Coronavirus updates as they happened – Wednesday, April 8.

Today's latest coronavirus news and updates from across Scotland as it happens.

Coronavirus: Wednesday's latest updates. Pixabay
Coronavirus: Wednesday's latest updates.

7.30pm: First Scots NHS worker dies

A district nurse from Inverclyde has become the first NHS worker in Scotland to die from coronavirus.

Nurse: Janice Graham passed away on Monday.

Janice Graham, 58, was described as a “beautiful woman with the biggest heart” by her heartbroken friends.

Ms Graham, a health care support worker and district nurse, died at Inverclyde Royal Hospital due to Covid-19 on Monday.

ADVERT

6.30pm: FM to take questions from party leaders in virtual session

Nicola Sturgeon will take questions from party leaders in a virtual question and answer session on Thursday.

It will go ahead at 12.30pm and is expected to last for around 40 minutes.

The First Minister said it would replace the usual coronavirus briefing – which is held daily.

ADVERT

It is expected that the session will mirror the first part of the First Minister’s Questions, where Ms Sturgeon takes questions from her opposite numbers.

5.45pm: New rules ‘could prevent prisoners from keeping clean’

New guidance issued to governors could prevent Scottish prisoners from keeping themselves clean during the coronavirus outbreak, opposition parties have said.

Changes to the rules around prisoners and young offenders mean they are entitled to showers at least “twice a week” as opposed to the current rules allowing showers at least once every other day.

Books and newspapers could also be restricted during the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as other activities, recreation and counselling.

MSPs were notified of the new rules on Tuesday.

Scottish Labour said prisoners must be treated with dignity during the pandemic.

ADVERT

The party’s justice spokesman James Kelly said: “The World Health Organisation has made clear that prisons must ensure that the human rights of those in their custody are protected when implementing measures to deal with coronavirus, and that they should not be cut off from the outside world and retain access to information and healthcare.

“These new powers raise concerns that this may not be the case on the Scottish prison estate.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Liam McArthur MSP added: “It’s hard to see how preventing prisoners from showering will help slow the spread of this virus.

“Prisons face particular difficulties in terms of containing and responding to the virus, while healthcare provision that was already under stress becomes even more so in the context of over-crowding and self-isolation.

“In the midst of this crisis, prisoners still deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity.”

5.20pm: Government unveils £750m support package for charities

Charities struggling during the coronavirus pandemic will be given a £750m bailout to keep them afloat, the Chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak said charities, including those supporting domestic abuse victims and hospices, will receive cash grants to ensure they can meet increased demand as a result of the virus.

Some £360m direct from Government departments will go to charities providing key services, while smaller charities will benefit from £370m, including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund.

The Government has also pledged to match the public’s donations to the National Emergencies Trust, guaranteeing a minimum of £20m.

It will also match fund whatever the public decides to donate to the BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal on April 23.

5.15pm: Prime Minister remains in intensive care

Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care.

At the UK Government’s daily briefing on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said he was “sitting up in bed” and was engaging positively with NHS staff at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

Johnson was taken into intensive care on Monday, a day after going into hospital for treatment to coronavirus.

An official spokesman earlier said he was receiving “standard oxygen treatment” and was “breathing without any other assistance”.

5.10pm: More than 7000 deaths across the UK

A total of 7097 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Tuesday, the Department of Health said, up by 938 from 6159 the day before.

The Department of Health said, as of 9am on Wednesday, 232,708 people have been tested of which 60,733 tested positive.

Overall, 282,074 tests have concluded, with 14,682 tests on Tuesday.

The overall test figure excludes data from Northern Ireland and test data from Charing Cross and Southampton has not been included because of a processing delay, the department added.

5.04pm: FM warns ending lockdown early would be ‘monumental mistake’

Nicola Sturgeon has warned it would be a “monumental mistake” to ease the coronavirus lockdown measures too early and said parents should not expect schools to reopen any time soon.

The First Minister said “prematurely” lifting current restrictions on social distancing and school closures risked undermining efforts to contain the disease and told the public: “We are in this for some time yet.”

Speaking at the daily press briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: “Obviously we will seek to get back to normal as quickly as possible, but it would be a really monumental mistake for us to lift these measures prematurely because all the hard work people are doing right now would be jeopardised if this virus just got out of control again.

“We will continue to be open with people as our understanding and our decision-making around these things continues to develop, but I will repeat the message today: we are in this for some time yet to come, people have to be prepared to stick with this in order for it to have the impact we want it to have.”

She said she hoped not to have to introduce stricter measures, such as closing public parks, and added that the more people who comply with the guidance, “the quicker we will get to point where we can be starting to lift this”.

On the issue of school closures, Ms Sturgeon acknowledged that many parents and children were eager to return but she said there were no plans to reopen schools after Easter.

