‘Sooner or later we’ll all rely on social care’

Our latest look at the key issues for Scots voters ahead of the Holyrood election.

STV News

At around 11am every day, there’s only one thing on Laura McArdle’s mind. 

“Car, car!” she shouts, and flashes a cheeky smile, the excitement beaming across her face. 

It’s her way of telling mum Marion she’s ready to go for a run in the car near their family home in Clydebank. 

“It’s one of her favourite things to do,” says Marion. 

ADVERT

After that, she’ll have lunch and probably watch an episode of the Singing Kettle; it’s Laura’s life on Laura’s terms. She has choice and control. “She’s the boss,” jokes Marion. 

Laura was born with with Down’s Syndrome and later suffered brain damage. The 37-year-old has complex needs and requires round-the-clock care. 

But Marion faced a two-year uphill battle to get Laura the social care that she not only needs, but is entitled to.

“Her voice was never heard before,” Marion says. “She was the bottom of the queue for everything because it was difficult for her to communicate.

ADVERT

“Before now, she didn’t have much say in her day. She could have had as many as 42 different people in her life in one week.

“But the difference we see now, because this team know Laura so well, she feels so safe. If Laura can get it right, I think most people could.” 

Now that Laura’s social care needs are being met, her health has vastly improved.

“Laura hardly ever sees a doctor now,” says Marion. “I find it difficult to separate Laura’s health needs and social care needs. But Laura didn’t ask for these social care needs, I’m sure she’d rather not have them.”

In this election, Marion wants politicians to make social care a priority. She supports the creation of a national care service, recommended in a recent independent review into adult social care, carried out in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“First and foremost, the thing that needs to happen is a change in attitudes,” says Marion. 

“It’s as if social care is a poor cousin of healthcare. I would love to see the same amount of respect shown to people with social care needs as is shown to people with health needs.

ADVERT

“When you see a doctor, they automatically think ‘how can we help that person get better?’. But with social care, it’s ‘how much is this going to cost?’.

“If we’ve to concentrate on money and budget we’re going to get it wrong, we’re prioritising it wrongly.”

‘We need to see some action’

In a sector that employs more than 200,000 people and is worth £3.4bn to the Scottish economy, many believe Covid exposed deep-rooted inequalities in care.

Some feel these problems developed over decades and a complete overhaul of the “broken” system is needed.  

“I think what we’ve seen is the current system (of social care) doesn’t work, so that has to be top of the agenda,” Derek Barron, director of care at Erskine, says.

“For example, there’s no cabinet secretary in government for social care.

STV News
Derek Barron

“There is one for health, so it’s all very well talking about parity of esteem and how important it is, how much our staff have put ourselves on the front line and their lives at risk, which is all true, but we actually need to see some action.

“All of the political parties need to sign up to the idea of a national care service. We want to see more than just words if we’re going to elevate social care and understand the importance of the sector.” 

More than a third of those who died with Covid in Scotland were care home residents – the majority during the first wave when agencies such as Scottish Care were appealing for more PPE and protections for social carers.

Derek worked in the NHS for more than 30 years before moving to Erskine. He says his staff have more than proved their worth and deserve equality.

“The words are ‘you are as important’, but the actions are something completely different,” says Derek. “The slogan that’s interesting to me is, protect the NHS, but if you invest properly in social care, invest in us – we do protect the NHS.

“The message is slowly coming in, but it needs to come in with some action and power behind it.”

‘They weren’t alone, we were there’

For Heather Scanlan, care is a family affair. Her nephew works alongside her at Erskine Care, and she met her husband on the job too.

She’s worked in the sector for more than 30 years but says challenges thrown up by Covid have left her exhausted.

“The last year has been extremely difficult on many levels,” she says. “The emotional stress that you go through. I’ve learnt lots of new things. Most of our residents are in their late 80s or early 90s, they’re vulnerable. With all the best intentions in the world, you can’t prevent everything.”

During the first wave, Heather held the hands of many dying residents and comforted them when their families and loved ones couldn’t be present. 

“They weren’t alone, we were there,” she says, her eyes filling with tears. It’s a reminder of those dark days and a desire to never return there. 

