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Children Community Safety Coronavirus Education Health Public Health

New Measures to Tackle Virus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

On schooling, the First Minister added:

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

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

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

Background

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

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

Categories
Business Coronavirus

New £185 Million Package For Scottish Businesses

COVID-19 assistance targets sectors in need.

Businesses across Scotland will benefit from a new £185 million package of targeted coronavirus (COVID-19) support.

The announcement follows discussions with business groups and sees a wide range of sectors benefiting, from taxi drivers and arts venues to travel agents and hospitality.

In addition, there will be additional one-off payments to hospitality businesses in January to help them deal with the traditional post-Christmas dip in demand. These will be of £2,000 or £3,000, depending on rateable value.

The package was announced by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who also said she had written to the Treasury calling for Scotland to receive its share of rates relief reimbursed by supermarkets “to ensure this is spent on those areas hardest hit as part of Scotland’s recovery from COVID-19”.

Ms Forbes said:

“Today I am pleased to confirm an allocation of £185 million for new and additional business support in the new year. We have listened to businesses and this assistance will be provided on a sector-by-sector basis, targeted at those who need it most.

“We are developing grant schemes for hospitality, for the events sector, live music and cultural venues, for the arts, indoor football centres and for the food and drink sector, including £1.8 million for brewers.

“We will give £1.5 million to travelling show people ineligible for other support, while a new £19 million fund, plus a one-off grant, will help taxi drivers.

“I can also announce that further support of £60 million will be provided to the tourism sector, details of which will be developed in consultation with the industry.

“I am listening to the needs of business and we will continue to review and refine our COVID-19 support offer within the available resources.”

Specific support detailed in today’s announcement includes:

  • £15 million for the wedding sector and its supply chain, including photographers
  • one-off grants totalling £15 million for mobile close contact services, such as hairdressers
  • a £19 million fund and one-off grants for taxi drivers
  • £5 million for travel agents
  • almost £6 million for coach companies and tour operators
  • £1.5 million for visitor attractions

Background

More detail on the package will be announced in the coming days and businesses can expect to apply for all the new grant schemes in January.

Categories
Coronavirus Housing Social Security

Increased Support for Tenants from Scot Gov

New scheme to help those impacted by pandemic.

A £10 million fund which offers interest-free loans to tenants who are struggling with rent arrears opens for applications today.

The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund is designed to help people who have had their finances or employment impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and do not have other means of housing support.

The new fund is part of a range of support and interventions in response to the pandemic. By giving tenants access to loans to cover a maximum of nine months worth of rent arrears and long repayment terms, it provides another option for people who have lost out financially due to the pandemic, but who can’t claim support from other means, such as welfare benefits.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:

“There is no single solution to the difficulties being experienced as a result of the impacts of the pandemic in Scotland, and the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund is a part of a broader effort to support those who are affected.

“We want people to access the most appropriate form of financial support. For the majority of tenants facing financial difficulties and arrears the best means of support is regular non-repayable support, for example through Universal Credit and Discretionary Housing Payments.

“However, for those who may fall through the gap and are unable to claim such support, or who might be thinking of borrowing, this new Fund will be a helping hand to manage any rent issues that have arisen in the last few months as a result of the impact of COVID-19.”

Background

Applications for the Tenant Hardship Loan Fund can be completed online

Learn more about renting and your rights during coronavirus if you have a private landlord or a social landlord.

Loans will be available for social and private tenants up to a maximum of nine months’ rent costs covering rent arrears and future rent, where those arrears have arisen since 1 January 2020 (the loan will not be available where a tenant had rent arrears before this date). The loan can include up to a maximum of three months of future rent payments as part of the nine-month total.

The loan provides an additional short-term offer that supports tenants to manage rent arrears and helps them to come back into paying their rent. Loan repayments will be deferred for six months as standard and repaid over a five-year period. This recognises the continuing uncertainty around the impacts of the pandemic.

The Tenant Hardship Loan Fund offers will be subject to an affordability assessment as part of the Scottish Government’s commitment to responsible lending. The affordability assessment looks at the applicant’s incomings and outgoings to check whether the applicant has enough surplus income, after other costs, to make the loan payments.