4.50pm: 3D printers used to help create protective masks

Staff at Culture Perth and Kinross Libraries have used 3D printers to produce components that will be used to create protective masks for NHS workers.

The printers – bought as part of Leader-funded project Digital Maker_Spaces – were used to make headframes and stiffeners.

Printers: The completed masks will be given to NHS staff.

Working with Men’s Sheds and other partners across the region, these items will have a laminated shield and elastic headband added to them, creating protective masks.

The final product will then be given to the NHS Tayside Testing Centre.

Coronavirus: The 3D printers were used to create headframes and stiffeners.

Jackie Brierton, chair of Rural Perth & Kinross Leader Local Action Group, said: “This is a great repurposing of resources to help combat the coronavirus crisis. 

“We’re delighted that the Leader programme, which is made up of EU and Scottish Government monies, can support Culture Perth and Kinross’ innovative project.  

“The Leader team was able to help the project align the remainder of its funding contribution to respond to the call for help.”

4.32pm: Scottish Parliament explores remote working for MSPs

The Scottish Parliament is exploring remote working in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which could involve party leaders questioning the First Minister virtually on Thursday.

In a letter to MSPs on Wednesday, Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh said the parliamentary bureau – a group of MSPs which decides the business of the parliament – is currently hoping to hold a session similar to First Minister’s Questions.

Testing was due to be undertaken by officials on Wednesday to assess how the process would work.

The Presiding Officer wrote: “Like other legislatures, colleagues here have been very busy in recent weeks examining and testing a range of options for virtual working and I am pleased to say that the progress they are making is very encouraging indeed.

“In the first instance, the Parliamentary Bureau is exploring holding a leaders’ virtual question time where party leaders can question the First Minister.”

If the first session on Thursday worked, the Presiding Officer said there would be scope to allow questions to come from all MSPs in the following weeks.

3.30pm: Emergency funds offered to students during coronavirus outbreak

Richard Lochhead says extra funding for students is being put in place


A £5m package of emergency financial support is being put in place to help students facing hardship as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Extra cash will be available to any university and college students now struggling as a result of COVID-19, including those attending private institutions.

University and college students will be able to apply for any emergency discretionary payments directly to their own institutions.

Further and Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead said: “We are ensuring students studying in Scotland should have access to emergency support should they be facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 or the social distancing and isolation measures that have been introduced.

“All bursaries, grants and loans are continuing to be paid as planned but the current unprecedented situation has resulted in increased hardship.

“That is why we are making extra funding immediately available for students most in need, to help alleviate concerns around accommodation costs, mental health issues, general living costs and wellbeing.

“Institutions will be provided with specific guidance on the discretionary funding related to COVID-19, to explain all relevant details while students can access the latest information on COVID-19 on the Student Information Scotland website.”

3.15pm: Lib Dems say PPE is an “absolute basic”

Following an open letter send to the government expressing serious concerns about supplies of PPE equipment to frontline workers and the quality of that being received which was signed by over 100 medics in Scotland, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has issued a statement.

“We are now weeks into this crisis. It’s outrageous that our health professionals are being sent out on the frontline without the protection they need. These supplies are an absolute basic,” he said.

“Medics should not feel the need to turn to the media for their concerns to be listened to. This daily fight for adequate protective equipment is distressing and distracting at a time when it should be all hands on deck. 

“In both primary and community care we need to see high quality supplies getting to the people who need it right now.”

1.15pm: Prime Minister ‘clinically stable’ and responding to treatment.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains ‘clinically stable’ and is responding to treatment.

Downing street say he is in ‘good spirits’ in St Thomas’s hospital in London where he is in intensive care.

Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment.

“He continues to be cared for in the intensive care unit at St Thomas’s Hospital. He’s in good spirits.”


The PM continues to receive “standard oxygen treatment” and is “breathing without any other assistance”, he said.

Downing Street confirmed the PM is not working while in intensive care and thanked the public for messages of support.

Asked if anyone has been in contact, the spokesman said: “The PM is not working, he’s in intensive care, he has the ability to contact those that he needs to, he’s following the advice of his doctors at all times.

“We are hugely grateful for the messages of support that the Prime Minister has received.

“I think the public response to coronavirus throughout has been fantastic and that has been best exemplified by the applause they’ve been giving to NHS staff every week.”

12.58pm: Death toll from coronavirus rises by 70 to 366

The death toll from coronavirus in Scotland has risen by 70 overnight to 366, with more than 4500 confirmed cases, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

Total confirmed cases are up by 336 to 4565, while there are 210 patients with Covid-19 in intensive care and 1711 in hospital overall.

It comes as the National Records of Scotland (NRS) published new weekly figures providing more detail on coronavirus-linked deaths.

Speaking at a Scottish Government press briefing on Wednesday, the First Minister confirmed the numbers.

11.51am: Scottish Government responds to ‘grave concerns’ of medics over PPE

The Scottish Government has said that the protection of frontline healthcare workers is the ‘highest priority’ after medics raised ‘grave concerns’ over the issue.