STV News
Heather Scanlan

Heather believes carers “weren’t looked out for” in the early stages of the pandemic, when hospital beds were cleared and patients were transferred to hospitals without being tested for Covid.

“If it wasn’t for the likes of social care, where would the NHS be?” she says. “Their beds would be full all the time. We’re part of that care. 

“We should have the same recognition as our NHS colleagues. We do similar roles with some variants. We know our residents inside out, we make bonds with their families. We’re not a two-minute fix and see you later.”

‘It’s been horrific’

When Scotland’s care homes went into lockdown in early March 2020, meaningful contact between residents and relatives was effectively cut off.

Although indoor visiting has now resumed in the majority of homes, Natasha Hamilton fears social isolation has caused irreparable damage to her mum Anne, who lives in a North Lanarkshire care home and is battling early onset dementia.

“We’re losing my mum each day to dementia,” Natasha, from support group Care Home Relatives Scotland, says. “She can’t do anything for herself, she needs her family to stand up and say ‘this can’t go on’. I don’t want my mum’s journey to be in vain. It’s been horrific.”

STV News
Natasha Hamilton

Natasha started a petition calling for emergency legislation to give nominated relatives or friends the same access rights to care homes as staff.

She now has almost 100,000 signatures and wants every political party to adopt ‘Anne’s Law’ in memory of her beloved mum. 

“I think they need to realise the system is broken,” Natasha says. “The government spent a lot of money writing guidance and care providers can turn around and say ‘no’. It’s a postcode lottery for so many people across the country. Someone has to stand up and say that can’t continue.

“I would like to see more politicians talk about it in that way and recognise why we’re asking for one person to be allowed into the care home and recognise that guidance doesn’t work – it needs to be enshrined in law.”

Natasha’s mum is only 62, but she has already lost too much time and contact with Anne.

“She cannot speak, she cannot communicate, we don’t know how she feels, we don’t know how she thinks. She’s had her two vaccines, she’s survived Covid, I don’t know what else we can protect her from.”

‘How will I get out of this?’

Shubhanna Hussain-Ahmed effectively has two full-time jobs.

One is working with the Coalition of Carers in Scotland. The other, which easily takes up more hours of her day, is at home in Stirling – caring for her autistic son and her husband who has a neurological condition.

Because she’s employed full-time, she’s not eligible for a carer’s allowance of £67.25 a week. Those in full-time education or receiving a state pension are also not eligible. She firmly believes that needs to change. 

“From between 2011 and 2018 my sole income was carer’s allowance; I have never been so poor in my life and I don’t say that lightly,” she says. “I was thinking ‘how am I ever going to get out of this?’. It traps you in poverty.

STV News
Shubhanna Hussain-Ahmed

“So when they say that carer’s allowance eliminates carers’ poverty, that is utter nonsense.”

Over the course of the pandemic, around 400,000 Scots have taken on caring roles, bringing the unpaid carers workforce to 1.1 million. 

But according to a recent Scottish Government publication, only around 10% are eligible for carer’s allowance.

“That is something that needs to be addressed,” says Shubhanna. “It needs to be completely reformed.

You would think that the largest care workforce in Scotland would be a priority, but it doesn’t feel like that. Carers need to feel like they are being listened to and they’re involved and being treated as experts when decisions are being made about support for them and people they care for.

“The social care system as it currently stands is generally not fit for purpose.”

As part of any overhaul, Shubahha believes questions about whether social care is institutionally racist need to be openly addressed.

One of her hardest challenges during the pandemic has been finding the right care for her mum.

“Social care was never designed to meet the needs of diverse communities, that’s never been more apparent than right now,” she says.

“My mum doesn’t speak English. Local and national services are practically non-existent. Why do we have that problem?

“We’ve made very little headway in supporting carers from black and ethnic minority communities over the years.” 

‘Race to the bottom’

Originally from Spain, social care worker Carmen Simon has lived in Edinburgh for more than 12 years.

“I’ve noticed a deterioration of my terms and conditions in the last decade, there’s no pay reviews, we are losing contractual sick pay, holiday entitlement… contracts change hands, employers take the chance to offer worse terms and conditions to the workforce.

