Coronavirus live: ‘We’re not done with lockdown yet’

The latest coronavirus news and updates from across Scotland on Thursday, April 9.

Coronavirus: News and updates. Pixabay
Coronavirus: News and updates.

8.30pm: Blue light tribute during clap for our carers

The nation has once again come together to thank the NHS workers fighting coronavirus.

Now in its third week, the clap for our carers campaign continues to recognise key workers and all those working on the frontline battling to stop the spread of Covid-19.

At 8pm on Thursday, people across the UK showed their appreciation for health staff by cheering and applauding into the streets.

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Police Scotland joined forces with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Scottish Ambulance Service to hold a special blue light tribute.

7.20pm: Prime Minister out of intensive care

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been moved out of intensive care, Downing Street has confirmed.

On Thursday night, a spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery.

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“He is in extremely good spirits.”

6pm: North Air agrees to furlough workers on full pay

Unite Scotland has welcomed the decision by North Air based in Aberdeen to furlough employees during the Covid-19 crisis on full pay.

North Air is a fuel tanker company for aircrafts based at Aberdeen Airport.  

The decision to furlough 27 workers in line with the UK Government’s Job Retention Scheme follows Unite securing a trade union recognition agreement with the company earlier this year.

Unite regional officer, Shauna Wright, said: Unite the Union are delighted that North Air have agreed to utilise the government retention scheme and top up the salary to 100% for the workforce in Aberdeen. 

“This is a welcome offer from the company and shows that North Air as an employer values their staff group during these difficult times. 

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“Unite earlier this year signed a recognition agreement with North Air and this is a testament to good working relationships at a local level. 

“We hope that this shows all employers that doing the right thing at the right time is the way forward.”

5.30pm: Lawyer to scrutinise police use of emergency powers

A leading human rights lawyer has been appointed to scrutinise Police Scotland’s use of emergency powers during the coronavirus crisis.

John Scott QC will be the chairman of an independent group examining how police are using the new powers granted by emergency legislation.

Officers now have the ability to fine or arrest those suspected of breaching lockdown rules.

Mr Scott is a solicitor advocate with more than 30 years’ experience in the legal profession. He was involved in the Lockerbie case appeal and previously led the Scottish Human Rights Centre.

He is also the chairman of a review into mental health legislation.

Chief constable Iain Livingstone invited him to take on the new role, following consultation with justice secretary Humza Yousaf.

5pm: Death toll continues to rise

A total of 7978 patients have died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Wednesday, Dominic Raab has said, up by 881 from 7097 the day before.

On the possibility of easing the lockdown, the foreign secretary said: “We are not done yet. We must keep going.”

He added: “It’s been almost three weeks and we’re starting to see the impact of the sacrifices we’ve all made.

“But the deaths are still rising and we haven’t yet reached the peak of the virus. So it’s still too early to lift the measures that we put in place.

“We must stick to the plan and we must continue to be guided by the science.”

Speaking at the Downing Street daily briefing, he said Prime Minister Boris Johnson “continues to make positive steps forward and he’s in good spirits”.

3.25pm: Sturgeon will consider allowing those who have lost loved ones to Covid-19 to be tested for the virus

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said testing relatives of people who have died from coronavirus could prevent them from “grieving alone”.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Leonard said “compassionate testing” could also help patients receiving end-of-life care to enjoy the time they had left.

So far, facilities across Scotland have carried out more than 27,000 tests for coronavirus. Priority is being given to NHS frontline staff.

The First Minister said she would look at the issue “very carefully”.

2.59pm: Postal staff walkout as bosses fail to clean ill worker’s desk

Angry postal staff staged a walkout after bosses failed to clean the workstation of a worker who was hospitalised with coronavirus symptoms.

Staff at a Royal Mail sorting office in Greenock, Inverclyde, raised their grievances after a worker fell ill in work between last Thursday and Saturday and was subsequently hospitalised.

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Royal Mail: The workers walked out on Monday.

A source said despite colleagues expressing their worries about the employee’s health, nothing was done by management and the worker continued to handle hundreds of parcels to be delivered.

Workers arrived at the sorting office on Monday morning to find out that their colleague had been admitted to hospital, yet they were expected to carry on as normal.

