Long Covid: The illness wreaking havoc behind the pandemic

There is no clear treatment or cure for those who haven't fully recovered from coronavirus.

STV News

Coronavirus has been dominating the headlines for a year – but behind the grim death statistics and hospital admissions, a related illness has been quietly wreaking havoc on the lives of thousands of Scots.

Long Covid, or post-covid syndrome, has been described by some as the “pandemic behind the pandemic”.

Research is in its infancy and there is no clear treatment or cure.

The post-viral condition affects people who fell ill with coronavirus, but did not make a full recovery within three months.

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Symptoms vary, but some of the most common complaints are extreme fatigue, breathlessness and “brain fog”, such as an inability to focus or remember certain things.

Research is being commissioned and new guidelines have been issued to help GPs support patients, but campaigners are keen to see more holistic support put in place.

For a special report on Scotland Tonight at 7.30pm on Thursday, STV News has been hearing from patients suffering from this insidious and life-changing illness.

Maria: ‘I couldn’t get out of bed’

Maria Timoney, a mum-of-four from Airdrie, is a palliative care nurse.

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Her life took a drastic turn when she fell ill with coronavirus in June last year – her chest pains were so extreme that she was admitted to hospital for a few days.

After she was discharged, her symptoms didn’t shift. Eight months later, she’s still struggling with the after-effects of the virus – which sometimes present themselves in unusual and unpredictable ways.

She said: “I thought I was coming home for a few days of rest and then probably going back to work, but after about a week or so I actually felt as if I was worse, the fatigue was overwhelming, I couldn’t get out of bed some days, and if I did get up my legs were shaky, they were really jelly-like.

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Maria Timoney now struggles to cope with everyday tasks.

“The chest pain was still there and that was really concerning me, and I was quite a bit breathless, just on minimal exertion.

“I got referred to respiratory, I got referred to cardiology, and everything came back okay – the GP said ‘you’ve just got to ride this out and see how long it takes’.”

Household tasks such as cooking and cleaning now need to be shared out among the family, and Maria’s symptoms vary from day to day.

“Running up and down the stairs, I used to do that loads every day, now I’m really aware that if I go up the stairs I’m going to be breathless by the time I get to the top of them,” she said.

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“I really am desperate to get back to work, I know the district nursing team that I worked with is really busy, I wish I was there, I do feel really guilty.

“For my own mental health I think it would be great but I need to be ready to be able to cope with it as well.”

Wendy: ‘My daughter wants fun mummy back’

Wendy Macdonald, 42, fell ill just before the first national lockdown was imposed last March.

The mum-of-two ran children’s musical workshops and classes but the lasting effects of the virus have forced her to pause the business for now.

Long Covid has had a major physical and emotional impact on her.

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Wendy Macdonald says she can no longer live a normal life.

Wendy, from Bishopton in Renfrewshire, said: “My daughter was in tears the other day, saying ‘I miss my real mum, I want fun mummy back, that could take us places and do stuff’.

“That was really hard, because I know they just want me to be back to normal… and I can’t magic myself back.

“Before I was pretty active and busy, and now I have to pace myself to do everything – anything I do I have to plan out, when am I going to do it, and then when am I going to be able to rest afterwards.

“It’s a hard thing to explain, the exhaustion – it’s not like a ‘oh I didn’t get enough sleep last night, I’m a bit tired’, it’s more like you’ve gone out and done something really physical and your whole body is just exhausted.

“It’s stopping me from being able to live a normal life.”

Ruth: ‘It takes hours to get going’

Ruth Moore from East Kilbride is a part-time carer, used to having a busy family and social life.

Before Covid-19 restrictions came in, the 49-year-old was a regular at karate classes, and recently earned her black belt.

In October, her whole family, including her husband, daughters and elderly mum, was struck down by coronavirus in what she describes as a “domino effect”.

Ruth spent five nights in hospital but unlike the rest of her family, she didn’t feel like she was recovering once she was discharged.

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Ruth Moore was used to having a busy family life.

She told STV News: “I was a normal, healthy person – not on any medication, and now I’m on steroids, inhalers, and I just feel, ‘am I ever going to get back to the way I was?’. I don’t know the answer to that – nobody knows the answer to that.

