Omicron, new hospital and thank you - eNews 19th December 2021

The First Minister’s message this week, given the rapidly increasing cases of Covid with the Omicron variant, is to restrict your social contacts. Guidance was announced of a three-household limit when socialising indoors, social distancing measures are back in settings like shops, and working from home for those who can.

The hospitality sector has again been decimated as people understandably cancel bookings for festive celebrations, and the fear is that some businesses will not re-open again. There is news of financial support to help business, full details are still coming through. The self-isolation support scheme criteria does not help all households on low incomes. My website includes more on these details and Shetland specific Covid-19 advice.

I think of the hopes we had last Christmas, with a new vaccine on the horizon; a feeling that there was a sliver of light at the end of the Covid tunnel.  Whether we like it or not the virus is going to be with us for a long time to come and, although Omicron makes this feel like a dark period again, I remain hopeful that we will adapt. I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted.

At the beginning of this pandemic we shielded those known to be more vulnerable. To protect those around us and the wider community it’s not as difficult to maintain mask-wearing, hand washing and sanitising, and physical distancing mitigations compared to lockdown measures.

On Tuesday I pressed the Deputy First Minister to assure the Parliament that the announced Covid-19 Public Inquiry would not run for many years, as other inquiries in recent history have. While the Deputy First Minister would not be pinned down to a timetable, he did indicate that the Scottish Government would do all it can to support the inquiry for as swift a report as is possible. You can watch my question here.

I was heartened by news this week that a new hospital for Shetland is a step closer, and reports can be read here. You will be aware of the petition I have been running for a few months now and I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who have signed it. I will continue to follow developments closely and keep you updated in this e-newsletter. If you would like to sign up to specific updates on a new hospital, you can do so here.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday I asked the First Minister if now was the time for a fundamentally new approach on preventing violence against women. This would involve the creation of a focused commission on preventing violence against women and girls. This followed the Sunday Post’s report that 80% of schoolgirls have suffered abuse or harassment, or know someone who has. The culture of violence against women and girls needs to be tackled with a holistic approach. Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed a commission to look across all aspects of life in order to make societal change. This is about more than justice, more than policing, more than education. It’s about women and girls being and feeling safe at home, school, work, everywhere. You can watch my question here.

The end of the year is often a time for reflection. This will be my last eNews of the year and I wanted to reiterate my thanks as I outlined in my Shetland Times column this week to those working on the frontline to keep essential services going – social care, ferries and transport, shop workers, posties and delivery drivers, and of course NHS and healthcare staff. Also to the emergency services and volunteers, like those in the RNLI who are always there, and the many unsung volunteers for all they do quietly in the background for our community.

Thank you all for all you do.

Sadly, for some, this festive season will be the first following the passing of a loved one and they may be feeling lonely or isolated. If I have a Christmas message, it is to be kind and to look out for each other. We have come this far together and we will get through it.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

PS Congratulations to Helen Morgan and team for the stunning by-election win. I am sure she will be an excellent representative for her new constituents in North Shropshire.

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