Over 100 medics signed an open letter questioning if protective equipment provided to them was adequate for the job hand.

In response a government spokesperson said: “We attach the highest priority to the protection of our frontline social care and healthcare workers, and the detailed clinical guidance issued last week was jointly prepared by senior expert clinicians across the UK, was jointly agreed by Scotland’s Chief Medical and Nursing officers and contains specific detail about what PPE should be worn, by which staff and when.

“As the Health Secretary announced last week, we have introduced four direct supply lines for PPE, a streamlined ordering system for all staff who need PPE and a new dedicated email address for any health or social care worker who has any concerns about PPE supply to make contact with us immediately. Where we are alerted to any local issue about PPE availability, we act immediately to address these.

“We are clear that appropriate eyewear protection must be provided in accordance with UK four nation guidance. We have adequate supplies of PPE in place and our new supply line measures are ensuring that the right equipment reaches the right locations with the highest possible urgency.

“The Health Secretary had discussions with Andrew Buist and Lewis Morrison of the BMA, last week, on key issues including PPE and will continue to engage with them both regularly during this time.”

11.16am: Glasgow Warriors star returns to NHS as a physio to help fight against covid-19.

Rugby star Petrus de Plessis has announced he will return to the NHS as a physio.

The Glasgow Warriors player-coach, who has been at the club since 2018, made the announcement on Twitter.

The 38-year-old South African has registered as a respiratory physiotherapist in a bid to help the fight against covid-19.

He said: “I’ve registered to go back to the NHS as a respiratory physiotherapist. I strongly believe it’s important to have all hands on deck to overcome this virus!”

10.16am: Pub’s tribute to health workers

Grace’s Bar in the Merchant City area of Glasgow has paid a striking tribute to NHS workers.

The venue, known as a Celtic pub, is closed during lockdown and wanted to brighten its boarded-up windows.

Bar owner Paul Kelly said: “We felt the need to board up the windows as a precaution for extra safety and security and it suddenly hit us that everything we have worked for as a team and a community was in ruins.  

“We could have advertised our venue but that wasn’t right either when there are people out there fighting for their lives and others on the frontline battling this virus.

How the boarded-up windows of Grace’s bar look.

“We are a sports bar, mainly Celtic fans but we have many fans from other teams who visit regularly too and we’ll all really miss the place during this closure.

“However the message is still the same, we want to help remind everyone to stay at home.  It is Easter weekend which is meant to be a holiday, a time of joy and it would be easy to forget our commitments to stay safe, so we wrote this message as a reminder that it is more important than ever to stay home and help in this fight. We are all in this together.”

9.50am: Half of those diagnosed with covid-19 in Forth Valley ‘fully recovered and back home’

Around half of the 243 people who have had a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis in Forth Valley are already fully recovered and back home.

Dr Graham Foster, Forth Valley’s director of public health, said it was important to get the message out that people had been discharged when it was safe to do so.

As the Scottish and UK death tolls rise, and the Prime Minister himself in intensive care, more and more people are facing up to just how deadly covid-19 can be.

And some have been nervous about those who have had the illness returning to their communities.

But Dr Foster said: “We want to be reassuring that these people are not a big infection risk and they don’t need to be treated any differently.

“They will obviously do the self-isolation that everyone else is doing and obey the same rules as everyone else but people don’t need to worry about them.

“People need to get used to the idea that the normal path of covid is that you become unwell for a period of time, usually seven days, and then you are safe after that to be discharged.”

9.27am: Emergency £500 grant available to those impacted by coronavirus

People in financial crisis caused by the ongoing covid-19 pandemic can now receive immediate help in the form of a cash grant.

The initiative comes thanks to the launch of an emergency coronavirus grant fund by national poverty charity, Turn2us.

A one-off crisis grant of £500 will be approved and paid within just three working days of an application, as long as they meet the grant fund’s eligibility criteria.

The grant will not need to be paid back and is intended to be a financial lifeline in a time of crisis.

One million people came to Turn2us for help in the last three weeks alone, representing a 520% increase, and 1800% increase amongst the self-employed.

8.50am: ‘Video visiting’ launched for Western Isles hospitals

A new ‘video visiting’ service is to be launched in the Western Isles on Wednesday, which will enable hospital inpatients and their friends and family to keep in touch via a video link.

In a statement, NHS Western Isles said that since the closure of local hospitals to visitors as a measure to control the spread of Coronavirus, staff had been working on a new system enabling video connections for hospital patients.

The service will initially be available for calls seven days a week between 2pm and 4pm to patients in Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway, with a roll-out of the scheme to all Western Isles hospital sites over the next two weeks currently being considered. Calls will be ten minutes in duration. 