The application process for the loan highlights that there may be other more appropriate financial support options available to them and will signpost people to sources of further advice and support before making an application.

The Fund is part of the range of support and interventions in response to the pandemic, including the extended notice periods within the Coronavirus (Scotland) Act, introduction of private landlord pre-action requirements and the increases to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), along with interest free loans for landlords.

Categories
Coronavirus Housing

Christmas Eviction Ban Introduced in Scotland

Six week temporary halt to protect tenants

Enforcement of evictions from rented properties will be halted in Scotland for a six week period until mid-January.

The move will give extra protection to tenants during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It will reduce the burden on local authorities, who have a duty to rehouse people made homeless through evictions, and will also make it easier for people to self-isolate if they choose to form extended bubbles during the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions over Christmas.

Regulations will now be introduced that will prevent eviction orders being brought between 11 December and 22 January, with the exception of cases of serious anti-social behaviour.

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said:

“We took early action to, in effect, halt eviction action until March 2021 due to the pandemic. We have supported tenants throughout this difficult period through a number of actions including increasing our Discretionary Housing Fund from £11 million to £19 million to provide additional housing support and shortly we will introduce our Tenant Hardship Loan Fund.

“We are now taking this additional, temporary step after carefully assessing the unique housing situation created by the pandemic.

“A temporary ban on carrying out evictions will give additional peace of mind to tenants over Christmas and into the new year. It will also prevent additional burdens being placed on health and housing services, during a time where they are already working hard due to the impact of the pandemic.

“It will allow tenants who are facing eviction, and may decide to take the opportunity to form extended bubbles over the festive period in line with relaxed guidance, time to effectively self-isolate afterwards should they come into contact with a positive person.

“Where there is evidence of serious anti-social or criminal behaviour, including in cases of domestic abuse, evictions can still proceed as normal.” 

Background:

The Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020 is an emergency law to protect renters in Scotland during coronavirus.

The temporary law applies to all eviction notices issued on or after 7 April 2020. The original end date was 30 September 2020. The Scottish Parliament has extended the law until 31 March 2021 with some changes to notice periods.

Further information on tenants’ rights during the pandemic can be accessed here: https://www.mygov.scot/private-rental-rights/

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
Coronavirus Education Health Universities

Guidance for Students Returning Home

Plans for mass testing of asymptomatic students.

Students travelling home at the end of term will be able to take voluntary coronavirus (COVID-19) tests through their college or university from next Monday.

As part of a number of measures to support a safe return home, students are also being asked to take extra care in the period leading up their departure, only going out for essential purposes such as learning, exercise and food shopping. This is to minimise the number of contacts they have with others and reduce the potential for spread of the virus.

Updated guidance has now been published for students on minimising social contact, testing and end of term travel – whether to other parts of Scotland, the UK or the world.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Richard Lochhead said:

“Our priority is to ensure that students who wish to go home at the end of term can do so while keeping themselves, their families, friends and communities safe.

“We are asking that students continue living at their term-time accommodation for now and minimise any opportunity to pick up the virus by limiting themselves to only essential reasons to mix with others.

“Voluntary testing will also be available from next Monday. This is part of a huge UK-wide effort by colleges and universities to test asymptomatic students before they leave their term-time accommodation.

“I want to thank all students for their tremendous resilience and patience this academic year and I know that they will continue to do all they can to stay safe and ensure a happy reunion with their loved ones.”

NUS Scotland President Matt Crilly said:

“The introduction of mass testing for students and staggered departure dates are warmly welcome and will be a relief to many students and families across Scotland allowing students to return home safely this winter.

“But we now have our part to play and so I’d strongly encourage any student moving household over the holidays to plan ahead and get tested if you can.”

Professor Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“Students who intend to return home this Christmas should take the test for people without symptoms as soon as possible. The test is quick and free and the results are available fast. The tests are a helpful extra step to take to keep your family and friends and the wider community safe from COVID-19 this Christmas. A double negative result will give you more confidence to travel home but it doesn’t change the need to practise personal safety measures; wear a face covering, avoid crowds, keep two metres distance and wash your hands regularly to minimise your risk.

