, the other harms caused by the pandemic.

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

COVID-19 Vaccination Programme To Start Next Week

Deliveries of the first coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to Scotland are expected to be made early next week with injections being given from Tuesday 8 December.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has confirmed that the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been authorised for use in the UK.

The vaccine, which must be stored at well below freezing, will be transported to 23 locations around the country in temperature controlled lorries.

Everyone being vaccinated will need two vaccines, between 21 and 28 days apart.

Those giving the vaccination to others will receive the injection first. The programme will then follow the independent advice received from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which recommends prioritising those with the greatest clinical need – including those aged over 80, and health and social care workers. The storage requirements mean logistics around delivery to care homes are more challenging and they are currently under consideration.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Today’s announcement confirming that a safe and effective vaccine can now be used is the best news than any of us have heard about the virus since the pandemic began.

“As long as we receive the first doses of vaccine when we expect to, we will begin vaccinating from Tuesday next week.

“It is of course worth remembering that everyone will require two vaccines, with the second vaccine between 21 and 28 days after the first, so even for those who are among the first, there will be very few completed until early next year.

“We intend to vaccinate the vaccinators first, followed by the priority groups recommended by the JCVI, however we also need to take account of the conditions attached to the authorisation to supply the vaccine which will present challenges around transporting the vaccine to care homes and individual homes.

“We are therefore in the process of working through how we can ensure people in priority groups in those settings can be vaccinated.

“For all the difficulties that lie ahead, it should give us all real hope that the end of the pandemic is in sight.”

Categories
Children Education Health

SNP Announce Free School Meals For All Primary School Pupils

“Progressive vision to tackle poverty in the face of Tory cuts”

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick has welcomed the announcement that every primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free school meals, all year around, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, set out this latest step in the drive to tackle child poverty and make Scotland the first nation in the UK to offer universal free primary school meals at the SNP annual conference this weekend.

The SNP previously extended eligibility for a free school lunch to all P1 to P3 pupils while P4 to P7 pupils are eligible based on a range of income and benefits criteria.

Now, in the face of predictions that Westminster cuts will drive child poverty rates even higher, the expansion – estimated to cost around £230 million per year in additional expenditure – will introduce a free year-round breakfast and lunch for all primary school pupils from August 2022.

SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has put real financial pressure on families, and it’s right that the Scottish Government ensured that children in Dundee would continue to receive free school meals over the holidays.

“But we will not stop there. If the SNP is re-elected in May, every single primary school pupil in Dundee will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch, all year round.

“And unlike the Tories, we didn’t have to be publicly shamed and condemned into choosing to feed hungry children – that is the basic duty of any government.

“This ambitious expansion of the free school meals scheme is the next step in our battle to stop the Tories forcing more and more kids into poverty, support families, and make Scotland the best place to grow up.

“That progressive vision, underpinned by human rights, equality and wellbeing, is exactly why people in Scotland continue to put their faith in the SNP.”

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

Second Phase of Flu Vaccine

People aged 60-64 will be invited to receive the seasonal flu vaccine from 1 December as part of the largest flu immunisation program ever delivered in Scotland.

The most effective way to protect against flu this winter is continuing to prioritise those who are most at risk, especially in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

With vaccination for the first phase of the flu programme well under way, eligibility is being extended next to those aged 60-64.

Those entitled to the flu vaccine will receive an invitation letter by post from their health board letting them know where they can receive the vaccine and how to book an appointment.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nicola Steedman said:

“Flu is serious in itself, but with COVID-19 also circulating in the community, getting a flu jab is more important than ever.

“For those who may be concerned about going to get the flu vaccine, we can assure you that there will be strict infection and prevention control measures in place at delivery sites to protect you.

“The vaccine is safe, and the best protection we have against flu. This year more than ever it is important that those invited for vaccination take up the offer to protect themselves, their family and, where possible, the NHS. I’ve had my vaccine already, and would urge all of those who are eligible, including the new group of 60-64 year olds, to get one too.

“We will continue to adapt our approach to any changes that occur throughout flu season, always prioritising those most at risk from flu, as well as seeking to protect the NHS.”

Background

NHS Inform is the best source of information for finding out more about how you will be invited to book a flu vaccine appointment

Vaccination policy in Scotland, as with the rest of the UK, is based on recommendations from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group which considers a full range of available evidence before providing impartial advice on matters relating to vaccination. It is recommended that we prioritise those most at clinical risk, and we continue to do that as we review vaccine uptake levels.

We are operating in a context where global supplies of flu vaccine are constrained. If demand for the vaccine is a lot higher than we predicted, then those at the greatest clinical risk will continue to be prioritised.

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health Social Security

More People Can Claim Self-Isolation Support Grant

Help extended to parents of children self-isolating.

The £500 Self-Isolation Support Grant is being extended to include parents on low incomes whose children are asked to self-isolate, Social Security Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced today.

The grant will also become available to those who may be eligible for Universal Credit, but have not yet applied.

Both changes will be introduced from 7 December.

Ms Somerville said:

“We introduced this grant at unprecedented speed, and I am grateful for the work of COSLA and councils to ensure it is up and running.

“While self-isolation can be difficult for everyone, we know there are particular financial barriers to complying faced by some people.

“We always said we would review this grant to make sure it worked for people who face hardship as a result of self-isolation. That is why we are making changes for some people who are not currently eligible.

“We are extending it to parents of children aged under 16 who need to take time off work because their child is told to self-isolate, and also to people who are eligible for Universal Credit, but have not claimed it – providing they fulfil all of the other criteria for the grant.

“Supporting people to self-isolate is critical to controlling the spread of the virus. These are important changes, and I am grateful to councils for their continued work to support those who can claim this grant.”

COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson Councillor Kelly Parry said:

“COSLA welcomes the Self-Isolation Support Grant being extended to parents and carers of children who have been asked to stay home from school because of the virus and that it will also include those with an underlying eligibility for benefits.

“Council staff across the country have been working really hard to ensure the grant is accessible to people who have experienced a loss in income after being asked to self-isolate.

“By extending the eligibility for the grants, more people will be helped to stop the spread of the virus over the winter period.”

Background

The Self-Isolation Support Grant provides £500 for low income workers who are in receipt of Universal Credit or other benefits and will lose earnings as a result of having to self-isolate.

Parents or carers of children under 16 who are asked to self-isolate, but who are not required to self-isolate themselves, are not currently eligible for the grant.

This is why the grant will be extended to those parents and carers, where they fulfil the other eligibility criteria:

  • employed or self-employed and unable to work from home
  • in receipt of Universal Credit or one of those which will be replaced by UC (legacy benefits)
  • facing a loss of income from looking after the child during the period of self-isolation

Only one claim per household can be made, where a parent or primary carer is required to look after a child who must isolate.

Eligibility will also be extended to people with a low level of income which means they would be entitled to Universal Credit.

Categories
Community Safety Coronavirus Health Mental Health Public Health

Cautious Approach To Christmas