“It’s called the race to the bottom.

“Providers want to get contracts on the cheap and the ones that pay are the workers and those receiving the support. Social care should be publicly owned, that’s the way forward.”

STV News
Carmen Simon

She believes cost is often the driving force of social care assessments, rather than need, compassion or duty of care .

“We need to look at social care and think ‘how can we invest so everyone is receiving proper support and care?’. If we invest in prevention and early intervention, we are going to save taxpayers’ money in the long term, we avoid people getting into more complex situations.

“After World War Two we made the decision that we needed an NHS and we did it. For me, it’s a matter of political decisions. Now we are all talking about social care, I think people are aware of the service and support we provide.

“Sooner or later all of us will very likely rely on social care.”

What are the parties pledging?

Scottish Liberal Democrats

  • Scrap charges for care-at-home services;
  • Give relatives of care home residents ‘essential caregiver’ status.

Scottish Labour

  • The creation of a national care service;
  • Improved pay and conditions for social care staff.

SNP

  • Establish a new national care service;
  • Scrap charges for non-residential services;
  • Create a national fair wage.

Scottish Conservatives

  • Make social care sustainable;
  • Fund dementia research.

Scottish Greens

  • Creation of a national care service;
  • Better pay and conditions for carers.

Storm Arwen death toll hits three as driver killed in Aberdeenshire

Building were destroyed and vehicles struck by trees during the storm which also left passengers stranded on a train for 17 hours.

Fubar News via Facebook / STV News
Storm chaos: Person killed in Aberdeenshire.

A driver has died in Aberdeenshire after his truck was crushed by a tree as Storm Arwen battered Scotland.

The 35-year-old’s Nissan Navara pick-up truck was struck by a falling tree on the B977, Dyce to Hatton of Fintry Road at 5.45pm on Friday.

Emergency crews attended however the man was pronounced dead at the scene.  

Sergeant Craig McNeill of the Divisional Road Policing Unit at Inverurie said: “Our thoughts are very much with the man’s family and friends at this time. 

ADVERT

“Officers responding to this crash had parked a distance away due to weather conditions.  On returning to their van they discovered a tree had fallen on it.  No one was injured.”

The latest death brings the UK death toll to three after 90pmh gusts caused road closures, train cancellations and power cuts across the country.

Two motorists died on Friday due to falling trees in County Antrim, Northern Ireland and Ambleside in Lancashire.

Storm Arwen saw transport services thrown into chaos and more than 100,000 homes without electricity overnight.

ADVERT

The Met Office issued a rare red weather alert for wind from Friday at 3pm until 2am on Saturday, warning some areas could see gusts reaching 90mph.

An amber weather warning for wind remained in place for the Highlands, Central Belt, including Edinburgh, Grampian and Orkney and Shetland until Saturday morning.

A separate yellow ice warning has been issued overnight into Sunday.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) said more than 100,000 customers were out of power. The main areas affected are Aberdeenshire, Angus, Perthshire and the Moray Coast.

The utility firm has managed to restore power to a 40,000 homes affected by the storms but warned the weather was severely hampering its work.

It is understood some passengers spent 17 hours stranded on board a train in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, due to rail routes being closed for safety.

One passenger told Fubar News: “Currently stuck on a train in Huntly. I personally have been on this thing for over 17 hours now.

ADVERT

“Many people on here have been on more. Staff onboard have been excellent. They managed to do an Asda run for water, sandwiches, snacks etc. Somehow even managed to source a kettle for tea/coffee. Also arranged for a local baker to bring down bacon rolls and fresh pies.

“Staff on board have been sharing what little info they get when they can. We were informed that a bus was coming from Inverness (no other companies were willing to take the risk) but that is also subject to road conditions.”

Rod Dennis, of RAC Breakdown, said those living in areas covered by weather warnings should consider postponing their planned trips until the storm passes.

Network Rail Scotland (NRS) confirmed services in the north from Aberdeen to Inverness and Aberdeen to Dundee had to be closed on Friday night due to fallen trees and debris on the lines.

The east coast line between Edinburgh and Berwick-upon-Tweed and the North Berwick line have also had to close due to the extreme weather.