“This has been a challenging term for students and I want to thank them for their continued vigilance against the virus. I also want to put on record my thanks and admiration for the staff involved in making these testing centres a reality as well as those who will be working in them. To have these testing centres open so quickly is a testament to our dedicated staff as well as the partnership approach across colleges and universities to ensure that as many students as possible get tested.”

Background

Universities and colleges will be utilising lateral flow devices (LFDs) – a clinically validated swab antigen test that does not require a laboratory for processing and can produce rapid results within half an hour at the location of the test.

Students will be offered two LFD tests, spaced three days apart which are bookable through their college or university. Those receiving two negative results will be encouraged to safely return home as soon as is practical after the second result.

If either of the lateral flow tests returns a positive result, the student will be asked to self-isolate and undertake a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test through the usual NHS Test & Protect channels.

Colleges and universities will have specific information for students on the care and support that will be available for those who are either not returning home, or who are having to self-isolate.

FAQ on the student testing programme and returning home

Guidance on how to travel safely

Categories
Coronavirus Health Public Health

New Framework To Help Health Boards Prioritise Elective Care

As NHS Scotland prioritises essential and urgent care as well as continuing to treat Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, new guidance has been published to ensure patients with the greatest need are treated first.

The Framework for the Clinical Prioritisation of Elective Care sets out six principles that Boards will follow when making decisions on elective care waiting lists. It also ensures they have appropriate COVID-19 safety and priority measures in place.

Patient cases will be categorised into four levels of clinically agreed urgency based on their particular clinical condition. This approach will support patients and their clinical team when discussing treatment plans and the categories will inform how quickly patients will be seen and treated, allowing boards to prioritise those most in need.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Throughout the pandemic our guiding principle has been keeping as many people safe as possible – both from COVID-19 and from other health conditions. We are resuming services as quickly and safely as possible, and this new framework will allow our NHS to prioritise patients who need urgent care, including cancer treatment, ensuring they are treated as quickly and safely as possible.

“As we continue to respond to COVID19, this necessary guidance will ensure patients have a clear and realistic expectation of when they will receive treatment that is clinically appropriate to their individual circumstances. This is especially important as we approach winter and the additional pressures this places on health services, together with the continuing critical need for the NHS to respond to COVID-19.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer David Caesar said:

“Health and social care services in Scotland have gone above and beyond in responding to the COVID pandemic since March. However, we recognise that in order to continue doing this, and to provide essential services for emergency and urgent conditions, services may need to be prioritised for patients with the greatest need over the winter months.

“It is vital patients receive the right care in the most timely way possible, and this framework, developed with expert input from senior clinicians across Scotland gives Boards and clinicians the principles to make decisions around elective care proportionately and consistently.”

Background

Coronavirus (COVID-19): supporting elective care – clinical prioritisation framework

The Framework has been developed by a newly formed Clinical Prioritisation Group which was tasked with delivering key principles to support elective care throughout NHS Scotland. The group is chaired by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and is made up of senior clinicians from across Scotland.

Categories
Coronavirus Public Health

Scotland’s Strategic Framework (Covid-19 Response)

Five level plan to vary rules for rapid but proportionate response to COVID-19.

A five-level framework which will allow for a refreshed strategic approach to suppressing Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks across Scotland was published on Friday, October 23rd.

The framework indicates different levels of protection that might be needed based on different levels of transmission for the virus. It will allow for rapid but proportionate responses on both a local and national basis using a transparent range of measures and options.

The framework will comprise five protection levels. ‘Level 0’ is effectively the same level of protection as the Route Map Phase 3 measures Scotland reached in August and will act as a baseline, with four levels above that designed to apply increasing protection from the virus in areas according to prevalence, the risk to communities and the need to protect the NHS.

Levels 1, 2 and 3 will be broadly equivalent to the UK Government levels to offer some uniformity with measures south of the border. Levels will be reviewed on a regular basis.