8.46am: Entrepreneur gives £100,000 to fund free meals

Scots entrepreneur Marie Macklin has donated £100,000 to help people in need during the coronavirus outbreak.

She has launched a community fund called Lift Up Your Hearts, which aims to deliver 20,000 free meals.

The project has teamed up with charity Centrestage and company Braehead Foods to prepare and deliver free meals to homes in Kilmarnock and across East Ayrshire.

Marie, who founded the HALO urban regeneration company, said: “It is a very proud day for not just me but everyone at the HALO to see so many people come together to support the Lift Up Your Hearts campaign which we hope will help local communities that need it the most during these unprecedented times.

“I’d like to thank the team at Braehead Foods and everyone at Centrestage for their support and dedication to making the first deliveries of these 20,000 meals happen so quickly.

“I am confident that together we will help as many people as possible get through these difficult times.”

8.32am: Scottish football clubs set for crunch coronavirus talks

Scottish clubs will hold further talks with league officials on Wednesday in a bid to secure more clarity on the fate of the current season.

A number of clubs have already called on the Scottish Professional Football League to declare the standings as they are.

But Hearts have threatened legal action if they are relegated with eight games left and Rangers vowed to challenge any attempt to declare Celtic champions.

8.20am: Medics raise ‘grave concerns’ over protection equipment in open letter to Scottish Government

More than 100 medical professionals have signed an open letter to the Scottish Government raising “grave concerns” over personal protective equipment.

The open letter states that the virus has caused “upheaval” and lives have been “turned upside down” with people suffering from “fear and anxiety”.

It goes on to say that many working for the health service have concerns about the adequacy of the protective equipment needed in the “frontline battle” against an “invisible enemy”.

The medics wrote: “Health care workers are falling ill and dying due to covid-19. We believe it is vital that essential workers are given adequate PPE at the very least, to protect themselves and in-turn their patients from this new virus.”

7.50am: UK coronavirus strategy questioned

Questions have been asked over the UK’s covid-19 strategy in the absence of the Prime Minister who remains in intensive care with the virus.

Concerns were raised over when the lockdown measures will be reviewed – and leading officials have admitted the UK has “a lot to learn” from Germany’s expansive testing scheme.

Earlier, foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising in Boris Johnson’s absence, suggested the review of the lockdown announced by the PM when he set out the restrictions would not go ahead on Monday as scheduled.

7.35am: Prime Minister spends second night in intensive care

Boris Johnson spent second night in intensive care.

Boris Johnson has spent a second night in intensive care being treated for Covid-19.

Downing Street said the PM’s condition remained “stable” on Tuesday night as they confirmed he would be staying in St Thomas’s hospital for “close monitoring”.

The 55-year-old is said to be in “good spirits”.

7.05am: Report warns that GDP could shrink by 25% if lockdown continues

The Scottish economy could contract by up to a quarter if the current lockdown restrictions continue for a three-month period, according to the Fraser of Allander Institute.

The report from the economic research institute at Strathclyde University found there is likely to be “a long road to recovery” from the “unprecedented” impact on GDP from the coronavirus pandemic.

The estimates are predicted on a three month period of restrictions and are not an “exact prediction for growth” in Q2 of 2020, but “simply an illustration of the scale of the shock” to the economy.

The report adds that “it might be many months or even years before we actually know the full extent of the effect of the shut down on the Scottish economy”.

7am: Jobs market sees greatest drop in permanent starts since global crash

Permanent job appointments across Scotland in March fell at the fastest rate since the global financial crash, according to a study.

The latest Royal Bank of Scotland figures show the country saw the steepest decline last month in these job starts since April 2009, with a drop of 10.7 points from the “no change” base rate of 50.

Permanent job placements in April 2009 had a rating of 33.6, some 16.4 points below the 50 standard.

Temporary billings also fell 19.3 points – the steepest rate on record – as the Scottish jobs market was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Further 89 deaths from coronavirus recorded in Scotland

John Swinney said the total number of coronavirus deaths in Scotland now stands at 5,468.

SNS Group via SNS Group

Scotland has recorded a further 89 deaths from coronavirus, the Deputy First Minister has said.

At Thursday’s daily briefing, John Swinney said the total number of deaths after confirmed coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 5468.

There were 1636 new cases of Covid-19 reported, with 2004 people currently in hospital with the virus.

Of that number, 161 people were in intensive care, an increase of five from Wednesday.

ADVERT

He added that 168,219 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 166,583 the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate is 7%, down from 7.5% on the previous 24 hours.

The Deputy First Minister said that 334,871 people have now received their first coronavirus vaccination and added it is hoped all over 70s will be vaccinated by mid-February.

Swinney said the latest estimate showed the R number in Scotland – the average number of people infected by each person with Covid-19 – was now estimated to be “around 1” and had “probably fallen during the last week”.

ADVERT

This shows the current lockdown measures are “at the very least helping to stabilise case numbers”, the Deputy First Minister added.