On Friday evening Karl Grewar, head of integrated control at NRS, said the lines were closed for safety reasons and will not reopen “until it is safe to do so”.

“We will be doing everything we can to open the lines as soon as we’re able to get people moving,” he said.

CalMac Ferries confirmed multiple services had to be cancelled due to the extreme wind causing dangerous sailing conditions at sea.


Scotland adopts new travel rules after Omicron variant found in UK

Humza Yousaf said Scotland will adopt the new restrictions announced by the UK Government on Saturday.

elenaleonova via IStock
Restrictions: Scotland to follow UK Government on border restrictions.

Scotland will adopt new border restrictions introduced by the UK Government after two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in England, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said.

The two linked cases have been found in Nottingham and Brentwood, Essex, and are believed to have been contracted in southern Africa.

No cases of the new variant have been confirmed in Scotland to date.

Scientists have said they are concerned about the B.1.1.529 variant as it has around 30 different mutations – which is double the number present in the Delta variant.

ADVERT

Yousaf said confirmation of the Omicron cases in the UK are “a stark reminder that we must not drop our guard”.

Following discussions with UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and the other devolved administrations, he said Scotland is aligning with the new border restrictions being introduced by the UK Government which will require fully vaccinated arrivals to take a PCR test within two days of arrival and to self-isolate until a negative result is received.

He said the measures will be introduced “as soon as possible” and kept under constant review.

The Scottish Government will also adopt the expanded red list of countries identified by the UK Government.

ADVERT

“No cases have yet been detected in Scotland,” Yousaf said, “But the fact this new variant is on our doorstep is clearly a worry and we should act as though it is already here.”

He urged Scots to redouble their efforts in protecting themselves against Covid, adding: “There is still much to learn about the Omicron variant.

“Questions remain about its severity, transmissibility and effect on treatments or vaccines, and scientists are working at pace to provide additional information.

“Until more is known we must adopt the precautionary principle and do everything we can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted that “we all have a part to play in beating” the Omicron variant.

She posted: “There are no confirmed cases of Omicron in (Scotland) yet, but we MUST act as if it’s already here. @scotgov is introducing new requirements for travellers, but we all have a part to play in beating this new threat.

“So wear (masks), wash hands, get vaccines & test before socialising.”

ADVERT

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the new variant could reduce the effectiveness of vaccines, as he announced the strengthening of Covid rules at a Downing Street press conference on Saturday evening.

As well as the new rules for travellers, masks will now again become mandatory in shops and on public transport in England and contacts of Omicron Covid cases will have to self-isolate.

Yousaf added: “Throughout the pandemic people in Scotland have been amazing in doing everything possible to get cases down, to protect ourselves, each other and the NHS, and in taking up the offer of a vaccine.

“We must now redouble our efforts to follow the basic rules that have served us well so far in the pandemic – wear a face covering on public transport and in all indoor settings for food and retail; open windows, especially if you have people visiting at home; keep washing your hands regularly and thoroughly.

“Work from home where possible, take regular lateral flow tests and behave sensibly.

“If you have symptoms, self-isolate and take a test.”

He urged anyone who is unvaccinated or is yet to receive their second dose to book an appointment now.

“If you are over 40, you can book your booster jab for six months after your second vaccine dose – please do so,” he added.

“As we head into winter we are facing an as yet unknown risk from this new variant. Let’s once again rise to the challenge and do everything we can to keep everyone safe.”

Earlier, the Scottish Government announced 17 coronavirus-linked deaths and 2287 new cases had been recorded in the past 24 hours.

It means the death toll under this daily measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 9562.

The daily test positivity rate was 8.2%, down from 9.1% the previous day.

There were 53 people in intensive care on Friday with recently confirmed Covid-19, down seven on the day before, and 727 people were in hospital with the virus.

So far, 4,344,043 people have received their first dose of a vaccination, 3,945,451 have had their second, and 1,598,749 have received a third dose or booster.


SSE urge customers without power to ‘order a takeaway’ on them

The company made the offer as tens of thousands of homes remain without power for a second night.

