Categories
Coronavirus

COVID-19 antibody testing

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

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

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

Dr Smith said:

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

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

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

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

Background:

WHO advice on antibody tests

SAGE advice on antibody tests

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

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

Categories
Business Coronavirus

Further route map detail announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indicative Phase 2 dates:

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

Indicative Phase 3 dates:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously announced Phase 2 measures commencing Monday:

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

Categories
Coronavirus Education

Safe return to schools and nurseries

Scientific advice behind re-opening published.

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

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

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

The paper highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background

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

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

Categories
Coronavirus Education Universities

Dundee’s Universities Set to Benefit from £75m Covid-19 Funding

One-off Scottish Government payment to help mitigate financial effects of COVID-19.

The Scottish Government has announced a one-off £75 million increase in funding for Scotland’s universities to ensure they can protect their world-leading research programmes against the financial impact of COVID-19.

The significant intervention will help secure the jobs and training needed to support ongoing and future research work, meaning institutions can concentrate fully on planning the long-term future of a sector so vital to the Scottish economy.

Universities will also be expected to adapt and use their own resources, as well as the packages of support for businesses provided by the UK Government, to counter the effects of the pandemic on research operations.

The new funding will replace lost research income, protect research jobs, and help universities focus more effort on the high priority research needed to fight the outbreak and to support society and the economy, post COVID-19.

Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, has now written to his UK Government counterpart Michelle Donelan, Minister of State for Universities, calling for a UK investment and support package for Higher Education (HE), including additional financial support for universities, to ensure they and their graduates can continue to play a key role in the UK’s economic and social recovery from the pandemic.

Scottish university income has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, most notably by a loss of international student income, cancelled conference bookings, and returned accommodation fees. Recent Scottish Funding Council (SFC) analysis indicated Scottish universities face a loss of around £72 million due to COVID-19 this academic year alone, with a collective operating deficit of between £384 million and £651 million forecast for next academic year.

The Scottish Government is working with the SFC and the sector to mitigate the current issues across the range of university activities including research, supporting teaching excellence and student well-being.

“Our world-renowned university research activities are under threat from COVID-19, from a loss of university income to the risk to jobs and investment.  That research is critical to Scotland’s future public health and prosperity. So we are investing now to protect our research sector’s excellence, with £75 million of additional funding, as we plan together for the future sustainability of Scotland’s society and economy as a whole.

“We are taking a partnership approach, talking to the universities and staff unions, as we build up our response. For the universities’ part, they are stepping up with a willingness to use part of this investment to support PhD students whose studies have been impacted by COVID-19.  

“Now we need the UK Government to join those efforts. So far, their main interventions have been focused on the HE sector south of the border. We need the UK Government to take a UK approach and join with Scottish universities and the Scottish Government to build a support package that will protect the sector from the impact of this virus.”

Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP

The additional funding will be administered by the SFC.

“This is very welcome additional funding for research in Scotland.  We will work closely with the sector to ensure it helps universities continue with vital research, including the response to COVID-19, and contributions to our subsequent recovery.” 

SFC Chief Executive, Karen Watt

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s recognition of the role research and innovation will play in supporting business and industry and strengthening our post COVID-19 economy and society.

“The pace of this commitment, and the injection of confidence it will give the research community within the sector, is very welcome.

“We will work closely with Government and the Scottish Funding Council to ensure this resource has the most impact, including support for our PhD students, who are our pipeline of talent for future research and who have been adversely affected by the instability created by the pandemic.”

Universities Scotland Convenor, Professor Andrea Nolan

Background

The additional money is research capital funding. University research is classed as capital in the current 2020-21 Scottish budget.  The details of the allocation to individual universities will be subject to consultation with the sector by the Scottish Funding Council. 

A number of PhD students will have their work interrupted by, as examples, the closure of laboratories or the inability to pursue fieldwork owing to COVID-19.  This intervention will give universities additional resource to respond, for example, by offering financial support to a student to extend a project once their practical work can recommence.