They immediately walked out while representatives from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) met with bosses.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “There was a disruption to service on Monday morning at Inverclyde delivery office.

“We are working with our people to resolve any areas of concern.

“A deep clean of the office is taking place today.

“Royal Mail takes the health and safety of its colleagues, its customers and the local communities in which we operate very seriously.”

2.20pm: Priority supermarket delivery slots for vulnerable Scots to be in place next week

Nicola Sturgeon said about 4200 packages of food and essential items have been delivered free of charge to “shielded” people unable to leave their home at all during the coronavirus pandemic.

She added that the 136,000 people across the country identified as most vulnerable by medics have all been contacted offering help to get medicine and – if requested – free food deliveries.

Of those, 21,000 have registered for the support service, Sturgeon said.

In addition to the offer of food deliveries through the Scottish Government’s contracts with suppliers Brakes and Bidfood, those in the shielded group will soon be able to ask for their details to be passed on to supermarkets who will offer priority delivery services.

2.09pm: Sturgeon: Scotland faces ‘mental health legacy’ from coronavirus

Scotland will be left dealing with a “mental health legacy” of coronavirus once the virus has been quelled, the First Minister has said.

Taking part in the first ever virtual meeting in the history of the Scottish Parliament, Nicola Sturgeon said the effects of isolation necessitated by the outbreak will be felt long after it is over.

In response to a question from Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, the First Minister said funding had been made available to allow for the expansion of counselling services, including the creation of virtual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions.

She said: “Not just in the immediate phase of dealing with this, but I suspect for a long time afterwards, we’re going to be dealing with a mental health legacy of it.

“We have to make sure that the services that provide the help that people need are there and that means expanding access to counselling now, but looking ahead to make sure that these services are appropriate in the future as well.”

1.50pm: New PPE advice for care workers following union anger

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New guidance has been issued on what personal protective equipment (PPE) Scottish care workers should wear, following concern from trade unions.

The Scottish Government has agreed with unions and local authorities that the UK-wide guidance on PPE is “official and fully comprehensive”.

Unions had criticised supplementary guidance issued by Scotland’s chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen regarding the use of face masks for care workers looking after patients not suspected of having Covid-19 symptoms.

1.22pm: PM continues to improve after ‘good night’ in intensive care

Boris Johnson’s condition “continues to improve” in intensive care where he has spent three nights while being treated for the coronavirus, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister had a “good night” in St Thomas’ Hospital in London and thanks the NHS for the “brilliant care” he has received, his official spokesman said on Thursday.

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12.55pm: Coronavirus claims 81 more lives as death toll rises to 447

The coronavirus death toll in Scotland has risen to 447, the First Minister has confirmed.

Nicola Sturgeon said 81 more deaths had been recorded since yesterday.

Before a ‘virtual’ session of First Minister’s Questions, she said 4957 cases of Covid-19 had been confirmed in Scotland.

Sturgeon stressed as usual that the figure was an “underestimate”.

A total of 1781 coronavirus confirmed or suspected patients were in hospital as of 9am on Thursday, with 212 in intensive care.

12.27pm: Scottish coronavirus facilities have tested 5,000 people

Coronavirus testing facilities across Scotland have already tested 5,000 people.

This includes a new facility at Glasgow Airport, which opened in a long-stay car park on Sunday, and will prioritise testing NHS frontline staff.

The Glasgow drive-through facility is by invitation only, for those who are priority testing.

Professor Jason Leitch, the Scottish Government’s national clinical director, told BBC Radio Scotland: “We’ve now tested 5,000 health and social care workers across the country, partly using work you’ll have seen on the TV, and places in Fife and Tayside.

“It’s part of the UK approach to testing but we’re responsible for who gets in and out of that service. So, we take priority people and put them through that first, and as that expands we’ll be able to increase that list.”

12.16pm: Sturgeon not expecting COBRA to propose easing lockdown measures

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The First Minister says easing of lockdown measures unlikely.

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is not expecting the Cobra committee to propose any easing of the coronavirus lockdown measures, ahead of Thursday’s meeting.

The emergency meeting, featuring the leaders of the devolved governments, will be chaired by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after the Prime Minister spent another night in hospital suffering from Covid-19.

The First Minister told Sky News the meeting is expected to discuss the current coronavirus situation and there is little chance lockdown measures will be changed.