Orbon Alija via IStock

SSE have urged customers who are without power for a second night to ‘order a takeaway’ on them.

The energy company made the offer as tens of thousands of homes faced the prospect of a second night without electricity after Storm Arwen battered Scotland.

A rare red weather warning was issued from Friday at 3pm until Saturday at 2am as strong winds up to 90mph damaged houses, caused travel chaos and left hundreds of thousands of homes without power. 

Greg Clarke, spokesperson for SSE, told STV News: “Storm Arwen has resulted in significant damage to the overhead electricity network across the north of Scotland, predominantly in the north east, Moray coast, Aberdeenshire Tayside and Perth. 

ADVERT

“We’ve experienced hundreds of faults of the overhead network as a result of fallen trees, fallen branches and debris.

“It’s brought significant damage and it’s been a real challenge for our engineers, who are working hard on getting people back onto supply today. 

“At the peak, we had over 100,000 customers off supply, at the moment we’re down to about 60,000 customers who are still off supply and they are generally concentrated in the north-east. 

“Our teams will continue to work hard throughout the course of today and into this evening to try and restore power to as many customers as possible. 

ADVERT

“Some people will unfortunately remain off supply overnight again.”

The company has urged vulnerable customers to contact them on 105 so they can offer assistance to those most in need.

Hot food and drinks have also been supplied to the main areas affected, Mr Clarke said.

However as a goodwill gesture, he urged customers to order a takeaway which SSE will later reimburse. 

“We would encourage customers who are off supply to get themselves a takeaway, keep the receipt and we will look to reimburse them in full as a result of the fact that they are without power,” Mr Clarke added. 

“It’s been the perfect storm, so to speak, our customers have been extremely patient and we would like to thank them for their patience and apologise for the clear inconvenience.”


No new episodes of I’m a Celeb after production base damaged

ITV said the reality television show's production base was damaged during Storm Arwen on Friday evening.

ITV via Twitter
Storm: No new episodes of I'm a Celeb after strong winds hit production base.

There will be no new episodes of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! this weekend after the show’s production base was damaged during stormy weather, a statement from ITV said.

The stars competing in the show have been removed from Gwrych Castle in Wales, where the show is filmed, while work is carried out to get the production base back up and running.

It is understood the celebrities will individually return to quarantine to ensure they remain Covid secure, and they will be back at the castle once the whole production is safely re-established.

It comes as Friday’s episode of the show was pre-recorded rather than broadcast live over fears the satellite link would be affected due to strong winds caused by Storm Arwen.

ADVERT

The storm was expected to hit the area surrounding Gwrych Castle around 9pm on Friday.

As a result, the show’s production base was damaged and the weekend’s planned shows have been cancelled.

I’m a Celebrity will be replaced by two compilation episodes on Saturday and Sunday, voiced by co-hosts Ant and Dec, featuring some of the “best moments’ throughout the show’s 21-year history.


Anti-viral Covid-19 pill needs ‘rethink’ over Omicron variant

Professor Chris Whitty said the rollout of the pill will need to be reconsidered.

BlackJack3D via IStock
Rethink: Anti-viral pill for Covid-19 needs to be targeted 'in the right direction'.

An anti-viral pill for Covid-19, which was approved for use in the UK, needs a “rethink” because of the Omicron variant, England’s chief medical officer has said.

Molnupiravir, which can be taken at home, is for people who have had a positive Covid test and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, such as obesity, being over the age of 60, diabetes or heart disease.

Professor Chris Whitty said its rollout needs to be reconsidered to make sure it is targeted “in the right direction”.

It was approved for use in the UK on November 4.

ADVERT

Prof Whitty told a Downing Street press conference on Saturday: “On the anti-virals, we are going to have to do a bit of a rethink on the basis of this new variant, just to be confident we’ve got the right indications from it.

“There’s a variety of ways you could use it in different ways, and what we need to make sure is whatever stock we’ve got of these, what appear to be highly effective drugs, that we use in the most effective way and for the right people.

“Where you are in the pathway right from the very beginning… working out their place, we do need to think through and I think we probably need to do a rethink of it just to make sure with the new variant, we’re targeting in the right direction.”

