Coronavirus: More than 11,000 sign up for vaccine trials

Volunteers described as 'a major part' in efforts to find an effective Covid-19 vaccine.

Coronavirus: 11,200 people in Scotland have registered. Pixabay
Coronavirus: 11,200 people in Scotland have registered.

More than 11,000 people in Scotland have signed up for Covid-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Volunteers have been described as “a major part” in efforts to find an effective vaccine.

Over 100,000 people have signed up across the United Kingdom but more are wanted.

Researchers have urged more people to sign up, particularly those over the age of 65, and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

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UK Government minister for Scotland Iain Stewart said: “I am delighted that more than 11,200 people in Scotland have registered to take part in clinical studies through the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry so far.

“Volunteers are a major part in the race to find a working vaccine.

“I encourage people from all groups, particularly the over 65s, frontline workers and those from BAME communities to sign-up as we look to find a vaccine for coronavirus.”

Business secretary Alok Sharma added: “From John O’Groats to Land’s End, everyone has played their part in tackling coronavirus – from wearing face coverings to following social distancing guidance.

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“Scientists and researchers are working day and night to find a vaccine that meets the UK’s rigorous regulatory and safety standards, but they need hundreds of thousands of people of all backgrounds and ages to sign up for studies to speed up this vital research.

“I urge everyone to play our part in the fight against coronavirus and join the 100,000 people who have already registered, so we can help save and protect millions of lives.”

Halloween guising banned over coronavirus spread fears

The Deputy First Minister says the move is necessary to ensure current restrictions on gatherings are adhered to.

Guising: Annual tradition banned due to Covid fears.

The Scottish government has told families celebrating Halloween to avoid guising this year or risk spreading Covid-19.

Children dressing up as their favourite characters and going to door to door looking for treats has been an annual tradition for generations.

However, the Deputy First Minister says the move is necessary to ensure current restrictions on gatherings are adhered to.

In a statement released on Saturday John Swinney said: “I know guising is a big part of Halloween and children will be sad to miss out, but as door-to-door guising brings an additional and avoidable risk of spreading the virus, our clear advice for families is to avoid it.

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“Children can still get dressed up and share jokes with their families, and our Parent Club guidance has lots of fun and creative ideas for families to enjoy a safe celebration at home.

Advice on the Parent Club website suggests ways for families to have a safe Halloween at home including ideas around party games, fancy dress and storytelling.

For Bonfire Night, the advice includes guidelines around group sizes, distancing and FACTS precautions to reduce the temptation for people to hold gatherings and firework displays in their back gardens.

Swinney said: “Under the current restrictions it is not possible to meet up indoors or in large groups outdoors, so the safest thing to do this year is to stay at home.

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“On Bonfire Night it is vital the public adhere to the rules on meeting up with other households to help stop the spread of the virus.

“We know that some people may consider using fireworks in their back gardens  If you do plan on using fireworks this Bonfire Night, please do so responsibly and safely.

“Adapting alternative celebrations and sticking to the rules in place can go a huge way to ensuring everyone’s safety.”


Coronavirus: 11 more dead as cases soar by 1433 overnight

The jump of 1433 is the second highest daily figure recorded in Scotland since the start of the pandemic.

Sergi Escribano via Getty Images
Covid-19: The fight to stop the spread of the deadly virus goes on.

A further 11 people have died in Scotland after being diagnosed with coronavirus, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Total confirmed cases of the virus has risen to 55,449 – a jump of 1433 in the past 24 hours, which is the second highest daily figure recorded in Scotland since the start of the pandemic.

The official death toll in Scotland now stands at 2699, however weekly figures on suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is more than 4300.

Of the new cases, 524 are in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde region, 321 are in Lanarkshire, 174 are in Ayrshire and Arran, and 166 are in Lothian.

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The remaining cases are spread across nine other health board areas.

According to management information reported by NHS boards across Scotland, 985 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 – an increase of ten overnight. Out of those, 84 patients are in intensive care.