“I’m lucky if I can get up before lunchtime, and it takes me a few hours to actually get going – and by getting going I mean getting dressed, maybe brushing my hair and brushing my teeth.

“There are days that I’ve had that I feel a bit down and a wee bit dark but then, I’m alive.”

Ruth is keen to return to work but she is waiting until she can build up her strength.

Callum: ‘Half the man I used to be’

Callum O’Dwyer, 29, from Aberdeen, fell ill on March 23 last year – the same day as lockdown was announced.

He had hoped he would recover after resting up over a few days, but ten months on, he’s still living with Long Covid.

He has had to move back in with his parents so they can help look after him, and has to choose between household tasks like loading the dishwasher or walking the dog so he doesn’t exhaust himself for the rest of the day.

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Callum, pictured with his girlfriend, fell ill on the day lockdown began.

“I’m half the man I used to be,” he says. “There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t spent more than at least two – sometimes up to six – hours resting in bed.

“Not long ago, I would have been running 10ks, going to the gym, leading an active, busy lifestyle – but at one point, I had a shower and had to lie down for four hours. It feels like I’m three, four times my actual age.”

Callum says that a more holistic approach is needed to tackle Long Covid care. He wants to see specialist clinics set up to support those living with the illness.

So what is being done?

Glasgow-based GP Dr Sandesh Gulhane admits that there is not a great deal doctors can do to treat Long Covid at this stage.

He describes offering empathy to patients as the “best thing I’ve got in my armoury”.

Dr Gulhane said: “There is no test, and there is no cure – that’s not really doing enough, I wish I could do something more.

“This is all a brand new thing that’s evolving. Long Covid is a real condition, it affects people, it destroys lives and we need to think more about it and try to reach out to get patients the help they need.”

Professor Tom Evans of the University of Glasgow sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group.

He was involved in drafting guidelines for diagnosing and supporting patients with Long Covid – but he admits that research is still in its early stage.

Prof Evans said: “In Scotland, the Chief Science Officer has sponsored some excellent research projects which will take place in the next year or so, and these will begin to give us some answers – but it will take time, and that’s a difficult one for patients who are waiting for something that’s going to give them real benefit.”

He says that all the research will help inform the best way to treat the condition.

He added: “Time will tell how we can best manage this and whether or not a dedicated service is needed, and the sort of services you might want to access in remote and rural parts of Scotland may be quite different to those in the more urban and central belt areas.”

Lesley MacNiven is part of campaign group Long Covid Scotland and wants people with the condition to contact them via their Facebook page for support

She told STV News: “We’ve still got this binary where people thought at ten days, you either ended up in hospital or got better – but there’s this invisible group of people who didn’t recover; they survived, but they didn’t recover.

“We also know that we need to do something quickly – so we’re not looking for perfection, we are keen to be guinea pigs, we’re happy to be involved in any kind of studies.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We take this issue very seriously, and recognise the impact Long Covid is having on the physical and mental wellbeing of people in Scotland.

“NHS Scotland is delivering care tailored to the individual needs of people experiencing the long-term effects of Covid-19.

“Our ambition is for people to have access to the support they need for assessment, diagnosis, care and rehabilitation in a setting that is as close to their home as possible.

“We are working to enhance and better co-ordinate existing pathways from primary, community care and third sector services, to provide the multidisciplinary and person-centred support that people will require.

“We are also working closely with Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland to explore how partnership working between third-sector services and our NHS can deliver person centred care for people experiencing Long Covid.

“The Chief Scientist Office has funded nine extensive research projects on Long Covid through £2.5m of funding, and this will increase clinical knowledge on the long-term effects of Covid-19.

“This is in addition to the £5m we recently awarded to 15 Scottish research institutions to better understand the effects of infection and inform treatment and management of the virus.

“We will continue to engage with people who have Long Covid, NHS boards and the wider clinical community to deepen our understanding of the symptoms and impact of Long Covid to help us continue to deliver the support people need.”

In the meantime, the charity Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland has set up a helpline for people dealing with Long Covid.