He said the number of infections occurring remained “concerningly high”.

Swinney also said that three new walk-in testing centres were opening in Scotland this week.

One opened in Paisley on Tuesday, he said, with further sites opening in Dunfermline and Glenrothes later on Thursday.

He said that each of these new centres would be able to undertake up to 300 Covid-19 tests a day and take the total number of walk in centres to 28.

“They will help to increase the accessibility and effectiveness of testing,” Swinney added.

The Deputy First Minister stressed that while infection numbers remained high, the lockdown restrictions were “vital”.

ADVERT

Swinney said: “They are the single most important way in which we can reduce case numbers and ease some of the pressure on our health and social care services.”


Floods across Scotland as Storm Christoph brings heavy rain

The storm has brought with it travel disruptions and an avalanche warning.

Ruth Haughs via Ruth Haughs
Flooding: Heavy rain in Aberdeenshire.

Scotland has been hit by heavy flooding as Storm Christoph brings torrential rain, gale force winds and enough snow on hills for a potential avalanche.

The north and north-east of the country has been hit hardest with several areas reporting flooding.

Pictures show The Den in Turriff submerged in water following Thursday’s rainfall.

Flooding: The Den in Turriff. (Ruth Haughs)

There has also been reports of several disruptions to travel with train services in Inverness and Wick dealing with short delays.

ADVERT

Journeys to and from Inverness were delayed after a tree fell on the track near Carrbridge Station and services to Wick were suspended after a landslip on the Far North Line between Tain and Fearn.

And snow in the south-east has caused concerns over a potential avalanche in the Pentlands and other hills.

Al MacPherson via email
Snow caused dangerous driving conditions. Picture by Al MacPherson.

The Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue team issued a warning on Thursday over the fears urging anyone in the area to take care due an avalanche that could be big enough to bury a person if they are caught in it.

On Facebook they said: “**Avalanche Warning**Word of caution if you’re doing anything off-piste in the Pentlands (or other hills). This is a full depth slab avalanche on the South side of Turnhouse.

ADVERT

“All the blown wind slab thats accumulated from recent snowfalls has only been weakly bonded to the grass beneath. Certainly enough to knock you off your feet, maybe enough to bury you if caught and you’re unlucky!.”

Steven Mackay via Facebook
Snowfall on Thursday morning.

The weather is likely to calm down on Friday and into the weekend, although wintry showers are expected in the far north and west.

STV’s Sean Batty said: “Longer term, while temperatures will be up and down from day to day, it generally looks like the remainder of January and through the start of February will be colder than normal.

“That means that snow is still likely to be an issue from time to time in the coming weeks.”


North Sea platform shut down after coronavirus outbreak

The Ithaca Energy FPF-1 Floating Production Facility was shut down following the outbreak.

Michael Saint Maur Sheil via Getty Images
Outbreak: North Sea platform closed after Covid-19 outbreak (file pic).

A North Sea platform has been shut down due to a number of coronavirus infections.

The first crew member tested positive for Covid-19 after displaying symptoms on board Ithaca Energy’s FPF-1 Floating Production Facility – around 150 miles east of Aberdeen – on Tuesday.

A further three workers were then found to have been infected with the virus and close contacts of all cases have been told to self-isolate.

An Ithaca Energy spokesman said: “The safety and wellbeing of our workforce is our top priority.

ADVERT

“Production on the FPF-1 has been shut in to ensure the safety of all those on board.

“We are moving to minimum manning, conducting a thorough deep clean, and implementing testing of those essential personnel remaining onboard the platform.

“We will not seek to restart production until we are confident that the virus has been eradicated from the platform and we can start up in a safe and controlled manner.”

Public Health Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive have been notified.


Man dies after being hit by falling mast at building site

Enquiries into the death are ongoing alongside the Health and Safety Executive.

Police Scotland
Emergency services were called to Hallmeadow Place in Annan.

A man has died at a building site in Dumfries and Galloway after being struck by a fallen mast.

The 52-year-old was killed on an Ashleigh Building site in Hallmeadow Place, Annan, around 9.45am on Thursday morning.

The site has been closed and an investigation has been launched into the death by police and the Health and Safety Executive.

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 9.45am on Thursday, January 21, we were called to a report of a mast having fallen on a 52-year-old man at a building site on Hallmeadow Place, Annan.

ADVERT

“Emergency services attended and the man was pronounced dead at the scene.

“Enquiries into the incident will be carried out alongside the Health and Safety Executive. A report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.”

A spokesperson for Ashleigh Building said: “We are devastated to confirm a fatality on our Hallmeadow, Annan site this morning.

“Whilst full details are still to be established, our immediate thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and colleagues of the operative involved.

ADVERT

“The wellbeing of anybody working on our sites is absolutely paramount to us.

“A full investigation will be carried out, and we are working with all of the relevant authorities in this regard.