She said: “I agree with Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales; I don’t think there is any possibility, any likelihood, of these lockdown measures being lifted immediately, or even imminently.”

12.10pm: Former justice secretary calls for prisoner releases to fight virus

Former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has called for the Scottish Government to set up a prisoner release programme to tackle coronavirus.

Writing in the Scotsman, MacAskill said the state has a duty of care to inmates in its prisons, which are “geared toward hothousing the virus, rather than shielding the prisoner from infection”.

Last week, MSPs passed the Scottish Government’s emergency Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill which put in place provisions to allow prisoners to be released should the prison estate become overwhelmed.

Under the new law, only those convicted of sexual or terror offences or someone who poses a threat to an identified person will be exempt from release

12.04pm: Residents dead in coronavirus outbreak at third Scottish care home

A third Scottish care home has experienced a deadly Covid-19 outbreak, with nine elderly residents reportedly dying from the virus.

Staff at Tranent Care Home in East Lothian, which cares for people with dementia, are currently trying to manage the outbreak.

It follows other outbreaks at Castle View care home in Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, where eight residents died after showing coronavirus symptoms, and Burlington care home in North Lanarkshire, where 13 died.

11.48am: Uni cafeteria delivers van load of stock to local food bank

A cafeteria at Edinburgh Napier University has delivered a van load of leftover stock to a local foodbank.

Enjoy at Edinburgh Napier in Sighthill sent the food to the bank at South Leith Parish Church on Tuesday.

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A Facebook post from Enjoy said: “In times like these we know how important is to pull together and help each other out.

“We loaded up a van and delivered our leftover stock from Sighthill to the food bank at South Leith Parish Church!

“A huge thank you to Rev. Iain May for all the work the church is doing to help those in need in the local community.”

10.48am: Scottish Building Society staff support Alzheimer Scotland helpline

Scottish Building Society has partnered with Alzheimer Scotland’s free 24-hour hotline to help those living with dementia and their families during lockdown.

Staff at SBS are supporting the charity’s volunteers by providing specialist advice on questions around finances, such as mortgages and savings.

With families in self-isolation, the charity have had to increase capacity on this critical lifeline.

They reached out to SBS to ask if staff could volunteer their expertise for the helpline.

Paul Denton, SBS Chief Executive, said: “It is critical at this time that those living with dementia and their partners, carers and friends know that they are not alone.

“Alzheimer Scotland provides a vital lifeline at these difficult times and everyone at the Society feels privileged to support such an essential charity.”

10.41am: Foodbanks across Scotland benefit from ScotRail stock donation

People in need across Scotland have benefitted from donations from ScotRail staff.

ScotRail’s hospitality teams have donated food and drink stock to charities operating foodbanks in Glasgow, Edinburgh Aberdeen and Inverness.

The train operator has temporarily withdrawn all on-board hospitality services from its trains, resulting in a surplus in short dated food and drink such as soft drinks, snack boxes and confectionary.

Help for the Homeless Glasgow and Church of Scotland’s Edinburgh North East and Leith foodbank are among the charities who received donations.

10.40am: Charity provides emergency supply packs to ‘sick kids’ hospital

An Edinburgh charity is providing emergency supply packs to support children and families in hospital through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity (ECHC) – which supports the Royal Hospital for Sick Children – has launched an emergency appeal to help families having to cope with the impact of the outbreak on top of the distress of having a sick or injured child.

The free emergency packs contain non-perishable food products and essential items including nappies, toilet roll, tinned soup, beans and tea bags so parents and carers do not have the additional stress of shopping for their families while their child is in hospital.

10.22am: Uni launches study to understand mental health implications of covid-19.

A leading university is launching a new study into the mental health and wellbeing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in adults across the UK.

The University of Glasgow will work in partnership with Samaritans and SAMH for the project.

The study will aim to understand the impact of the pandemic, and the unprecedented social distancing measures introduced across the country, on mental health indicators such as anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-harm or positive mental wellbeing.

9.55am: Airbnb cancels all bookings in the UK for the next month

Short-stay rental giant Airbnb has cancelled all bookings in the UK for April and said properties would only be available to health care professionals and key workers.

It put the restrictions in place in response to government advice regarding the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown.