Chief executive Jane-Claire Judson said: “People living with long covid in Scotland need as much support as possible right now. Support is available now through our Long Covid Advice Line and we are encouraging people to call 0808 801 0899 – please don’t suffer alone.

“There needs to be better coordination of services to help people with Long Covid get the wraparound care they need. Everyone, including people affected by Long Covid, are working with the Scottish Government to make sure that support services are available as soon as possible.”


Who’s in charge as Glasgow becomes UN territory at COP26?

Everything you need to know about the law, policing and security during the crunch climate summit.

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Police Scotland officers can only enter the blue zone with UN agreement.

The COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow is being hosted by the United Nations, which means the venue will come under its control.

The summit will take place across two sites – the ‘blue zone’ at the Scottish Event Campus and the ‘green zone’ at Glasgow Science Centre.

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The blue zone is a UN-managed space that hosts the negotiations, bringing together delegations from 197 countries. It will become an international territory subject to international law, in the same way the UN headquarters in New York and its offices in Geneva and Vienna are not subject to domestic law.

The UN will have administrative control of the Scottish Events Campus and will be responsible for security during COP26. While it will be supported by Police Scotland, the UN will remain in charge of all security in the blue zone.

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Police mounted units have been training for COP26.
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Police Scotland may only enter with the consent of the UN secretary general, a standard arrangement for such conferences.

‘Complete freedom of expression’

UN officials, representatives and experts all have immunity from legal process – including prosecution (diplomatic immunity) – inside the blue zone.

Natasha Durkin, a senior associate in Shepherd and Wedderburn’s regulation and markets team, told STV News: “It is a foundational principle of the UN that its property is ‘inviolable’, meaning that UN property is immune from any legal interference wherever it is situated.

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“The main reason for this is to allow the UN full control of its international functions and activities without interference, and reflects the immunities UN personnel have from legal process.

“One important aspect of the blue zone is that it allows the UN to guarantee complete freedom of speech to those participating in UN meetings, regardless of the (possibly restrictive) laws applying in the host state.

“Complete freedom of expression for participants is agreed in Article 2 of the COP26 agreement.”

Year of planning

Police Scotland has been planning and preparing for over a year, alongside the United Nations, UK Government and Glasgow City Council.

Assistant chief constable Bernard Higgins said: “We have engaged with the United Nations and this is common practice for UN conferences.

“In consultation with a range of partners, our policing plan takes into account all factors to ensure an appropriate response will be delivered.” 

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Police carry out a training exercise on the ‘Squinty Bridge’ in Glasgow.
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All attendees within the blue zone must be accredited by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Ms Durkin said: “Consistent with having full control of the blue zone, the UN is ‘in charge’.

“However, the COP26 agreement (and again, as is standard) requires the UN to cooperate with UK authorities to ensure the proper administration of justice and to prevent any abuse of the blue zone. 

“In addition to the UN being required to cooperate with the UK in relation to the administration of justice, and to prevent abuse, the secretary general of the UN can waive any immunity applying to the blue zone. 

“As such, if an offence is committed, there are mechanisms for both cooperation between the UK and UN, and the possibility of waiver of immunity. The disposal of an alleged offence committed in the blue zone would ultimately depend on circumstances.”

So what is the green zone?

The green zone is managed by the UK Government and is a platform for the general public, youth groups, civil society, academia, artists, business and others to have their voices heard.

It will host events, exhibitions, workshops and talks promoting dialogue, awareness and education.

Normal domestic law applies there.

Study calls for more tutoring to close school attainment gap

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was 'sparse'.

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Report: High-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

More tutoring and mentoring of pupils should be used in Scotland to help close the attainment gap, a study says.

Research by the Poverty Alliance found free tutoring provision for children and young people in Scotland was “sparse”.

The report, released on Wednesday, said high-quality tutoring could significantly reduce educational inequalities.

In February the Scottish Government announced a £45m fund for educational recovery, however the report said there was no published information on how much of this went towards catch-up tutoring programmes.

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The Poverty Alliance’s research also found there were geographical gaps in the provision of mentoring for children in poverty.

Dr Laura Robertson, lead author of the report, said: “The Scottish Government has put tackling the poverty-based attainment gap at the heart of its agenda. However, inequalities in education attainment remain stark.