Man accused of ‘obstructing police’ at drug consumption van

Peter Krykant, 43, was charged after officers attended at Parnie Street in Glasgow on Friday.

© Google Maps 2020
Glasgow: Officers attended at Parnie Street on Friday.

A police chief has issued a statement after an activist was charged by officers at a drug consumption van in Glasgow.

Peter Krykant, 43, is campaigning for a change in the law, claiming the current legislation forces addicts to inject in unsafe conditions in filthy alleyways.

As reported by STV News on Friday, Mr Krykant was charged in connection with an offence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 after officers attended at Parnie Street earlier in the day.

On Saturday, the force released a statement saying Mr Krykant has been accused of “obstructing police officers” after another media outlet and online commentary wrongly reported he had been charged in relation to the mobile facility’s service.

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Assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie, partnerships, prevention and community wellbeing, said: “A 43-year-old man was charged for obstructing police officers carrying out their duties in respect of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 on Parnie Street, Glasgow, on Friday, October 23.

“He was not arrested and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal in due course.”

ACC Ritchie said three other people were searched, however no crime was established.

He added: “Police Scotland’s drug strategy is based on principles of harm reduction and focuses on engaging with partners to ensure that those whose lives are affected by drug use receive the appropriate care from health and support services.

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“A number of initiatives are ongoing throughout Scotland involving police, health, social care, drug support groups, charities and local communities.”

He said that in Glasgow, Police Scotland leads on the Positive Outcomes Project – which aims to ensure that those living with addiction can benefit from the many services on offer.

ACC Ritchie added: “Police officers who come across individuals they consider would benefit from those type of interventions will assist them in accessing the relevant services.

“Where crimes are being committed police officers will intervene, however it is understood the many complex needs that individuals have, and these are highlighted when reporting crimes to the Procurator Fiscal.

“Work is ongoing under the auspices of the Drugs Death Task Force to develop a parallel referral system where police officers, in appropriate circumstances, can refer individuals who may be breaking the law, directly into these services at an earlier stage.

“We will continue to focus our enforcement activities on those individuals and groups who are intent, for their own benefit, on supplying controlled drugs into communities and to people who are already vulnerable.”


Grinning Finn Russell ready to help Scotland any way he can

The fly half made his long-awaited comeback in the 48-7 victory over Georgia at Murrayfield.

SNS Group
Fun: Finn Russell wanted to play his own game

Nothing would have wiped the smile off Finn Russell’s face when he returned to the Scotland team after a year in exile.

The mercurial fly half won his 50th cap from the bench in Scotland’s demolition of Georgia at Murrayfield on Friday night – a little over a year after his last outing for Gregor Townsend’s side.

A fall-out between Russell and the head coach saw him leave Scotland’s training camp back in January and he sat out the rest of the Six Nations campaign before rugby was suspended in March.

The pair patched up their differences during the Coronavirus lockdown and Russell could not hide his delight at wearing the thistle on his chest again.

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The Racing 92 star said: “That’s the way I play, I’m always smiling, I always enjoy being out there.

“So even if that wasn’t my 50th [cap] or my first game back since the World Cup, you would have seen the same smile.”

Asked if his high profile absence from international duty had led to some light hearted remarks from teammates Russell insisted it had been straight to business – with his focus on playing a supportive role.

Russell said: “There’s been none of it actually. When I came in I, not exactly took a step back, but I didn’t want to start saying ‘let’s do this and let’s do that’. I thought I’d leave it to the boys.

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“Obviously [Adam Hastings] was starting [at fly half] so I had a big chat with him about what I thought about the game and things to potentially look for.

“I was more focused on making sure the subs were ready instead of trying to chat in huddles or say too much. I left that to the boys who were starting.”

Russell took to the field early in the second half, taking up his natural position with Hastings moving out to inside centre.

The partnership yielded some exciting attacking play but Russell said it was not on his mind to go out to make a point.

