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
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
Children Coronavirus Education Public Health

Remote Learning For Schools

Guidance for teachers and families published.

Guidance for teachers and families to support remote learning in schools has been published by Education Scotland.

It has been created in partnership through the Education Recovery Group and sets out a shared understanding of the key principles of remote learning, the support and resources available for teachers and families and what children and young people are entitled to.

This is in addition to remote learning guidance already produced by local authorities for schools to plan and prepare.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said:

“Our national e-learning offer, launched in June 2020, is already strengthening the remote and e-learning option available to schools. All authorities and schools in Scotland are already able to access to live, recorded and supported learning resources, while more than 50,000 devices such as laptops have been distributed to children and young people to help with remote learning.

“I am grateful for the huge amount of work that has already been done to prepare for next week and more is being done in order to continuously improve the national remote learning offer. This guidance sets out a range of entitlements for children and young people during the period of remote learning. It highlights the importance of achieving an appropriate balance of live learning and independent activity and an entitlement to ongoing dialogue, reflection and feedback with teachers.”

Background

Read the guidance.

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
Public Health

Blood Donor Criteria Updated

Fairer risk assessment to be implemented.

Changes to the questions asked of blood donors will ensure more gay and bisexual men are able to donate blood in the future.

Currently, men are not able to donate blood in the UK if they have had sex with another man in the past three months, in line with previous expert advice.

New recommendations, which the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is satisfied will continue to ensure blood safety, mean men will no longer be automatically barred from giving blood if they have had sex with another man in the last three months. Instead, everyone will be given a more individual risk assessment, which will involve all potential donors being asked a few additional questions about their sexual behaviours.

Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) will ensure there is information available for donors to explain the reasons for the changes and to give reassurance that all information provided by donors is kept strictly in confidence.

The changes follow recommendations by the specialist steering group for Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) made up of leading medical and academic experts and LGBTI+ groups.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:

“I welcome the recommendations of the FAIR group, which will enable a more individualised risk assessment approach to blood donor safety checks while continuing to ensure the safe supply of blood to patients.

“We are committed to equality and inclusion, and these changes will ensure a fairer and more up to date assessment of risk is applied to both men and women to identify whether donors may be at risk of a blood-borne virus infection.

“I am pleased to announce SNBTS expects to be able to implement these changes by summer 2021. They will be working to prepare their systems and staff for these changes and will also be working to raise awareness of the changes with existing and potential donors in advance.”

SNBTS Director Craig Spalding said:

“We are proud to have been involved in the work that has been undertaken to enable the Scottish Government to make an informed decision on reviewing and changing donor eligibility requirements.

“Donor eligibility based on personal risk assessments, rather than on broader demographic information such as sexuality, is a welcome change.

“We are grateful for all the donors of Scotland and are looking forward to welcoming a broader cross section of the population, in particular those men who have sex with men who will be able to donate blood under the new criteria.”

Background

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service will adopt the recommendations of the FAIR steering group with the details due to be published shortly by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

The changes will mean that men who have sex with men (MSM) will not be automatically deferred if they have had sex with another man within the past three months.

More information about the FAIR Report will be made available on the NHS Blood and Transplant website.

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 Public Health

Testing For Care Home Visitors Gets Underway

New approach to be trialled in 14 care homes.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing for designated visitors of care home residents will start this week with a trial across five local authority areas.

From Monday 7 December, lateral flow testing of designated visitors will be trialled in 14 early adopter care homes in North Ayrshire, Fife, Argyll and Bute, Inverclyde, and Aberdeenshire.

Testing kits will then be sent out to all care homes from Monday 14 December, as announced by the First Minister on Wednesday, once guidance and training materials have been finalised following the trial.

For any care homes unable to make use of lateral flow tests before Christmas, PCR testing of visitors will be available when necessary to facilitate visiting over the festive period.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“This is a positive step for care homes, residents and their families and friends, that will provide another important layer of protection against COVID, alongside the essential PPE and infection prevention and control measures already in place.