“We have closed the site to allow the investigation to be concluded.”

Ten residents die in care home coronavirus outbreak

The first death at Thorney Croft Care Home in Stranraer was reported earlier this month.

© Google Maps 2020
Thorney Croft Care Home: Ten residents have died following a coronavirus outbreak.

Ten residents have died in a Covid outbreak at a care home in Dumfries and Galloway.

The first death at Thorney Croft Care Home in Stranraer was reported earlier this month.

On Thursday, Dumfries and Galloway health and social care partnership confirmed a further nine deaths have occurred, with four in the past week.

A total of 45 staff members and 45 residents have also tested positive for the virus.

ADVERT

Community Integrated Care – the charity that runs the home – said all necessary steps were being taken to manage the outbreak.

Martin McGuigan, managing director of Community Integrated Care, said: “Our teams continue to work tirelessly, alongside the local authority and public health teams, to implement extensive infection prevention measures to manage this outbreak. 

“Our hearts go out to the loved ones of our residents, as well as our colleagues. 

“We are continuing to provide practical and emotional support to everyone at this very difficult time.”


Swinney: Two-week notice for schools reopening ‘ideal’

The education secretary said he hopes to give parents and teachers as much notice as possible.

Jeff J Mitchell via Getty Images
Schools: Two weeks notice would be ideal, says Swinney.

The education secretary said he “ideally” wants to give teachers, pupils and parents two weeks’ warning before reopening schools, but suggested it may happen with less notice.

Schools have been closed to the majority of pupils since before Christmas and are not expected to fully reopen until at least mid-February due to the high levels of coronavirus transmission.

Vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers are continuing to be taught in class, while the rest learn remotely from home.

Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday, John Swinney said he hopes to give “as much notice and as much certainty as possible” about any return to face-to-face teaching.

ADVERT

He added: “Ideally I would like to give two weeks’ notice to everybody involved about our return to face-to-face learning, but obviously we may give shorter notice than that if we believe the opportunity exists for such an approach to be taken.

“We’ll try to give as much notice and as much clarity at the earliest possible opportunity, but it will depend on two factors – the scientific advice available to us about the impact of the virus on particular age groups and cohorts of pupils, and it will depend on the general prevalence of coronavirus within our society.”

It follows comments by UK Government education secretary Gavin Williamson, who said he would give schools in England a “clear two-week notice period” so they are able to properly prepare to welcome all pupils back.

Mr Swinney also again said a phased return to in-class teaching is being considered by the Scottish Government’s education recovery group.

ADVERT

He said: “There is much more likely to be a phased learning approach rather than the approach we took in August when all pupils returned in one go.

“It is much more likely that we will bring different cohorts of pupils, and we’re exploring what might be the groupings that could be brought back within the context of the scientific and clinical advice that is available to us.”

Explaining the factors that will influence the Government’s decisions on the further reopening of schools, Mr Swinney suggested falling numbers of infections and hospital capacity will be key.

“If we were to, for example, reopen schools to more pupils, there would be more human interaction, therefore giving rise to the possibility the virus may spread and that could potentially increase caseload within hospitals,” he said.

“We’ve got to look in detail at the effect of the virus – but particularly the new variant of the virus – on children and young people themselves and their ability to transmit the virus.

“What we knew of the original variant is that, with the youngest children, there was really very, very limited possibilities of transmission of the virus and very limited effect to the virus on the youngest of children.

“It got more challenging the older children and young people became.

ADVERT

“But we don’t yet have enough clinical clarity about what the effect is of a new variant on children, young people, and particularly on older young people – from 16 to 18-year-olds, for example.”


Murderer left elderly landlady to ‘die on the kitchen floor’

Roman Frackiewicz assaulted his 77-year-old victim, leaving her with 14 fractured ribs, a broken breastbone and collapsed lungs.

Police Scotland / Paul Devlin via SNS Group
Court: Roman Frackiewicz was convicted of murder.

A lodger who brutally murdered his elderly landlady in a sustained attack that ruptured her heart is facing life imprisonment.

Roman Frackiewicz, 44, assaulted his 77-year-old victim in her home, leaving her with 14 fractured ribs, a broken breastbone and collapsed lungs after drinking vodka.

Jadwiga Szczygielska let him stay at her flat after he was convicted of a domestic assault in 2018 and a court imposed a non-harassment order preventing him contacting the victim of the attack.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard the priest at Mrs Szczygielska’s church asked her to take him in.

ADVERT

Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC told the court: “She gave him her bedroom and extended great kindness towards him.”

But on April 17 last year, Frackiewicz attacked Mrs Szczygielska at her Edinburgh home in Pirniefield Bank, Seafield.

Mrs Szczygielska came to Scotland from Poland in 2013 to live with her son. He had a workplace accident and returned to Poland but she stayed on in Scotland where she had made many friends.

