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Lockdown a blow but safety must come first, says Caithness councillor

By Gordon Calder

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A CAITHNESS councillor has described the latest coronavirus restrictions as a blow but said "safety must comes first".

Nicola Sinclair, who chairs the Caithness area committee, was speaking after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a national lockdown following a big rise in the number of people with the virus over the festive period. Schools and nurseries in the Highland Council area will stay open but only for pupils of key workers or vulnerable children.

Councillor Nicola Sinclair. Picture: DGS
Councillor Nicola Sinclair. Picture: DGS

Councillor Sinclair, who is a mother as well as a Highland Council member for Wick and East Caithness, said: "This isn’t the start anyone wanted to 2021 but safety must come first as this new wave of the virus takes hold."

Regarding the schools, she said: "I know our education staff are working incredibly hard to ensure pupils and parents are well supported in these difficult times, no matter what format their learning takes. I know the community appreciates the efforts of our hard working teachers, clerical staff, cooks, cleaners and all the people who are keeping our schools running."

She added: "My own kids have been so looking forward to getting back to nursery and school to see their friends, and this is a blow for everyone, but we just need to take a day at a time and support each other as best we can. There’s light at the end of the tunnel."

Highland Council issued a letter to all parents providing an update regarding the reopening of schools and early learning and childcare following the First Minister's announcement.

It said all schools will remain open but only for pupils of key workers or vulnerable children and stressed enough staff will be working to allow for supervision. All other staff will be working from home, focusing on preparation for delivering remote learning.

As was planned before the Christmas and New Year break, a period of remote learning will start from Monday but will now continue until, at least, the end of January. During that time, school transport will continue and vouchers will be provided for pupils eligible for means-tested free school meals to cover each school day until the end of the month.

Schools in Highland have over 30,000 Chromebooks to support remote learning and extensive work has taken place over the last few months on delivering online learning.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: "Despite the optimism created by the ongoing roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccines, we are aware that the rise of cases of the virus in the Highlands, as well as nationally, may be causing some anxiety in our local communities. This lockdown is going to be more challenging than the original lockdown last March as the virus is at a different level.

"It is even more important than ever before that everyone complies with all the guidance to keep them safe. We cannot afford any complacency. The Scottish Governments message is clear – the safest place to be at the moment is at home and to stick to all the rules."

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