“I’m very pleased to say we will be able to significantly accelerate the delivery of testing kits to all cares homes from 14 December, following the necessary trial phase to ensure we have the right guidance and training in place.

“This will require a significant amount of work from care homes, and we will continue to work closely with Health and Social Care Partnerships, Scottish Care, CCPS and COSLA as test kits are rolled out to ensure they have the support they need to deliver testing for designated visitors.

“However, it’s important to remember that testing does not replace the other vital layers of protection we have against COVID, and all of these – reducing contacts, keeping our distance, wearing face coverings, and vaccines when they come – work most effectively to stop the virus when they are used together.”

Background

Care home visiting guidance

Visiting arrangements will be different for each home but it is anticipated that testing will take place in a designated area in the care home. Visitors will self-swab and the test will be conducted by care home staff.

Where the test is negative visitor will continue to the visit using full PPE and infection prevention and control measures measures as outlined in current visiting guidance, where there is a positive result the visitor will be advised to leave the home, self-isolate and book a PCR test either online at NHSInform.scot, or by calling 0800 028 2816.

Categories
Drugs Public Health

Residential Rehabilitation Working Group Publish Recommendations

This report provides a set of recommendations to the Scottish Government and other partners involved in reducing the harms caused by problematic use of alcohol and drugs – recommendations which aim to improve access to residential rehabilitation treatment.

Scottish Government Minister for Public Health, Joe FitzPatrick MSP said:

“I welcome the findings of the group. This research will help us to improve the provision and quality of residential rehabilitation services.”

Residential rehabilitation treatment for drug and alcohol problems is a well-established intervention acknowledged in the Drug Misuse and Dependence National Clinical Guidelines as an important option for some people requiring treatment. A recently published international review of residential treatment outcomes for substance use disorders, which included a methodologically strong study from Scotland, found evidence for the effectiveness of residential treatment in improving outcomes across a number of substance use and life domains. It is important there is access to this intervention evenly across Scotland and that national models are developed around planning, value for money, commissioning, referral pathways, types of intervention, discharge and aftercare, what constitutes good or best practice and monitoring or regulation.

The report can be found at:

https://www.gov.scot/publications/residential-rehabilitation-working-group-preliminary-recommendations-drug-alcohol-residential-treatment-services/

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 Coronavirus Public Health Social Security

Winter Support Fund for Families and Children

£100 million package will help communities at risk.

Funding to help people pay for food, heating, warm clothing and shelter during the winter is part of a new £100m support package.

The fund will help those on low incomes, children and people at risk of homelessness or social isolation cope with winter weather and the economic impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) and Brexit.

The Winter Plan for Social Protection, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, will also address domestic abuse and digital exclusion.

COVID-19 has had a significant negative effect on Scotland’s economy hitting jobs and living standards hard – and Brexit will exacerbate the situation.

With winter approaching, some of Scotland’s most at-risk communities are facing rising costs for food, fuel and other essentials.

Key elements of the plan include:

  • £22m for low income families including £16m to give the low income families of an estimated 156,000 children in receipt of free school meals a one-off £100 payment by Christmas
  • £23.5m to help vulnerable children through additional support for residential and care homes, social work, and the Children’s Hearing system
  • £15m for the Communities and Third Sector Recovery Programme to support the work of local organisations
  • £5.9m to promote digital inclusion for older people, support social isolation and loneliness and to promote equality
  • £7m to help people who are struggling to pay fuel bills
  • £5m to help those at risk of homelessness find a settled home

The Winter Plan for Social Protection also includes £15m of flexible funding for local authorities entering COVID-19 protection level 4 – announced by the First Minister earlier this month – which can be used to pay for food and essentials.

The First Minister said:

“We will shortly become the only part of the UK to give low income families an extra £10 per week for every child – initially for children up to age 6 and then for every child up to age 16.