“Covid-19 has not only tightened the grip of poverty on the lives of many children and young people, but has also exacerbated these inequalities.

“Now, more than ever, children and young people need access to additional support.

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“This report reveals that – despite the evidence that it works – young people living in poverty still don’t have equal access to high-quality tutoring free of charge.

“In a just society, all children and young people should have access to support that allows them to reach their potential, so the Scottish Government must – if it wants to end the attainment gap – respond with action.”


Inquest set to open into death of MP Sir David Amess

The MP was stabbed to death in Essex on October 15.

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David Amess: Attacked at constituency surgery.

An inquest into the death of MP Sir David Amess, who was stabbed to death during a constituency surgery at a church, is due to be opened and adjourned.

Sir David, 69, was attacked at Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex on October 15.

The father-of-five was pronounced dead at the scene at 1.10pm and a preliminary postmortem examination report gave the cause of death as multiple stab wounds to the chest.

An inquest into the death of the Conservative MP for Southend West is due to be opened and adjourned at County Hall in Chelmsford on Wednesday.

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A 25-year-old man is charged with the terrorist murder of Sir David.

Ali Harbi Ali appeared before the Old Bailey last Friday, where he was not asked to enter pleas to charges of murder and preparing acts of terrorism between May 1 2019 and September this year.

He faces a trial in March next year.


Man seriously injured after being attacked on city street

The 29-year-old suffered a serious neck injury in the attack.

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Ambulance: The man was taken to the Royal Infirmary.

A man has been left seriously injured after being attacked on a Glasgow street in brad daylight.

The 29-year-old suffered a neck injury in the incident that took place on Burnhouse Street at Collina Quadrant in Maryhill at around 1.30pm on Saturday.

Emergency services attended the scene and the man was taken to the Glasgow Royal Infirmary where his injuries have been described as serious.

Police are now appealing for witnesses as they look to trace the person responsible.

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Detective Constable Katrina Keogh said: “I am appealing for information from the public to help with our investigation. I would ask anyone with dash-cam footage or any witnesses to come forward.

”Anyone with information can contact Police Scotland on 101.


Obituary: Ex-Rangers and Scotland manager Walter Smith

Walter Smith was one of the most successful Scottish football managers of all time.

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Walter Smith, the former Scotland and Rangers boss and one of the most successful managers in Scottish football history, has died aged 73.

Smith’s career in professional football spanned 45 years, taking him to international level and cementing a position among the elite of the club game.

As manager of Rangers over two spells, he won ten league titles, five Scottish Cups, six League Cups and guided his side to the UEFA Cup final in 2008.

Smith was also awarded an OBE in 1997 for his services to association football.

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Born in Lanark in 1948, his football career started in earnest when the defender signed for Dundee United in 1966 after a spell in Junior football. Smith played for the Tannadice club over two spells, and also had two years at Dumbarton, the highlight being a Scottish Cup final appearance in 1974.

By the time he hung up his boots in 1980, Smith had already begun a coaching career that would far surpass the success of his playing days.

Starting out at Dundee United under the guidance of Jim McLean, the young coach combined his duties at Tannadice while working with Scotland’s Under-18 team. He was alongside Andy Roxburgh when Scotland won the European Youth Championship in 1982, the country’s first international title at any level.

His growing reputation as a coach grew and he was appointed manager of Scotland’s Under-21 side, and then acted as Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.

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That year brought another pivotal moment in Smith’s career, when he moved to Ibrox to become assistant manager at the club he supported as a child. Acting as assistant to Graeme Souness, he was a central figure in a dramatic and impactful time at the club and in Scottish football as Rangers brought in high-profile players from England and targeted success at home and abroad.

Smith was alongside Souness as Rangers won three league titles and four Scottish Cups and, when Souness suddenly left Glasgow to return to Liverpool in 1991, the Ibrox club made the decision to elevate the assistant to the top job. It would prove to be a move that delivered one of the most successful spells in the club’s history.

Under ambitious owner David Murray, Rangers spent big and won big. Smith signed a number of the best players from across Scotland and supplemented them with stars from across Europe, including Alexei Mikhailichenko, Brian Laudrup, Basile Boli and Paul Gascoigne.