Airbnb said in a statement: “In response to UK Government advice we have liaised with guests to cancel all leisure stays during April 2020 to ensure we limit the spread of coronavirus, protect our community and observe travel restrictions.

“During April we are happy to host healthcare professionals, or key workers connected to the coronavirus response who still need accommodation away from home during this difficult time.

9.16am: Doctor has only held his baby girl once as he self-isolates from family

In a bid to protect their families, some NHS workers have taken steps to isolate themselves outside of work.

Sending children to stay with grandparents, aunts and uncles is one step some NHS staff have chosen to take.

Other NHS workers have started living in hotels, hostels and other temporary accommodation as they care for coroanvirus patients.

One Glasgow GP described how he is still sharing a roof, but is isolating himself from his wife, son and newborn baby in order to protect them.

Sandesh Gulhane’s baby girl is just one week old but he has only held her once – after she was born by caesarean section in a sterile operating theatre.

He told PA that he wanted to do “everything” he possibly can to keep his family safe.

“I am basically socially distancing myself from my family,” Dr Gulhane said.

“I say hello, but I don’t hug my six-day-old child, my six-year-old son, I don’t go near my wife.

“I sleep in a separate room, I use a separate bathroom, I eat separately to them.”

He urged people to stay at home, adding: “I am sacrificing my family life and people can’t sacrifice having a BBQ.”

8.53am: Hearts to fight SPFL plans to relegate them to Championship

Premiership bottom club Hearts last night released a statement on SPFL plans to finish the season as it stands.

That would mean Hearts being relegated to the Championship, with Celtic being declared champions.

Here’s what Jambos chair Ann Budge had to say.

Ann Budge says Hearts will not accept SPFL plans to finish the season as it stands.

8.50am: What does the coronavirus data tell us?

The National Records of Scotland yesterday released detailed data on coronavirus deaths for the first time.

STV News’ online politics reporter Dan Vevers has analysed the numbers.

8.37am: Prime Minister spends third night in intensive care

Boris Johnson remains in intensive care, where he was taken on Monday night after his coronavirus symptoms worsensed.

He is said to be “responding well” to treatment and is sitting up and talking.

8.30am: Coronavirus claims life of first NHS worker in Scotland

STV News last night revealed the death of district nurse Janice Graham from Covid-19.

She’s the first NHS worker in Scotland to lose their life to the coronavirus.

Friends and colleagues have paid glowing tributes.

District nurse Janice Graham is the first Scots NHS worker to die from coronavirus.

8.15am: Nicola Sturgeon to hold virtual FMQs.

Thursday is usually the day the First Minister fields questions at the Scottish Parliament from opposition leaders and MSPs.

Today, however, she’ll do it via video call as part of her daily briefing from St Andrew’s House.

8.00am: UK Government to consider lockdown extension

The UK Government’s emergency committee Cobra will meet today to discuss an extension to lockdown.

Politicians will review the restrictions based on scientific evidence about the spread of coronavirus.

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said ending lockdown early would be a “monumental mistake”

7.35am: Housing market ‘may need government intervention’

Government intervention may be needed to help revive the housing market after the coronavirus epidemic, according to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The RICS March 2020 Resident Market Survey shows a downward trend for all areas of the housing market across Scotland post Covid-19.

Simon Rubinsohn, RICS Chief Economist, said: “The feedback from the survey does imply that further government interventions both in the wider economy and more specifically in the housing market may be necessary.”

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said: “We are committed to supporting the housing market and home-building industry and to achieving the earliest possible restart of housing construction, but only when it is safe to do so.”

7.23am: New poll warns that Scotland is facing a ‘cost of living crisis’

Scotland faces a “cost of living crisis” amid the coronavirus outbreak, a poll of more than 1,000 adults has found.

The tracking poll for Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) found about a third (34%) of Scots were concerned about their ability to pay for food and other essentials.

7am: Dedicated dozen: Carers move in to keep coronavirus out

A dozen care home workers are spending 32 nights on lockdown alongside elderly residents in a desperate bid to prevent coronavirus.

St David’s Care Home owner Ivan Cornford, 58, decided the best way to protect residents was by blocking access to the outside world.

It was only possible thanks to 11 of his employees volunteering to live in the home — and sacrificing contact with their own families for the entire time.

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.

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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”.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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).
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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.

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“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”.

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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.”

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