She continued to work as a childminder and sent money back to her family in Poland. 

ADVERT

Mr Prentice said her son, Krzysztof, “indicated he could not find words to express how this terrible crime affects his life and his family, observing that this traumatic event will be with him for the rest of his life”.  

Mr Prentice told jurors that Edinburgh council refuse collector Frackiewicz had consumed a “substantial amount of vodka” before attacking Mrs Szczygielska after a quarrel broke out.

The court heard the injuries suffered by the victim were of a type found in serious road traffic collisions.

The jury was told that the rupture to her heart could have proved fatal, but that the fractures and lung injury she suffered could also have killed her.

Mr Prentice said: “The Crown is unable to specify precisely what was done to her because there were only two people in that flat when those injuries were sustained. The accused himself said nobody came to the flat.” 

Frackiewicz, who is also a Polish national, came to the UK in 2012 and after moving in with his victim paid her £200 a month while he slept in the bedroom at the flat and she bedded down on a sofa.

He had denied murdering Mrs Szczygielska by repeatedly inflicting or causing to be inflicted blunt force injuries to her head and body by means to the prosecutor unknown. However, he was unanimously convicted of the murder by the jury.

ADVERT

The morning after the crime he contacted an employee with a community alarm service and said he needed an ambulance as he thought she was dead.

He phoned an acquaintance and said: “Jadwiga has passed away.” He later claimed it was “probably a heart attack”.

Following the verdict on Thursday, Lord Braid told him: “You have been convicted by the jury of the crime of murder and there will be only one sentence which I can impose, which is life imprisonment.”

However, Lord Braid adjourned sentencing on Frackiewicz until next month for the preparation of a background report as he has to set the minimum term the murderer must serve in jail before he becomes eligible to apply for release on parole.  

Frackiewicz, who has two previous convictions for assault, was remanded in custody until his next appearance at the High Court in Aberdeen on February 18.

The judge told jurors that some of the evidence in the trial was “disturbing to hear and to look at”.

Following Frackiewicz’s conviction, detective inspector Bob Williamson said: “Jadwiga Szczygielska was a generous and caring woman who was well liked within the community. 

“She allowed Roman Frackiewicz to stay in her home at a time when he had nowhere else to live. 

“Frackiewicz repaid Jadwiga by taking advantage of her within her own home and abusing her kindness. 

“We will never know why he chose to attack her that night but his actions were violent, brutal and cruel resulting in the catastrophic injuries suffered by Jadwiga. 

“He left her to die on her kitchen floor while he went to his bed. 

“This guilty verdict will never bring Jadwiga back but I sincerely hope it will bring some sense of justice to her family.”


Charities call for Scottish Child Payment to be doubled

The Scottish End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the payment to be increased to £20 per week.

Justin Paget via Getty Images
Payment: Charities call for payment to be doubled.

The new Scottish Child Payment should be doubled to try and stem a “rising tide of child poverty”, according to a coalition of charities.

The £10 per week payment for eligible families is being introduced from next month as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle child poverty.

Parents and carers who receive other welfare support such as Universal Credit or unemployment benefits are able to apply for the payment for each child under the age of six, with the benefit being rolled out for all qualifying under-16s by 2022.

But the Scottish End Child Poverty Coalition is calling for the payment to be increased to £20 per week, arguing it could help lift another 20,000 children out of poverty.

ADVERT

The group of 14 charities in Scotland has published a manifesto of demands ahead of the May’s Holyrood election, amid concerns the Government’s current policies are not enough to meet poverty reduction targets.

Launching the manifesto, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland director John Dickie said: “Even before Covid-19, almost one in four children in Scotland were growing up in the grip of poverty.

“The pandemic has pulled families even deeper into poverty, while many more have been swept into poverty for the first time.

“A rising tide of child poverty now threatens to overwhelm many in our communities.

ADVERT

“That’s why we have set out this range of measures that would help to stem that tide, by putting much-needed cash into the pockets of families who are struggling to stay afloat.

“We urge all political parties to commit to the action we’ve set out, and to use the next Scottish Parliament to loosen the grip of poverty on the lives of Scotland’s children.”

The coalition of charities is also calling for a range of other financial support across the social security sector, including increases to the value of Best Start Grants, School Clothing Grants and more funding for crisis support through the Scottish Welfare Fund.

A “child poverty-focused labour market policy” is also required, with specific actions to tackle the gender pay gap, according to the manifesto.

Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of the Close the Gap charity, said: “The existing inequalities women face in the labour market means they’ve been hardest hit by Covid-19 job disruption.

“The pandemic has starkly illuminated the link between women’s in-work poverty and child poverty. Women who were already struggling are now under enormous financial pressure as they and their families are pushed into further and deeper poverty.

“The End Child Poverty Coalition manifesto calls on Scotland’s political parties to commit to bold action to reduce child poverty.