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had previously said the drug is safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospital admission and death in people with mild to moderate Covid who are at extra risk from the virus.

ADVERT

The drug, from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), works by interfering with the virus’s replication and prevents it from multiplying by keeping levels low in the body.

It was announced last month that 480,000 courses of molnupiravir had been secured after a study found it cut the rate of hospital admission and death by 50% in mild to moderately ill patients who had at least one risk factor for the disease.

The UK was the first country in the world to approve it for use, and it was described as a “gamechanger” by Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said: “How much Omicron would impact on the anti-viral use depends largely on the anti-viral.

“I suspect that most effective therapies such as dexamethasone would not be particularly affected by Omicron as this drug targets the body’s response to the virus, not the virus.

“Drugs that inhibit viral replication, such as the recently licensed molnupiravir, could drive mutation of the virus such that Covid develops anti-viral resistance – we do see this with anti-virals with other viruses.

“However, it would be surprising that such anti-viral resistance would develop before use of these drugs. Consequently I doubt Omicron would be more resistant to this class of anti-virals.

ADVERT

“However those drugs that are based on monoclonal antibodies are likely to be less effective against a heavily mutated virus.

“I personally do not think that the Omicron will dramatically affect our treatment strategies, with the exception of the monoclonal antibodies, because of their probable reduced effectiveness.”


Anti-racism march takes to the streets to support refugees

The rally and march, held at Glasgow Green, aims to 'root out racism and fascism in all forms'.

STV News
March: Protestors take to the streets from Glasgow Green.

An anti-racism march is taking place in Glasgow.

On Saturday, crowds gathered at Glasgow Green for a march and rally to ​​”root out racism and fascism in all forms” and show support to refugees. 

The march, organised by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), aims to highlight 25 years of campaigning by the Black Workers Committee and celebrate the “bravery and solidarity” of the BAME community. 

Organisers said: “Whether organising against the far right, campaigning for the closure of Dungavel, the fight for Justice for Surjit Singh Chhokar or the ongoing fight for justice for Sheku Bayoh, trade unionists have stood shoulder to shoulder with the BAME community.”

ADVERT

The group have also highlighted efforts to “push back” against Home Office raids, following protests in Glasgow’s Kenmure Street in May. 

STV News

Hundreds of protestors, including many STUC members, blocked an immingration van after officials attempted to detain two men. 

STUC said: “We take inspiration from the Kenmure Street protests, but dawn-raids have not stopped and they are just one inhumane example of the UK Government’s racist immigration policy.”


Teenager found ‘distressed’ in early hours following sexual assault

The 17-year-old was attacked between 2.40am and 3.30am in Paisley on Saturday morning.

Artolympic via IStock
Attack: Teenage girl sexually assaulted in Paisley.

A teenager has been sexually assaulted in the early hours in Renfrewshire. 

The 17-year-old was attacked between 2.40am and 3.30am on Saturday in the area of George Place, Browns Lane and Shuttle Street in Paisley. 

Police are urging people who may have come to the assistance of the teenager, who was found in a ‘distressed’ state, to come forward. 

Detective Inspector Colin MacRitchie said: “We are working to establish the full circumstances of this incident and our initial enquiries with CCTV provide that the area was busy with pedestrians around this time. 

ADVERT

“It is believed several members of the public may have come to the assistance of a distressed young woman in that area of Paisley town centre who then left before speaking with officers.

“If this was you then please come forward as you may have information which could help our enquiries.

“We are also keen to trace any witnesses or persons with information as to the incident or who may have private CCTV or dashcam footage. 

“Extensive enquiries are ongoing, including door to door enquiries and further study of the available CCTV footage.”

ADVERT

Anyone with information can call 101, quoting incident 0685 of November 27, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


Travellers to take PCR test upon arrival in UK to combat new variant

Boris Johnson told a press conference on Saturday that people will not be stopped from travelling.

Gorica Poturak via IStock
PCR: Travellers urged to take Covid test upon return to UK.

Boris Johnson has said anyone arriving in the UK will be asked to take a PCR test in a bid to combat a new variant of coronavirus.

