Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today sought clarity about Shetland’s testing capacity, following concerns about samples being sent South and delaying results.
Ms Wishart noted the presence of machines in Shetland for testing fish diseases that are similar to equipment that was used to increase testing capacity in Faroe. Ms Wishart asked the Health Secretary what consideration is being given to using equipment in Shetland in a similar way, and urged her to ensure that all options for adapting and expanding local infrastructure are fully explored.
In response, the Health Secretary acknowledged that “speed of turnaround” of the samples is “critical for the effectiveness of the approach”, and that using repurposing equipment from other industries was under “active consideration” to support the Scottish Government’s “Test, Trace, Isolate, Support” strategy.
The question followed an evidence session of the COVID-19 Committee today with Sir Harry Burns and Professor Linda Bauld where both witnesses stressed the need to scale up testing to tackle the virus.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed that the Scottish Government develop and agree a multi-level framework for the safe re-opening of schools, giving teachers, parents and business an expectation of what each phase after lockdown will look like.
New Zealand's 4-level alert system specifies the measures to be taken with respect to schools. They are:
Level 4: Educational facilities closed, with all schools engaged in some form of distance learning.
Level 3: Schools (years 1 to 10) and early childhood education centres can safely open with appropriate health measures in pace, but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible, if a parent/carer is available to look after them and provided there they have access to distance learning. Years 11-13 learn from home.
Level 2: Schools and early childhood education centres open for all children, with distance learning available for those unable to attend school, such as people self-isolating. Any facility connected to a confirmed or probably case of COVID-19 must close for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.
Level 1: Schools open, and must operate safely, with the same tracing and closure arrangements as level 2.
People are being encouraged to seek medical help for urgent health issues which are not related to COVID-19.
During the lockdown, patients have been delaying seeing their GP, and there has been a urgent cancer referrals and families getting their children vaccinated.
Call your GP surgery, or 111 out of hours, if you have urgent health concerns. In emergencies dial 999.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart today highlighted the importance of local media to communities during the coronavirus pandemic and called for Scottish Government support to ensure that newspapers, online news sites and radio can continue to operate.
During a virtual Holyrood question session, Ms Wishart asked Ministers for assurances that local media is being used to carry public health messages to keep the public informed and to provide income whilst advertising revenue has decreased.
Communities Secretary, Aileen Campbell, replied that local and community media should have access to some of the business and third sector coronavirus financial support introduced by the Scottish Government. Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, added that the government is working with the Scottish Newspaper Society on wider industry support and on advertising campaigns.
Northern Isles Parliamentarians have called on Scottish Ministers to fully consider and openly engage with all potential approaches to easing lockdown restrictions, following further statements by Professor Hugh Pennington of the University of Aberdeen before the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee today (Tuesday).
During the virtual evidence session, Professor Pennington said that the northern isles “could really do something different” in terms of moving away from lockdown. The academic suggested that the next stages of coronavirus containment could be developed earlier in the islands, “but only if we had a comprehensive testing strategy in those places to make sure that the virus wasn’t going under the radar”.
Shetland and Orkney’s parliamentarians, Beatrice Wishart MSP, Liam McArthur MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP have called on the Scottish Government to provide assurances that they will engage meaningfully with Professor Pennington’s proposals and be open to considering how they might be implemented safely.
Looking Beyond Lockdown
The Scottish Government has published a paper outlining how decision will be taken on controlling coronavirus whilst restoring a degree of normality to everyday life. The paper recognises that we will need to find a “new normal”.
Feedback on the document is invited from members of the public to help inform the government’s work.
The document is available here: https://www.gov.scot/news/looking-beyond-lockdown/
The Scottish Parliament has formed a committee to scrutinise the Scottish Government’s response to coronavirus. Beatrice has been appointed to the committee.
In the first session on Friday she asked the Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, Europe and External Affairs for more information on how the government is communicating its message to the public whilst highlighting the digital divide that exists in Scotland regarding access to technology that might be used to tackle the virus.
Holyrood's new Covid-19 Committee met for the first time today and Liberal Democrat representative Beatrice Wishart MSP questioned Mike Russell, as the minister leading Scotland's emergency legislation, on plans to roll out test and trace procedures and how the government will ensure that any technological solution works for remote and rural communities where digital provisions are less comprehensive.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart is encouraging people to show their appreciation for postmen and women who have been working flat out by giving them a thumbs up.
Royal Mail staff have an important role during the coronavirus pandemic in delivering essentials and helping to keep communities connected. Royal Mail is asking people to show their appreciation by giving a thumbs up to their postie from a safe distance and encouraging children make colourful pictures for their front window.
Additional Funding for Businesses
The Scottish Government has announced additional support for businesses affected by coronavirus.
The new package of measures includes £120 million to extend the Small Business Grant scheme to ensure that, in addition to a 100% grant on the first property, small business rate payers will be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties.
A further £100 million fund is being made available to self-employed people and viable micro and SME businesses. The fund will be channelled through local authorities and enterprise agencies to target newly self-employed people and businesses who are ineligible for other Scottish Government or UK Government schemes.
Applications for the £100 million fund will be open by the end of the month, and the new arrangements for the Small Business Grant will be in place to receive applications on 5 May.
If you are unsure whether your business will qualify, contact Business Gateway Shetland at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are continuing to pursue remaining business support issues, like the lack of support for businesses registered at a domestic address.
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has welcomed government confirmation that peat casting is permitted during the coronavirus lockdown, having written to the seek clarification for concerned constituents.
Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, told Ms Wishart:
“I recognise the importance of peat as a domestic winter fuel source in parts of Scotland, and of the need to begin to cast peat now to ensure adequate personal supplies for next winter. As long as the published guidance on social distancing is followed, this collection of an essential fuel supply should be permissible. However, it is also essential that those undertaking this activity follow precautions such as not sharing tools and cleaning them thoroughly after use.”