The 28-year-old said: “Personally I wasn’t going there to try and show anything or to do too much. I just went out and played my game.

“It’s not for me to decide who plays 10 or 12 or who is in the [match day] 23.

“I went out there and had some fun and I think that showed with the smiling.

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“I am not going out there to say ‘it is me against Hasto’ or this or that.

“It is a team game and I will support him just as much if he’s starting or on the bench or wherever he is.

“I will help him as much as possible as I will do for anyone in the team.”

But the question on every Scotland fan’s lips this week will be whether Russell returns to the starting 15 to take on Wales in Llanelli on Saturday – the delayed finale to the 2020 Six Nations championship.

Russell said: “It will be a different challenge we get. The forwards will have to front up and the defence will be slightly different and better.

“[Wales] pose different threats but it’s different opportunities for us to score against.

“I’ve not looked at them too much but having played them a few times I know they’re a difficult defence to break down. So I’ll get stuck into that on Monday.”


Students protest claiming ‘mistreatment’ by university

Students from the University of Edinburgh staged a demonstration on Saturday.

Ailanlee via Getty Images
University of Edinburgh: Students held a protest on Saturday.

Students from the University of Edinburgh have staged a protest over their “mistreatment” by the institution amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters claim the university made a “false promise” of hybrid learning and said that many students would not have taken out leases on flats if they had known most learning would be online.

They also claim the university’s treatment of first years has been “terrible”, saying that the university has “locked them in halls of residences with zero regard for their mental health and wellbeing”.

Students gathered to protest in the city’s Bristo Square on Saturday, calling for better treatment and services and an “actual provision of hybrid learning”, saying if the university cannot provide this then a cut in fees for the online semester is needed.

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They held placards with messages such as “9k for Zoom”, “students before profit” and “less contact same fees”.

The university said that students are receiving a hybrid learning experience, and that when they are asked to self-isolate they are provided with support.

In a Facebook post, organisers stated: “This is a protest against the University of Edinburgh’s mistreatment of students in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly against the false promise of ‘hybrid learning’ made to both returning and new students.

“Students were misled and returned and started university only to find, the night before term started, that all or the vast majority of their lectures and contacts would be online.

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“Many students have taken out leases on flats that they do not need and wouldn’t have got if the university was honest and clear about online learning from the beginning.

“The treatment of new students has been terrible. The university has locked them in halls of residences with zero regard for their mental health and wellbeing.

“Many other universities across the UK have dealt with the pandemic better, with much more serious and compassionate measures being set in place to provide quality education and safety for students.

“This protest is to display our anger against and disappointment in the University of Edinburgh.”

Protesters were asked to respect social distancing and wear masks if possible.

A University of Edinburgh spokeswoman said: “Academic and support staff have been working tirelessly to provide students with the world-class education that they expect from the University of Edinburgh.

“We have been working closely with the Students’ Union and other student groups to ensure that their views are heard at the highest level.

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“Students are receiving a hybrid learning experience, in line with Scottish Government guidance, with some in-person teaching taking place on campus.

“We are delivering more than 95,000 hours of teaching this semester and more than 35,000 hours of these are scheduled to take place on campus. Our libraries and other study facilities are open, and we have created new spaces for students to meet and interact during this challenging year.

“We have also introduced new courses to help our students adjust to digital learning, as well as providing extra technical support.

“Where students are asked to self-isolate due to Scottish Government and NHS advice, we have staff working 24 hours a day to provide those in accommodation with three meals a day and have other essential items delivered. We are also providing a range of support, including daily check-ins, pastoral care and a helpline.

“We know that this is a year like no other, but we want to reassure our students that we are listening to them and acting on their feedback where we can.”


‘No place for anti-English rhetoric over handling of pandemic’

Scottish Lib Dems leader Willie Rennie said parts of Scotland have some of the worst rates of coronavirus across the UK.