Rangers had won the previous two titles under Souness, and Smith delivered seven more, dominating the domestic game as Rangers equalled rivals Celtic’s record of nine successive league trophies. Three Scottish Cup wins and three League Cup wins in that time added to the trophy haul, but Smith’s tenure was also marked by some big moments in European football, including a run in the 1992-93 Champions League that saw them beat English champions Leeds United and go unbeaten in the group stage, missing out on a place in the final by a single point.

Smith stepped down in 1998, his final season seeing Celtic win the league title on a dramatic final day, and Rangers lose to Hearts in the Scottish Cup final.

He returned to management shortly after his Ibrox departure, succeeding Howard Kendall at Goodison Park. Though his four years in charge didn’t bring success, Smith was a steady hand at the wheel as spending at Everton was restricted while rival clubs splashed the cash.

After leaving the Toffees, Smith had a brief spell at Manchester United, reuniting with Alex Ferguson as assistant at Old Trafford, but he was soon to return to front-line management.

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Scotland needed a change of direction after the tumultuous Berti Vogts era and Smith answered the call, taking the manager’s job in 2004. Though the team missed out on qualification for the 2006 World Cup, the Scot brought marked improvement to the side and a climb up the world rankings was proof of his success.

Smith and Scotland were part-way through the Euro 2008 qualifiers when Rangers asked him to return to the club in January 2007 after Paul Le Guen left Ibrox.

The second spell at Rangers saw Smith underline his iconic status with the Rangers support. Three further league titles, three League Cups and three Scottish Cups added to his formidable trophy haul, but a European run against the odds was the highlight in 2008.

Smith’s side began the season in the Champions League but could only finish third in a group that pitted them against Barcelona, Lyon and Stuttgart. That brought the consolation prize of a place in the knockout stage of the UEFA Cup and Rangers took on that challenge and excelled.

A disciplined side with a miserly defence saw off Panathinaikos, Werder Bremen, Sporting Lisbon and Frioentina, conceding only one goal along the way, to reach the final.

At the showpiece match in Manchester, Smith’s side came up against Zenti St Petersburg, but fell short in a 2-0 defeat.

Smith retired in 2011, having amassed 21 domestic trophies as Rangers manager, second only to Bill Struth in terms of silverware at Ibrox and with his prominent place in the club’s history books assured.

He later had brief spells as a director and chairman at the club but also offered guidance and advice to those who came after him as Rangers boss.

Rangers chairman Douglas Park said on Tuesday: “It is almost impossible to encapsulate what Walter meant to every one of us at Rangers. He embodied everything that a Ranger should be. His character and leadership was second to none, and will live long in the memory of everyone he worked with during his two terms as first-team manager.”


Forbes calls on Sunak to reinstate universal credit uplift in Budget

Finance secretary wants chancellor to help Scots facing ‘real cost of living crisis’.

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Rishi Sunak will deliver his second Budget of the year on Wednesday.

Scots are facing a “real cost of living crisis”, finance secretary Kate Forbes has said, as she urged the chancellor to reinstate the £20 a week recently removed from Universal Credit.

Forbes made the plea ahead of Rishi Sunak delivering his second Budget of the year to the Commons on Wednesday.

In a letter to the chancellor, she called on him to use the keynote address to “provide certainty to the wider public sector, boost the economy and support our most vulnerable at this challenging time”.

Forbes, who will set out the Scottish Government’s draft budget for next year in December, stressed that ministers at Holyrood were “strongly opposed to any return to austerity”.

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The finance secretary appealed to the chancellor to re-think the Government’s recent decision to end the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

She told Sunak: “A real cost of living crisis is emerging as a result of this cut, combined with the escalating energy costs and upcoming rise in National Insurance contributions.

“The Universal Credit cut alone will push an extra 60,000 people in Scotland, including 20,000 children, into poverty and hundreds of thousands more into hardship, whilst also reducing social security expenditure in Scotland by £461m by 2023-24.”

She insisted it was not justifiable for UK ministers to introduce these “cuts to individual income”.