Categories
Coronavirus Mental Health

Supporting mental health

Further investment to help children and families during pandemic.

Key mental health services to support families, young people and autistic people are to receive more than £1 million additional funding.

Health Secretary Ms Freeman made the announcement today (Sunday) following 40 days of lockdown when many people have felt an effect on their mental health. The allocation of funding comprises:

• £768,000 for a relationships helpline to be delivered by The Spark counselling service
• £105,000 to support Young Scot to develop enhanced digital content and resources on mental health
• £205,000 to support 47,000 autistic people across Scotland, including funding to increase capacity at the Scottish Autism Helpline and help for the National Autistic Society to keep people in touch online during lockdown

Ms Freeman said:

“While everyone is experiencing different challenges at this time, the mental health of children, young people and families can be put under great strain.

“We appreciate that spending a lot of time together in isolation and home-working, home-schooling and juggling childcare can be really tough.

“This crisis means many people are dealing with anxiety, fear, uncertainty, anger or sadness. They may feel overwhelmed and relationships can be placed under a lot of pressure.

“We want to ensure that the right help and support is in place for the mental wellbeing of our children, young people and families. This package of measures focuses on prevention and recovery, and on maintaining healthy relationships throughout the current restrictions. It follows the launch of our national campaign, Clear Your Head, last week.”

Background

The Clear Your Head campaign highlights practical ways to look after mental health and wellbeing while continuing to stay at home – and signposts sources of help and advice.

The Spark is a third sector organisation which delivers counselling services to families across Scotland, including relationship and couples counselling and counselling for children and young people. They currently operate a Relationship Helpline on a small scale for nine hours a week. The number of the Relationship Helpline is 0808 802 2088 and this additional funding will enable the helpline to operate Monday-Thursday 9am to 9pm and Friday 9am to 4pm. 

Scotland has launched a digital resource called Mind Yer Time specifically to help children and young people learn about the healthy use of screens and social media. It supports mental and physical health online and was developed by the Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament. In the first ten days since its launch the guide had almost 13,000 views.

The additional funding will allow the Scottish Autism Helpline to open 8am-8pm, seven days a week on 01259 222022.

Further details of the additional funding for autism support.

Categories
Coronavirus Drugs Prisons

Supporting people affected by drug use

Over £2 million for new package of support during coronavirus (COVID-19).

New measures to assist those affected by drug use during the COVID-19 pandemic have been announced by the Scottish Government.

The measures include:

  • £1.9 million to support people in prison on prescribed Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) to switch to a new longer-acting form called buvidal
  • £150,000 for an enhanced offer of residential rehab to people leaving prison during the pandemic to support their recovery and to reduce the pressure on local services
  • widening the availability of overdose reversal drug Naloxone while measures to tackle coronavirus remain in place

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick MSP said:

“While this public health crisis is ongoing, we must not lose sight of the fact there continues to be a significant number of highly vulnerable individuals who are at great risk of harm as a result of alcohol and drug use, who continue to need a wide range of help and support.

“Buvidal is an alternative to methadone or buprenorphine tablets which is administered by a seven or 28 day injectable dose, rather than daily administration. By making this available to people in prisons, we will support continuity of care, while reducing the need for daily contact and reducing pressure on our front line prison officers and NHS staff.

“Furthermore, a high proportion of those leaving or about to leave prison will require support for their recovery from problem alcohol or drug. Funding to pay for additional residential rehabilitation places will support their recovery and to reduce the pressure on local services.

“I welcome the Lord Advocate’s statement of prosecution policy in respect of the distribution of naloxone during the period of disruption caused by COVID-19. This will help to ensure that we can continue to support those affected by drug use and keep them safe.”