Ongoing financial support is set out in the framework and will be available to businesses which are required to close or which can remain open but will be directly affected by restrictions. The Scottish Government will work with local authorities to ensure grants are made available quickly and efficiently.

In the coming days the Scottish Government will engage with local government, stakeholders, economic groups and other partners, prior to a final version of the strategic framework being debated in parliament on Tuesday, October 27th.

Further details on which local authority areas of Scotland will fall under which levels will be announced following discussions with directors of public health and local authorities, taking on board recommendations from the national incident management team, before coming into force on 2 November

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“It has become increasingly clear that we need to update our approach to tackling Coronavirus to adapt to this latest phase of the pandemic. The draft strategic framework we are publishing sets out how we intend to do that.

“It tries to balance different types of harms. But it is worth stressing that if we allow the virus to run out of control then that will exacerbate every other harm.

“In the coming days, we will listen to views from stakeholders on any suggested changes they might have, or how they would like to see it implemented. Although the framework we have published is new, the principles behind it will be familiar.

“I know that when people hear the daily figures it’s easy to feel as though the hard sacrifices we are all living with are not making a difference. But by taking these difficult steps we will help suppress the virus, and that is why I am asking everyone to stick with it.”

Background

Read Scotland’s Strategic Framework.

Categories
Coronavirus Education Social Security

Funding For Those Who Need It Most

Over £30 million to tackle financial insecurity.

A £30 million package of funding is being made available to local authorities to support people facing financial hardship as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19), including money to provide free school meals over the school holidays.

Local authorities will be given flexibility to use £20 million, previously held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support people in their communities.

A further £10 million has been made available so councils can continue providing free school meals through the winter breaks with future funding confirmed to extend support over Easter.

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

“No one should be struggling to put food on the table, keep the lights on, or stay warm at home in the midst of this pandemic. With continuing uncertainty around Brexit and the furlough scheme being scaled back we are doing all we can to ensure the right support gets to people at the right time in the right way.

“We know a healthy meal during the school day helps children to learn – but right now it’s an essential to support families at such a difficult time. This money will offer nutritious free meals for children or allow families to get food they desperately need.

“Those experiencing financial hardship can currently apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and seek advice on which benefits they can receive. However, this will not be suitable for everyone: some people are not eligible for crisis grants or already receive the full benefits they are entitled to, while others may need immediate support with food and essentials.

“We are giving local authorities greater flexibility over funding held in reserve for the Scottish Welfare Fund, to support local action and address people’s needs. This may include supplementing local budgets for the Scottish Welfare Fund to meet demand, providing financial support to tackle food insecurity or to meet fuel costs, or boosting local funding for Discretionary Housing Payments.

“Additionally we are making further resource available to continue the provision of Free School Meals over forthcoming holidays, including Easter.”

Chair of the Poverty and Inequality Commission Bill Scott, said:

“We welcome this much needed additional help for low income families and individuals. The funding for Free School Meals during the Christmas, February and Easter breaks will come as a great relief for many hard pressed parents.

“We would urge local authorities to use the flexibility given to them by Scottish Government to ensure that every penny of extra help available gets to those who need it most.”

COSLA’s spokesperson for Resources Councillor Gail Macgregor, and spokesperson for Community Wellbeing Councillor Kelly Parry said:

“The impacts of the virus have not been felt equally across society and we welcome this funding which can be used flexibly by councils, enabling them to provide more support for those who need it most in our communities.

“Local authorities will deploy it in ways that best meets local circumstance, to provide the most effective support to those experiencing financial hardship, for example through grants, addressing food insecurity, or support for fuel costs. We know that as winter arrives and the furlough scheme draws to a close unfortunately more adults and children are likely to need assistance to ensure they are fed and warm. Local Government is the anchor in our communities and is able to provide advice, support and assistance to those that need it.”

Background

On 18 March the Communities Secretary announced £350 million of funding to support communities at risk as a result of the pandemic.

This included a £45 million boost to the Scottish Welfare Fund, of which £22 million was allocated immediately to local authorities, increasing the available budget for awards in 2020-21 to £57.5 million. A further £3 million has been committed as an increase to the budget available for Discretionary Housing Payments.