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Instead, she said, the Budget should “prioritise spending that supports the financial security of low-income households, the well-being of children and young people, and delivers good, green jobs and fair work”.

With the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow getting under way in just a few days, she added that “significant investment is required from the UK Government in reserved areas” to help ensure that Scotland meets its emissions targets.

And here Forbes urged the chancellor to match the £500m the Scottish Government has pledged to spend over 10 years to help the north-east of Scotland transition away from oil and gas.

The finance secretary told Sunak: “Given the UK Treasury has, over decades, benefited from billions of pounds of revenue from activity in the North Sea, I ask that you at least match our commitment to help secure jobs in the north-east of Scotland, support the energy transition, and reduce emissions.”

Scottish Labour finance spokesman Daniel Johnson also demanded the Chancellor use his Budget to deal with the “cost of living crisis” many are facing “due to spiralling prices and the damage done by callous Tory cuts”.

Johnson said: “The pandemic has shaken our economy to the core and if we do not act now to put fairness at the heart of our recovery, thousands of people will be thrown into hardship this winter.

“This Budget must deliver real and tangible support for those struggling to make ends meet.

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“The Tory government must wake up to the cost of living crisis unfolding due to their disastrous governance and act now.”

Sunak, meanwhile, is expected to announce details of a new £150m fund aimed at helping smaller businesses in Scotland.

The fund, to be delivered through the British Business Bank, will be similar to existing schemes in England and Northern Ireland, which have provided investment and loans for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Sunak said it would show the UK Government was “continuing to support businesses across the UK”.

More on:

No return of Covid restrictions as NHS ‘faces more pressure than ever’

The First Minister was giving an update on the state of the pandemic in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

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There will be no immediate return of Covid restrictions despite health care being under more pressure than ever, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister was giving an update on the state of the pandemic in Scotland in Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon.

She said that the health and social care sector was “arguably under more pressure now than at any stage of the pandemic” with NHS boards across the country in high alert.

NHS Lanarkshire has confirmed it is at the highest risk level (black) due to “critical occupancy levels”.

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The health board along with NHS Borders and NHS Grampian has called in the British Military to ease pressure on services.

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Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood on Tuesday.

Sturgeon said that the Cabinet had agreed not to make any changes to current coronavirus mitigations but that the situation “remains fragile”.

She warned that pressures on the NHS and social care were likely to increase in the coming months.

The prospect of healthcare workers facing another winter under a state of emergency is “exceptionally frightening”, representatives said this month.

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Sturgeon said: “Across the country, hospitals are at, or close to, capacity.

“The social care system is also under pressure and reporting an increase in the number of people requiring care packages.

“These pressures are, of course, likely to intensify during the winter.”

The First Minister announced an investment of £482m in the NHS and care sector.

More than £120m of the funding will go towards bolstering Test and Protect with another £130m supporting the vaccination programme – 87% of all those over-18 fully vaccinated in Scotland.

On Sunday, October 31, the UN climate summit officially begins with 30,000 delegates expected to visit Glasgow along with thousands more protestors and activists.

Professor Devi Sridhar, who sits on the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 advisory group, said coronavirus restrictions may have to be reimposed in the aftermath of the climate conference.

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Prof Sridhar’s comments echoed those of another Scottish Government adviser, Professor Linda Bauld, who said last week that holding the large-scale event was “risky”.

But health secretary Humza Yousaf previously said he believed the government could take the necessary steps to counter a potential spike caused by COP26.


Hackers targeted Sepa for second time during recovery bid – report

The environmental watchdog was targeted in a ransomware attack on Christmas Eve.

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Hackers: SEPA targeted for second time.

Cyber-criminals who attacked the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) tried to sabotage recovery operations with a second attack, according to a new report.

Around 1.2GB of data, amounting to at least 4000 files, was stolen in the ransomware attack on Christmas Eve last year.

An investigation by Police Scotland concluded it likely that an international serious organised crime group was responsible for the extortion attempt.

The environmental regulator did not respond to the ransom request.

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The attack “displayed significant stealth and malicious sophistication”, a report by the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) found.

