I hope you are all well and keeping safe during what is a challenging time for us all.
I wanted to take the opportunity to reach out to you all to give you an update on the latest and most accurate information in terms of COVID-19, the work I am undertaking, and the key messaging from both the Scottish and UK Government’s – which, as I am sure you are aware, have been conflicting in recent days.
The message in Scotland is clear – the Scottish Government are asking everyone to continue with the current restrictions. We are asking that you Stay Home, Protect our NHS and Save Lives. Please ensure that you convey this to your friends, family and loved ones.
Across South Scotland – and in particular Dumfries and Galloway – I have had many people, organisations and community groups contact my office looking for advice and support. Whether it be for business funding, for practical help or for emotional support, and I am pleased that I and my team have been able to respond to over 700 constituents in a timely manner and I encourage people to continue to get in touch if you have any questions or are looking for advice and support.
Below is a more detailed update of the key things you need to know in terms of the work of the Scottish Government, and of our strategy in Scotland to deal with COVID-19.
As always, even though I am currently unable to do face-to-face visits and meetings, both myself and my team are still available to provide advice, support and information to anyone. We can do this by phone and email and we are also creating a virtual online meeting ability with the parliament contacts such as the Cross-Party Group Secretariat who help support my work as Convener of Lung Health and Mental Health Cross Party Groups.
A reminder that the Scottish Parliament is still operational and that our committees are still meeting to consider matters of importance to communities both here in South Scotland – and indeed across Scotland. I am Deputy Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee and I also sit on the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
You can view the committee meetings on Scottish Parliament TV by using the below link. The Health and Sport Committee generally meets on a Tuesday morning at 09:30am and Rural meets on a Wednesday morning at the same time.
Another piece of work which you may know I have been working on over the past 2 years – the Protection of Livestock (Scotland) Bill – will be published this Friday. The Bill aims to increase the penalties available for those who allow their dogs to run out of control in the countryside and chase, attack and kill livestock, and aims to promote responsible ownership.
You can find further information here or by contacting me and my team at any time: https://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills.aspx
You can contact me via the following contact details and please don’t hesitate to get in touch at any time:
Tel: 07967 780943
Facebook: Emma Harper MSP
Take care all, and I hope you find the below useful.
- This is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes and the measures we take to deal with it must reflect its magnitude.
- Our message remains the same – stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.
- There is evidence that we are seeing progress. The difficult sacrifices we are all making are working, however, this progress remains fragile.
- The margins for ensuring the virus does not take off again remain tight – we are at a pivotal point.
- The Scottish Government has reviewed whether the public health situation justifies the steps we are being ASKED to take.
- On the 10th of May, the UK Cabinet agreed one change to the guidance – the once-a-day limit for exercise was removed.
All other lockdown restrictions remain in place:
- Having made real progress in recent weeks, our objective now must be to consolidate and solidify that progress.
- The lockdown will not be kept in place for a moment longer than is necessary.
- Restrictions will be kept under constant review, and the Scottish Government will set out a phased approach to relieving some of the pressure of lockdown as soon as it can.
- But for now, it remains vital that we continue to adhere to measures to slow down the spread of the virus.
- Throughout all of this, the NHS is still there for you and it is important you seek help through your GP practice as you would have done before.
Everyone in Scotland should be staying at home whenever possible.
- Reasons for leaving your homes include:
- To shop for basic necessities – but only once a day, at the most;
- To take exercise, alone or with your household, not in groups;
- Medical reasons or providing care or support to a vulnerable person;
- To travel to essential work if it absolutely cannot be done from home.
- All social events and public gatherings of more than two people – excluding households or for essential work-related purposes – are banned.
- Communal places such as libraries and playgrounds must be closed.
- Places of worship should be closed, other than for funerals, which must be restricted to immediate family.
- Children under 18 can continue to move between households – but they should take hygiene and social distancing precautions.
- Those with caring responsibilities, or who work in care – should carry them out, but follow distancing measures as much as possible and hand hygiene.