By enabling local authorities to be more flexible in the way they use this remaining £20 million we are ensuring that they can support those with No Recourse to Public Funds who are destitute and do not have access to mainstream benefits.

The Scottish Government provided local authorities with additional resource to provide Free School Meals over the Easter and the summer holidays. By the end of the summer period 156,000 children were benefitting from this support, having peaked at around 175,000 prior to summer, providing vital support to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

Local authorities who continued Free School Meal provision over October holidays will be reimbursed through this funding package.

Categories
Coronavirus

New Moves to Stop COVID-19 Spread

Temporary steps announced to tackle record infection rates.

Further measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) are to come into effect later this week as Scotland recorded more than 1,000 new positive test results in a single day.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told parliament today that actions are needed now to prevent a return to the peak level of infections experienced in spring by the end of this month. She said:

“While there are significant restrictions still in place – and they are hard and painful – we are living much more freely now than in the spring and early summer.

“We are determined – if at all possible – that this will continue to be the case. We are not going back into lockdown today. We are not closing schools. We are not halting the remobilisation of the NHS for non-Covid care. And we are not asking people to stay at home.

“The need for action is highlighted by today’s figures and, more fundamentally, in the evidence paper published today. To try to interrupt this trajectory, we must act now. While the measures will feel like a backward step, they are in the interests of protecting our progress overall.

“It is by taking the tough but necessary action now that we hope to avoid even tougher action in future.”

The new restrictions, backed by a new £40 million support fund for business and the existing UK Job Retention Scheme, will be in place nationwide for 16 days, with tighter restrictions across central belt areas where the infection rate is highest.

Restrictions on licensed premises will come into force from 18:00 on Friday 9 October, with all other restrictions applying from 00:01 Saturday 10 October.

The new measures are:

Nationwide (excepting central belt areas):

  • Hospitality (food and drink): all premises may only open indoors between 6am and 6pm, with no sales of alcohol
  • Hospitality (food and drink): premises may open outdoors until 10pm, with sales of alcohol (where licensed)
  • Takeaways (including from pubs and restaurants) can continue
  • Evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served
  • Current meeting rules, maximum of six people from two households, continue to apply
  • Specific life events, such as weddings and funerals, may continue with alcohol being served, with current meeting rules for these events (20 person limit in regulated premises only)

Central belt area focusing on five health board areas (Ayrshire & Arran; Forth Valley; Greater Glasgow & Clyde; Lanarkshire; Lothian):

  • All licensed premises will be required to close, with the exception of takeaway services
  • Cafés (unlicensed premises) which don’t have an alcohol licence will be able to open between 6am and 6pm
  • Takeaways (including from pubs and restaurants) can continue
  • Evening meals may be served in accommodation for residents only but no alcohol can be served
  • Specific life events, such as weddings and funerals, may continue with alcohol, with current meeting rules for these events (20 person limit in regulated premises only)
  • No group exercise classes for indoor gyms and sports courts, pools with an exemption for under 18s
  • No adult (18+) contact sports or training, except professional sports, indoor or outdoor
  • No outdoor live events
  • Snooker/pool halls, indoor bowling, casinos and bingo halls are to close
  • Public transport use should be minimised as much as possible, such as for education and work, where it cannot be done from home
  • Current meeting rules, maximum of six people from two households, continue to apply

Additionally, from this weekend, shops across Scotland are asked to return to two metres physical distancing and reintroduce the mitigations they put in place earlier in the pandemic, including one-way systems.

Background

The challenge Scotland faces has also been set out in an evidence paper published today by senior clinical advisors: the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Nursing Officer and the National Clinical Director. It shows the R number is currently higher in Scotland than in other UK nations and that three weeks after opening hospitality, the R number rose to 1 and above.

In the seven days up to Monday, the number of people in hospital with Covid increased by almost 80%. In the past week, cases in people over 80 years old increased by 60% and cases in the 60-79 year old age group more than doubled.

During the period these measures are in place, the Scottish Government will work with all sectors to review guidance in place to ensure all steps are being taken to minimise COVID-19 transmission and support compliance with regulations.

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