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Covid plea from Highland Council leader as cases expected to peak in the coming weeks


By Gordon Calder

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A PLEA has been made for people in Caithness and other parts of the Highlands to follow Scottish Government guidance on Covid as levels of the virus are expected to peak in the coming weeks.

The call was made by Highland Council leader, Margaret Davidson and comes as rules on self-isolation and testing were eased in Scotland to align with those in the rest of the UK.

Trudy Morris, the chief executive of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the changes and said they “strike a good balance between the need to safeguard public health and the impact that staff shortages are having on the ability of businesses to operate.”

“The announcement of further financial support for businesses is also welcome, but does not go nearly far enough to cover the substantial losses that businesses have faced over the festive period. We are also concerned at the continued delays between the announcement of support and the rollout of this to business. Many promises have been made, but as yet we have little or no detail as to how or when much of this support will be delivered to businesses.”

Trudy Morris welcomed easing of some Covid rules but feels Scottish Government should do more
Trudy Morris welcomed easing of some Covid rules but feels Scottish Government should do more

“With regards to the plan for a new strategic framework around Covid restrictions, it is vital that businesses are consulted as part of this. As those most immediately affected, business owners across Scotland need to have real input into how any framework will function and ensure that Scottish Government has a clear picture of the impacts of any future changes to rules. It is also important that this framework is not only laid out in theory but applied in practice – our experience of the previous Protection Levels system is that the structure was quickly deviated from in favour of a series of piecemeal and seemingly arbitrary geographic restrictions."

She added: “Businesses across the north Highlands have shown time and again that they are willing to go above and beyond to support public health measures and ensure the safety of the communities in which they are based. What they need now from Scottish Government is support and stability to ensure that they can continue to operate safely and productively in the months to come.”

Thurso and northwest Caithness Highland councillor, Struan Mackie, said: “While this week’s easing of some restrictions will be welcome to many, particularly bringing guidance on self-isolation and testing in line with other parts of the UK, constituents and businesses will continue to be confused why some activities like outdoor events and bar service remain prohibited in Scotland yet considered safe to be undertaken elsewhere.”

Struan Mackie says it is "deeply frustrating" that many restrictions remain in Scotland
Struan Mackie says it is "deeply frustrating" that many restrictions remain in Scotland

He said it is "deeply frustrating that in Scotland many of the harshest restrictions continue to be imposed." Mr Mackie added: "If the Scottish Government is insistent on having different rules for suppressing the spread of Covid-19 and any subsequent variants, we need to see the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the Health Minister Humza Yousaf outline clearly what evidence these decisions have been based on."

They spoke after councillor Davidson urged people to follow advice on coronavirus “to help keep Council services running. “We want to keep providing our services as usual but local government like other businesses will be adversely affected by the highly infectious Omicron variant. Peak levels of Covid are expected in the coming weeks and while our services have business continuity plans in place, we recognise that whole teams could be required to self-isolate which may impact on service provision and mobilisation of replacement staff may not be possible due to location or impact on services elsewhere.”


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