- The Scottish Government has announced that the guidance is being changed to remove restrictions on the duration and frequency of exercise.
- All other guidance and restrictions remain in place.
- In particular, households with possible Covid-19 infection or people who are shielding, should continue to follow the guidance on staying at home completely.
- People can go outside to exercise, for example to run, walk or cycle, alone or with members of their household.
- From tomorrow, there is no limit to duration or how many times a day that can happen.
- Physical distancing rules, hand hygiene and cough etiquette must be maintained.
POSITIVE CASES IN SCOTLAND:
- As at 0900 on 11 May there have been:
- 13,486 positive cases confirmed, an increase of 181 from the previous day;
- A total of 82 people the previous night were in intensive care with confirmed or suspected cases of Covid-19.
ADVICE FOR PEOPLE WITH SYMPTOMS:
- The first port of call for anyone looking for information is the NHS Inform website www.nhsinform.scot.
- Those with mild symptoms do not need to be tested.
- If somebody has symptoms of Covid-19, a persistent cough or a fever, they should isolate themselves for seven days .
- In addition, anyone else in a household where someone has symptoms, should isolate for 14 days.
- If patients with coronavirus symptoms that worsen or don’t go away after 7 days, they should dial NHS24 on 111 – day or night – not their GP.
- Anyone without Covid-19 symptoms looking for general information should phone NHS Scotland’s free helpline on 0800 028 2816. The helpline is open from 8.00am to 10.00pm each day.
FRAMEWORK FOR DECISION MAKING:
- While there are encouraging signs, the current restrictions remain vital to suppressing the virus.
- Some will remain part of daily life for the foreseeable future, until a reliable vaccine or treatment becomes available.
- The Scottish Government is committed to containing and suppressing the virus, while restoring as much normality to everyday life as possible.
- In April, the Scottish Government published a framework (Framework for Decision Making) https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making/ outlining its principles and approach to managing our way through and out of this crisis to a ‘new normal’.
- On 5 May, an update was published, https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-framework-decision-making-further-information/ with illustrative examples of the steps that might form part of the initial changes to the restrictions.
- It is not a list of things the government will definitely do by certain dates – this is going to be a long process with different phases along the way.
- Restrictions will be retained while they remain necessary and proportionate.
- They will not be changed unless and until it is safe to do so.
- On the Scottish Government’s assessment of the current evidence for Scotland, it cannot currently advocate any significant change to the regulations in Scotland.
- The next review point of the current lockdown measures is 28 May.
- This is all based on Evidence https://www.gov.scot/publications/covid-19-framework-decision-making-supporting-evidence/
TEST, TRACE, ISOLATE, SUPPORT:
The approach will not be effective on its own; this is not a magic bullet.
- Test, trace isolate, support will not on its own keep infection rates down. https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-test-trace-isolate-support/
- It must be used alongside other public health measures, such as physical distancing, good hand hygiene, and disease surveillance.
- It involves anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 immediately isolating themselves, quickly getting in touch with the NHS to arrange a test and sharing details of the people they’ve been in contact with.
- Contract tracers will then get in touch with those contacts to advise them to isolate for 14 days.
- If any of them develop symptoms, they get tested and the process starts again with their contacts.
- This approach depends on us first suppressing the virus to as low a level as possible.
- If infection rates are too high, or get too high again in future, the number of people who will need tested could overwhelm the system.
- We know that some people will need support to isolate and the Scottish Government is considering now how to provide that.
- The Scottish Government is also making other preparations to be in a position to start delivering an enhanced test, trace, isolate approach by the end of this month.
- It is estimated that we will need up to 2,000 additional contact tracers.
- The Scottish Government is also building a digital system to make sure as much of this process as possible can be automated.
- A proximity app is being developed by the UK Government and the Scottish Government is seeking to ensure greater involvement for the Scottish Government.
- We need to understand how data from this app will interface with the Scottish approach to contact tracing.