Fraser Bremner-Pool via Getty Images
Scottish Lib Dems: Leader Willie Rennie.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie has spoken out against “anti-English rhetoric” in the Scottish Government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rennie said parts of Scotland have some of the worst rates of coronavirus across the UK and claimed the Scottish Government “squandered” valuable time over the summer months when the virus had abated.

He spoke out after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the virus was almost eliminated in Scotland during the summer and was partly reseeded by travellers from elsewhere.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, she said: “This is a virus that obviously travels across borders very easily and I suspect over the summer we did get very close to elimination in Scotland and then, not entirely, but we’ve reseeded it from travel across the UK and internationally so border control I think is an important consideration here.”

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She said that even if a country were to decide to seal itself off, it then becomes a question of how long you do that for as that comes with costs for areas like trade and the economy.

Rennie said: “Anti-English rhetoric has reared its ugly head at different points throughout this crisis and there is no place for it.

“Parts of Scotland have some of the worst rates of coronavirus across the UK. To claim any kind of exceptionalism is misjudged. People will not look kindly on ministers wildly searching around to apportion blame.

“Blaming England without evidence is a desperate attempt to deflect from the responsibility the Scottish Government bears for not preparing well for the second wave. Blaming others for our own weakness is not something we should be hearing during a global pandemic.

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“This government has squandered valuable time over the summer months when the virus had abated.

“It needs to make a step change to Scotland’s test and trace capacity and the efficiency of contact tracing interviews. This is all within the First Minister’s control.”

Scotland has recorded 11 deaths from coronavirus and 1433 positive tests in the past 24 hours, the Scottish Government announced on Saturday.

The death toll under this measure – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – has risen to 2699.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We all want to eliminate this virus as much as possible and that means reducing transmission by avoiding travel to and from high-risk areas, a position all governments in the UK have taken.

“We will always be guided by the best and most up-to-date expert scientific advice and that includes asking residents of high-risk areas within Scotland to avoid non-essential travel, for example when local restrictions were in place in Dumfries and Galloway or Aberdeen.”


A83 Rest and Be Thankful closed overnight due expected rain

The Argyll road was shut for safety at 6pm on Saturday and will be inspected on Sunday morning with a view to reopening.

BEAR NW Trunk Roads via Twitter
Rest and Be Thankful: The road has been closed overnight.

The A83 Rest and Be Thankful will be closed overnight due to heavy rainfall expected in the area.

The key route through Argyll was shut for safety at 6pm on Saturday and will be inspected on Sunday morning with a view to reopening.

The Old Military Road local diversion route – which runs parallel to the A83 through Glen Croe – will remain open for motorists.

Eddie Ross, BEAR Scotland’s north west representative, said: “We’ve assessed the hillside and the forecast weather conditions, and given the extent of rainfall in past days we have taken the decision to close the A83 overnight as a safety precaution.

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“It is difficult for us to monitor the hillside and any sudden changes in conditions during the hours of darkness, so we’re continuing to put the safety of motorists first and will close the A83 as a precaution overnight and utilise the OMR local diversion instead.”

A geotechnical assessment will be undertaken from first light on Sunday to determine if the A83 can safely reopen.

Mr Ross added: “Further heavy rain is forecast over the coming days and we’ll be closely monitoring the weather conditions and the hillside at the Rest.

“As ever we’ll do everything we can to keep disruption to a minimum, and we thank all road users and the local community for their continued patience and understanding.”


Campaigners hold protest at Mossmorran chemical plant

Demonstrators from Mossmorran Action Group peacefully gathered at the Fife site on Saturday afternoon.

Cllr Darren Watt, Cowdenbeath via Twitter
Mossmorran: Sepa received hundreds of complaints following unplanned flaring earlier this month.

A further protest has been held by frustrated locals over disruption caused by Mossmorran chemical plant.

Demonstrators from Mossmorran Action Group peacefully gathered at the Fife site on Saturday afternoon, with support from local councillors and MSPs including Scottish Labour’s Alex Rowley.

This is the second protest this month.

