Great news this week from the First Minister as she announced that Glasgow will move from tier 4 into tier 3 from 6pm on Friday 11 December.
However, retail outlets 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.
There are still restrictions in place within tier 3 which include travel 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.
You can access what you can and cannot do on the Scottish Government website here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-protection-levels/
The roll out of the vaccine started on Tuesday this week with frontline NHS workers receiving their vaccination.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation have advised beginning with elderly care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care workers and a number of other groups who are at risk of serious harm and death from this virus.
Please keep in mind that this vaccination programme is a national logistical challenge and everyone should continue to stick with and follow the necessary restrictions and public health advice to keep suppressing the virus to as low a level as we can.
I very much welcome the announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance that businesses across Scotland will benefit from a new £185 million package of targeted coronavirus 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 Finance Secretary has also 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”.
More details on the support will be announced in the coming days and businesses can expect to apply for all the new grant schemes in January.
Forensic Medical Services
The final stage of the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Bill was debated in Parliament and as a member of the Health Committee which led on this legislation I took the opportunity to contribute to the debate.
This legislation will have a significant positive impact for victims of sexual offences, providing a service that puts the needs of the victim first with dignity, compassion and respect.
You can access the debate and my full contribution here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=13005
The Deputy First Minister confirmed this week in Parliament that the Higher and Advanced Higher exams for 2021 will not go ahead.
Higher and Advanced Higher exams will be replaced with awards based on teacher judgement of evidence of pupils’ attainment. The assessment model will be based on the approach already agreed for National 5 awards which can be accessed here: https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/96101.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=nq2021&utm_content=nq2021n5acm
The Deputy First Minister said: “While we hope that public health will improve in the coming months with the roll-out of the vaccine, we cannot guarantee that there will be no further disruption to pupils’ learning.
“Holding exams would run the risk of translating the unequal impact of COVID into unfair results for our poorest pupils, leading to their futures being blighted through no fault of their own. That is simply not fair.”
Data shows that since the return to school in August, there have been varied instances of COVID-related disruption to learning, with a higher proportion of pupils from more deprived areas having to spend time out of school.
A £10 million fund which offers interest-free loans to tenants who are struggling with rent arrears has now opened.
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.
Full details on the scheme can be found here: https://tenanthardshiploan.est.org.uk/
Students returning to campuses following the festive break will be staggered over at least six weeks, within a package of measures to minimise the transmission of coronavirus.
With only very limited exceptions, undergraduates should initially plan to restart their studies at home and only return to campuses and term-time accommodation when notified to do so by their universities.
When students return to term-time accommodation, they will be offered lateral flow COVID-19 testing, similar to that offered ahead of Christmas. All students are being asked to restrict their social interaction for a fortnight before they return to university and for the same period after they get there. College students – who largely do not move away from home to go to education – should return as planned, in line with the protection level for the area their college is in at that time.
More information can be found here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-student-home-visits/pages/students-returning-after-the-winter-break/
Tackling Violence and Domestic Abuse
Organisations who work to tackle violence against women and girls (VAWG) are being invited to apply for a share of up to £13 million to help them develop and further their vital work over the next three years.
The Delivering Equally Safe Fund will support frontline organisations and projects that broaden access to support survivors. Priority areas of the fund include developing a person centred approach, supporting disabled survivors and working with those in remote or island communities.
The new funding will help drive collaboration and innovation towards challenging outdated attitudes and stereotypes, staging early interventions that maximise the safety and wellbeing of women, children and young people, holding perpetrators to account for their behaviour and choices, and advancing women’s equality
You can access further information on the funding here: https://www.inspiringscotland.org.uk/what-we-do/our-funds/delivering-equally-safe/
I find it utterly staggering that with just weeks left until the transition period ends we are still without any clear indication of what Brexit will mean for our trading relationship with the EU.
The Scottish Government have announced measures to protect medical supplies with a national stockpile of around 60 critical care (ICU) and supportive care, or end of life, medicines being built, and additional freight capacity has been contracted to ensure critical goods can reach the UK mainland without interruption.
Intensified preparations will protect patients and supplies during the concurrent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, winter weather, and Brexit.
The supply of medical devices and clinical consumables is being managed by National Services Scotland, which has been building up stock at the National Distribution Centre.
Pharmaceutical companies have also been building up stocks of medicines to mitigate for potential disruption at ports.
The clinically-led Scottish Medicine Shortages Response Group will also draw up mitigation recommendations for the NHS when needed.
As always please follow the FACTS – Face coverings, Avoid crowded places, Clean hands and surfaces regularly, Two metre distancing; and Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.