“This has been described as a game changer in the fight to end child poverty. The first payments will be made in February, but I know that for families struggling now, February is still a long way off.

“So I am announcing today a £100 million package to bridge that gap, and help others struggling most with the impact of COVID over the winter months.

“It will include money to help people pay their fuel bills and make sure children don’t go hungry. It will offer additional help for the homeless, and fund an initiative to get older people online and connected. And it will provide a cash grant of £100 for every family with children in receipt of free school meals.

“The money will be paid before Christmas and families can use it for whatever will help them through the winter.

“That could be food, new shoes or a winter coat for the kids. Families will know best what they need – that’s not for government to decide.

“Initiatives like this are not just about providing practical help to those who need it most – they are an expression of our values and of the kind of country we are seeking to build.”

Background

The £100m Winter Plan for Social Protection has been developed to mitigate social harms posed by the concurrent risks of COVID-19, winter cost of living increases and EU exit, as well as to promote equality and human rights.

The full breakdown of the £100m fund is:

Support for families on low incomes (£22m)

Supporting services for children and young people (£23.5m)

Enhancing capacity within the third sector and communities (£15m)

Funds for local authorities moving into level 4 (£15m)

Further help with fuel costs (£7m)

Further investment in strategic national food activity (£2m)

Further investment to support people affected by homelessness (£5.14m)

Increased digital inclusion through Connecting Scotland for older people, support for social isolation and loneliness and strategic investment to promote equality (£5.91m)

A campaign on benefit uptake and income maximisation (£0.25m)

Reserve fund to meet potential pressures (£4.2m)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said:

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

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

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

The approach states:

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

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for festive period

Categories
Coronavirus Public Health Transport

£2 Million Spaces for People Walking and Cycling Fund for Dundee

WORK has started to deliver four types of project funded by a second bid to make it safer for walking or cycling for commuting, essential trips and exercise.

A £2 million application to Sustrans to back upgrading the Green Circular, connecting schools and communities, pop-up cycle lanes on commuter routes and measures around physical distancing in District Centres was agreed earlier this year.

The charity distributing funds on behalf of the Scottish Government endorsed the second request following the success of the first Spaces for People projects in the city, and have continued to work closely with the council in the planning and use of the funds.

Mark Flynn convener of Dundee City council’s city development committee said:

“I am pleased to see that the preparation work is well underway on what are another set of exciting and interesting projects.

“It takes safe active travel for pedestrians, wheelers and cyclists during the Covid period out to more areas across the city and broadens the scope of measures already in place.

“These four new projects provide greater encouragement for people to use cleaner, greener and healthier ways of getting to and from their destination, not just in the current period but also as we move into the future. Reinstatement and relaunch of Dundee Green Circular was awarded £400,000 to re-establish Scotland’s first sustainable “ring-road” with work to take place at 20 sites along the route including resurfacing, widening, installing traffic signs and removing overgrown vegetation.

A £400,000 project will help to boost usage of the established cycling network connecting schools and communities. It will incorporate widening the existing footway in the park near St Andrews PS and provision for a table top crossing at St Leonards Place; a new footway/cycleway along the south verge of Gilburn Road and provision for a new pedestrian crossing near Asda to improve the safer route to St Paul’s Academy.

In addition, a new footway/cycleway within the central reservation in Balgowan Avenue will improve the safer routes and connecting school links for St Andrews, Sidlaw View and St Paul’s.

To connect communities a new footway/cycleway link will be created along West Grange Road from Lawers Drive to the existing cycleway/footway link adjacent to A92 Arbroath Road.

New pop-up cycle lanes will use £700,000 of the money to improve the key commuter route between the city centre and Ninewells Hospital. The council has been working closely with NHS Tayside over the past two years to identify potential improvements that will make it easier and safer for people to travel to and around the Ninewells Hospital site on foot and by bi