SBRC noted that back-ups were taken in line with best practice in that there were three copies of the data, kept in two separate locations, with one copy stored offline; however the design of the network meant that both sites were affected.

The report said: “This attack displayed significant stealth and malicious sophistication with a secondary and deliberate attempt to compromise Sepa systems as the team endeavoured to recover and restore back-ups.”

Sepa commissioned independent audits from Police Scotland, SBRC and business advisory group Azets following the attack.

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The Azets review found that Sepa’s response following the triggering of the ransomware on December 24 2020 was “effective”.

However it also noted that emergency management and incident management procedures were not stored offline and offsite.

This meant that procedures became inaccessible when system access was lost, and staff had to rely on their knowledge and experience to carry out emergency management and incident management steps.

Sepa chief executive Terry A’Hearn said: “Ten months ago, on Christmas Eve, Sepa was the victim of a hideous, internationally orchestrated crime which impacted our organisation, our staff, our public and private partners and the communities who rely on our services.

“The audits make it clear we were well protected but that no cyber security regime can be 100% secure. A number of learnings have been identified that will help Sepa further improve its cyber security. All have been accepted.”

He added: “The majority of organisations hit by cyber attacks around the world do not publicise much about the attack, and that is their right. We know we have taken an unusual approach, but we are convinced it is the right thing for us to do.

“We are publishing as much as we can of the reviews so that as many organisations as possible can use our experience to better protect themselves from this growing scourge of cybercrime and have committed to supporting Police Scotland and Scottish Business Resilience Centre in their work on highlighting the support available to organisations to be cyber-ready, resilient, and responsive.”

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The SBRC report determined Sepa’s cyber maturity assessment as “high” and said that sophisticated defence and detection mechanisms were implemented and operating correctly prior to the incident.

Detective Inspector Michael McCullagh, Cybercrime Investigations, Police Scotland, said: “Police Scotland has been consistently clear that Sepa was not and is not a poorly protected organisation. The organisation had a strong culture of resilience, governance, incident and emergency management and worked effectively with Police Scotland and others.

“Recent attacks against Sepa, the Irish Health Service and wider public, private and third sector organisations are a reminder of growing threat of international cyber-crime and that no system can be 100% secure.

“They’re also a reminder of the growing importance of organisations being ready, resilient, and responsive.”


Higher shop prices ‘likely’ in run-up to Christmas

A survey showed three in five retailers expect prices to increase in the run up to Christmas.

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Checkout: Shop prices 'likely' to rise.

Higher shop prices are likely in the run-up to Christmas as ongoing global shortages and supply problems result in cost pressures, figures suggest.

Shop price annual deflation eased to 0.4% in October from last month’s decrease of 0.5% – a slower rate of decline than the 12 and six-month average price decreases of 1.3% and 0.7% respectively.

Overall prices are still lower than this time last year but food prices this month saw their highest rate of year-on-year inflation, at 0.5%, since November 2020, according to the BRC-NielsenIQ Shop Price Index.

Fresh food prices rose for the first time in 10 months, by 0.3%, following 10 months of deflation, while ongoing global shortages of materials and supply issues with logistics and shipping continued to put cost pressure on products such as furniture.

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Non-food deflation was steady at 1%, a slower rate of decline than the 12 and six-month average price declines of 2.3% and 1.1% respectively.

A British Retail Consortium (BRC) survey showed three in five retailers expect prices to increase in the run up to Christmas.

British Retail Consortium chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “It is now clear that the increased costs from labour shortages, supply chain issues and rising commodity prices have started filtering through to the consumer.

“Tight margins mean retailers may not be able to absorb all of these new costs, so prices will continue to rise. Retailers continue to do all they can ensure value for money for customers and are looking to work with Government to find a long-term solution to these shortages, otherwise it is the British consumer, who already faces higher energy bills this winter, who will suffer the consequences.”

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Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, said: “With food prices slowly increasing we can expect shoppers to start to rebalance basket spend over the next few weeks, particularly with increased concerns about discretionary spend.

“And with consumer sentiment now more cautious we cannot ignore that availability issues are still top of mind. So consumers will be uncertain about when and where to spend and with Christmas promotions about to kick in, competition will intensify in both food and non-food retailing.“


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