Posting a picture on Twitter, Rowley stated: “The communities around the Mossmorran chemical plant want to know if it is safe, it keeps breaking causing flaring and fear. 

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“The Scottish Government must seek and give the answers on safety. If it is not safe then it must shut. We need answers.”

Earlier this month, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) received hundreds of complaints over unplanned flaring at the plant which lasted from the early hours of Sunday, October 4 until the afternoon of Tuesday, October 6.

The flaring, a safety measure at the site, causes light and sound disturbance.

Operator ExxonMobil indicated a compressor fault was to blame.

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In May this year, Sepa confirmed it was seeking a prosecution following unplanned flaring at the chemical works in April 2019. The flare burned for six days and led to more than 900 complaints.

The Scottish Greens are calling for an urgent independent inquiry into the future of the plant.

Ahead of the protest, Green MSP Mark Ruskell posted a video message in solidarity to all those calling for the plant’s closure.

He said: “You have my support. I would be joining you were it not for the fact that where I live here is impacted by Covid restrictions.

“But the work that you are doing is really important right now. It’s so important that the community voice is heard in this debate. 

“The politicians and regulators understand the suffering that local people have had to endure over many, many years.

“And I think there’s a chance here because the Scottish Government is starting to open up to the possibility of a life after Mossmorran and the need for a just transition for workers to move into the industries of the future.”

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Following the protest, a spokesperson from ExxonMobil said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest and we ensured a safe space for those attending, but our priority is the safety of our employees and communities, and we have taken actions to ensure continued safe operations.

“We want to be a good neighbour to our host communities, and that is something more than 200 employees, and many more valued contractors, work hard to achieve every day.

“We understand the frustration that is caused by the use of our flare, and our commitment to reducing frequency is underlined by an additional £140m investment in key infrastructure and new technologies due to begin in April.

“While already one of the most modern plants of its kind in Europe, we always look for ways to improve reliability through continued maintenance and investment.

“The Mossmorran facility is an integral part of Scotland’s energy supply, meeting the needs of homes and businesses nationwide. Furthermore, Fife Ethylene Plant directly supports the manufacturing supply chain for important products such as medical supplies, lightweight electric vehicles and food packaging.”

Emergency Covid-19 cash help for ‘flagship cultural venues’

Venues like the V&A Dundee will benefit from the funding from the Scottish Government.

Hufton+Crow via V&A Dundee
V&A Dundee: The museum will benefit from emergency funding.

Emergency funding of £1m is being given to the V&A in Dundee to help it deal with the impact of coronavirus.

The move is part of a package of financial aid for “flagship cultural venues” in Scotland, with the Burrell Renaissance Project in Glasgow – which aims to revitalise the museum and safeguard its collection – being awarded £750,000.

Capital Theatres, which operates the Festival Theatre, the King’s Theatre and The Studio in Edinburgh, will receive £500,000, on top of £250,000 it has already been awarded through the Performing Arts Venue Relief Fund.

The latest funding from the Scottish Government is part of efforts to support the culture and heritage sectors, with almost £98m of emergency cash allocated so far.

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Announcing the latest cash awards, culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Culture is vitally important to all of our lives, and the Scottish Government is determined to do everything within our powers to see the sector through this crisis.

“This includes providing financial support to our flagship cultural venues, as well as the work already under way to help smaller organisations and individuals within the culture sector.

“This latest funding announcement brings the Scottish Government’s total Covid-19 support package for our culture and heritage sectors to just under £98m.

“We know further support will still be needed, and the major issues presented by the pandemic are not going away, which is why we will continue to work in partnership with the sector to support them to not only survive the pandemic but to thrive in future.”

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Fiona Gibson, chief executive of Capital Theatres, said the emergency funding was “greatly appreciated” and would be a “short-term financial lifeline”.

She said: “We would very much like to thank the Scottish Government for their support and recognition, acknowledging the crucial contribution our theatres provide to the local, national and cultural sector economies. This will enable us to continue supporting our core staff, freelancers and communities alike.”


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