The Prime Minister told a Downing Street press conference on Saturday that travellers must also self-isolate until they provide a negative test result.

The measure has been set out after two cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant were detected in Britain.

Sajid Javid said there would be targeted testing in Chelmsford and in Nottingham where the cases were found.

ADVERT

Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola have also been added to the red list in a bid to combat the variant.

At the press conference, Boris Johnson said: “We’re not going to stop people travelling, I want to stress that, we’re not going to stop people travelling, but we will require anyone who enters the UK to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival and to self-isolate until they have a negative result.

“We need to slow down the spread of this variant here in the UK, because measures at the border can only ever minimise and delay the arrival of a new variant rather than stop it all together.

“We will require all contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for ten days regardless of your vaccination status.”

ADVERT

The Prime Minister added that face covering rules in England will be “tightened”, urging people to wear masks in shops and on public transport, however this will not be extended to hospitality settings.

In Scotland, face coverings are mandatory in most public places including shops, restaurants, bars, public transport and places of worship, however there are medical exemptions in place.

People are also being urged to take up booster appointments when offered to them and to also insure they are fully vaccinated.

Johnson said: “We need to bolster our protections against this new variant.

“We don’t yet exactly know how effective our vaccines will be against Omicron but we have good reasons for believing they will provide at least some measure of protection.

“If you’re boosted, your response is likely to be stronger so it’s more vital than ever that people get their jabs and we get those boosters into arms as fast as possible.”

As news of the new variant spreads, the Prime Minister said he was “confident” that the festive period would be “considerably better than last Christmas.”

ADVERT

Johnson said: “We continue to be in a strong position largely thanks to the speed of the vaccine rollout, another booster rollout and I think I’m going to stick with the formula I’ve used before, which is I’m pretty confident to absolutely confident this Christmas will be considerably better than last Christmas.”


Oh yes, she is doing panto on the stage her dad loved

Daughter stars in King's Theatre panto which for years featured the late renowned actor Andy Gray.

Clare Gray via Contributed

Panto legend Andy Gray’s daughter is planning the perfect tribute to her dad by producing a sparking performance on the stage he loved.

Gray, who also starred in City Lights and River City, was described as a “national treasure” when he died following an illness earlier this year aged 61.

In Edinburgh, he was best known for his annual appearance in the King’s Theatre panto alongside Grant Stott and Allan Stewart.

And this year, his daughter Clare, 31, is making sure the ‘Gray’ name remains up in the lights above the theatre door.

@Captheatres/Douglas Robertson via Twitter
Andy Gray starred in many King’s Theatre pantos.
ADVERT

She will play Narcissa in the production of Sleeping Beauty, alongside her dad’s fellow stalwarts Stott and Stewart.

Clare told STV News that her return to the King’s ahead of the opening show on Saturday was an emotional experience.

“It was really overwhelming, just because I expected to see him in his dressing room, putting out all his toiletries and getting ready, so that was really tough,” she said.

“But at the same time, it was really comforting because my dad and I spent so many special times here.

ADVERT

“The past few years we’d done panto together and the last time I stood on that stage was our final panto performance.

“Obviously we didn’t know that was his last ever panto performance, but we ended it holding hands, so it’s really special.”

For 16 years, Gray happily played, in his own words, “the idiot” in panto favourites such as Aladdin and Cinderella, and Clare is determined to make her dad proud.

“There’s a few bits I do as Narcissa that I can totally feel my dad would have done,” she said. “He would just be delighted that I was doing it again. He really would.”

STV News
Clare Gray in panto at King’s Theatre Edinburgh

Stewart said Gray would be in the cast’s thoughts during the panto, which runs until January 16.

He said: “We all got this photograph today from one of the crew and it’s Andy just waiting to walk on stage with the spotlight shining on him.

“It was the most touching emotional thing I’ve ever seen, so we believe he’s here watching us going ‘it’s not as funny without me’.

ADVERT

“There’s a really beautiful bit towards the end that is a beautiful tribute to him and I think he would have been very touched by it.”

King’s Theatre via Contributed
The photograph of Andy Gray waiting to walk on stage.

You're up to date

You've read today's top stories. Where would you like to go next?