ADVERT

“Close the Gap welcomes the focus on substantive action to address women’s inequality in the labour market including tackling women’s low pay and boosting the provision of funded childcare.

“Ensuring economic recovery policymaking prioritises measures to build a labour market that works for women is a necessary step in tackling the growing child poverty crisis.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We continue to provide support to people who need it most and tackle poverty and inequality head on.

“In 2019-20 we invested nearly £2bn in support for low-income households and have committed over £500m to support people and communities impacted by the Covid pandemic.

“This investment includes over £130m to tackle food insecurity, with free school meal provision continued during school holidays up to Easter 2021, and a £100 Covid Winter Hardship Payment for children who receive free school meals on the basis of low income.

“From next month we will commence payments of the new Scottish Child Payment for children from low-income households under six – worth £10 per child per week.

“This new payment, together with the support offered through Best Start Grant and Best Start Foods, offers around £5,000 of financial support by the time a child turns six – and is available for each and every child in a household.

“The UK Government must make tackling poverty a priority, starting with maintaining the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and matching our ambitions by introducing a benefit similar to our flagship Scottish Child Payment to lift people out of poverty.”


Fishing could be ‘destroyed’ without intervention, MPs warn

MPs queried whether the meat industry was ‘in jeopardy’ following reports of products sitting in lorry parks waiting for customs.

Brian Lawless via PA Wire
MPs also queried whether the meat industry was ‘in jeopardy’ following reports of products sitting in lorry parks waiting for customs clearance.

The entire fishing industry could be destroyed if ministers do not fix customs clearance technology at the border, the environment secretary has been warned.

SNP MP Stuart C McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) told George Eustice that Scottish seafood companies were concerned they were “going out of business” with their produce “sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance”.

His comments came as other MPs queried whether the meat industry was also “in jeopardy” after newspapers reported this week that pigs heads were “rotting in Rotterdam”.

But Mr Eustice assured MPs that while there were “occasionally delays at the border”, in general, “goods are flowing”.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said a £23 million fund had been established to help exporters who were struggling with the paperwork (Aaron Chown/PA).
ADVERT

Speaking in the Commons during environment departmental questions, Mr McDonald said: “Scotland’s high-quality seafood producers are warning that they’re going out of business.

“They can’t have their products sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance, those products have to reach market fresh.

“So what is the Government doing to change the procedures and fix the technology to ensure an entire industry isn’t destroyed, and will there be ongoing compensation offered to business until this is sorted, or was that a one-off?”

Mr Eustice said his department was ‘working daily with the fishing sector to tackle and iron out any particular issues’ (Danny Lawson/PA).

Mr Eustice responded: “We have announced a £23m fund to help those exporters who struggled with the paperwork in these initial weeks.

ADVERT

“We’ve also been working daily with the fishing sector to tackle and iron out any particular issues that they’ve encountered.”

He added that the problems were simply “teething issues”.

Meanwhile, shadow environment minister Daniel Zeichner told the Commons: “I fear the Secretary of State is living in a parallel universe.

“He must have seen the headlines ‘pig heads rotting in Rotterdam’ as Brexit delays hit the British meat industry,” and asked if the meat industry was “in jeopardy”.

Mr Eustice said: “He is wrong about that actually. Goods are flowing, particularly when it comes to lamb, which is our principal meat export. Dairy goods are also flowing.

“Yes, there are occasionally delays at the border as border officials in France and The Netherlands get used to these new processes, but we are intervening in all such instances to help the businesses concerned.”

The Environment Secretary also told MPs that an agreement between the UK and Norway over access to each other’s fishing waters during the next year could “conclude within the next couple of weeks”.

ADVERT

Mr Eustice said that last week an interim agreement was reached between the two countries to allow British fishers to catch a quota of 2,750 tonnes of cod in waters around Svalbard, Norway, up to March 31.

Responding to Labour MP Emma Hardy (Hull West and Hessle), he told MPs: “We would anticipate that these negotiations would conclude within the next couple of weeks and then access for Arctic cod, should that be agreed in the agreement, could be resumed.”

MPs were also informed that the UK Government was conducting bilateral negotiations with Ireland over easing pet travel restrictions between Great Britain and the island of Ireland.

Since January 1, the UK has “part two listed status” under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, meaning that people travelling from Great Britain with their pets and assistance dogs need to follow new requirements in order to travel to the EU and Northern Ireland.

SDLP MP Claire Hanna (Belfast South) said the current situation caused “challenges” for pet owners, particularly in relation to guide dogs.

Mr Eustice replied: “The primary purpose of these pet travel regulations is to control the spread of rabies and both Ireland and Great Britain have a very similar and very high health status on rabies having not had it in dogs previously.

“We, therefore, do think that there should be easements on this particular provision, we have argued with the (European) Commission that we should be listed in part one but we are continuing to make those bilateral negotiations with Ireland a priority.”

You're up to date

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