Joe FitzPatrick MSP on a visit to Addaction Dundee in 2019
Categories
Business Coronavirus

Extra £100 million Business Support

Scottish Enterprise have helpfully been in touch this afternoon to provide more information about eligibility for the additional £100 million financial support for businesses from The Scottish Government now open for applications at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/

Please see below and in the attached slides for info. ⬇️

Dear Joe,

Further to Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop’s announcement that the Scottish Government’s additional £100m fund for businesses impacted by COVID-19 will open for applications later today, we wanted to provide you with further information about this support.

Companies will be able apply via our partner website https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/. This grant funding has been divided into three distinct funds:

➡️ The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund – a £45m fund for viable but vulnerable SME firms who are vital to Scotland’s economy

➡️ The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund – a £20m fund for small creative, tourism and hospitality companies not in receipt of COVID-19 business rates relief

➡️ The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund – a £35m fund for newly self-employed facing hardship through £2,000 grants

In a collaborative approach, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and South of Scotland Enterprise will deliver both the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund and the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, with support from Creative Scotland and VisitScotland.

The Newly Self-Employed Hardship Fund will be delivered by local authorities. Links to individual local authority applications are available via the https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/ website. Full information about the eligibility criteria for this fund has been attached.

We are acutely aware of how tough a time this is for businesses in Scotland, so demand for this additional funding is likely to be exceptionally high. A guiding principle for us throughout this crisis has been to provide support to those who need it most. Delivering this extra assistance will be no different and will be of vital importance in order to support the economy.

For the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, support will be targeted at businesses that can demonstrate the following:

➡️ Drive economic prosperity – for example through wages, employment, exports, supply chain, etc.
➡️ Are a supplier or potential supplier to NHS or other COVID-19 vital services
➡️ Are suppliers to other essential businesses
➡️ Can scale up or diversify due to COVID-19 opportunities
➡️ Continue to trade or can quickly come out of hibernation
➡️ Play an important role within their local community

For the Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund, support will be targeted at businesses in this sector that can demonstrate financial hardship due to COVID-19.

For each fund, companies must meet the following eligibility criteria:

The Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund:

➡️ Companies with up to 249 employees that have been trading successfully prior to COVID-19
➡️ Less than €50m turnover or balance sheet total of €43m
➡️ Can demonstrate the funding will support the business to be viable
➡️ Not in financial difficulty before 31 December 2019
➡️ Must have business bank account

The Creative, Tourism & Hospitality Enterprises Hardship Fund:

➡️ Companies up to 49 employees
➡️ Experienced at least a 50% loss of current or projected revenue
➡️ Not in financial difficulty pre 31th December 2019
➡️ Are not in receipt of other COVID-19 government support, except Coronavirus Job Retention ‘Furlough’ Scheme
➡️ Not for pre-revenue companies
➡️ Must have a business bank account

We have all worked together at pace to ensure the appropriate infrastructure and capacity is in place to deliver this support. Resources have been reallocated to ensure this fund is administered at maximum efficiency. We have pulled together key individuals across our respective organisations, such as Account Managers and Specialists, to support the appraisal of applications.

Getting the money to recipients is of critical importance. We anticipate the application process will take no more than ten working days and successful applicants will receive funds paid 100% upfront within that timeframe.

Full details on what information companies will need to provide as part of the application process can be viewed at https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/.

We expect that you have received a substantial number of enquiries from businesses in your constituency/ region about what support is available to them. Please do share this information with any companies you think would benefit from this assistance and meet the criteria we have outlined. We will also share this information via our various social media channels on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Only a collaborative approach will allow us to support companies and reset, restart and recover the Scotland’s economy. Thank you in advance for your support at this most challenging of times.

Kind regards,

Steve Dunlop, Chief Executive, Scottish Enterprise

Carroll Buxton, Interim Chief Executive, Highlands & Islands Enterprise

Nick Halfhide, Interim Chief Executive, South of Scotland Enterprise

Iain Munro, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive, VisitScotland