Reasonable excuses to go out as ‘stay at home’ order returns

New lockdown rules prevent people from leaving their homes unless they have a 'reasonable excuse'.

People have been told to stay at home in a bid to supress rising numbers of coronavirus cases. Pixabay
People have been told to stay at home in a bid to supress rising numbers of coronavirus cases.

People in Scotland have been told to stay at home in a bid to supress rising levels of coronavirus.

A new legally enforceable lockdown began at midnight on Tuesday, with people only allowed to leave their homes for essential reasons.

Here’s a list of what the Scottish Government describes as “reasonable excuses” for heading outside:

  • To go work, a job interview or if you’re providing voluntary or charitable services – but only where it can’t be done from home;
  • For education, if you can’t learn from home;
  • Outdoor exercise in your local area. If running, you can travel five miles outwith your council region;
  • You can leave home to receive healthcare, including coronavirus testing and vaccinations, or for emergency help;
  • Essential shopping, including for a vulnerable person, although the guidance asks you to use online shopping or stay local;
  • For shared parenting, to access childcare or other parental support services;
  • Visiting a bank is OK to withdraw or deposit money;
  • Other essential services, such as drug or alcohol support or visiting a food bank;
  • To access public services when its not possible to do so from home;
  • Providing care for a vulnerable person;
  • Meeting a person from your extended household;
  • Legal obligations, such as a court appearance or to meet bail conditions, and to register births;
  • Animal welfare, such as exercising, feeding or visiting a vet;
  • Attending a funeral, wedding or civil partnership ceremony;
  • It’s fine to leave home to donate blood;
  • Activities related to moving home or carrying out maintenance on a property you own;
  • To take part in professional sports, including training and competition;
  • Escaping injury, illness or a risk of harm;
  • Visiting a person in hospital, a hospice or a care home, or to take someone to a medical appointment;
  • Registering to vote in an election – the Scottish Parliament election is due to take place in May;
  • Visiting a person in prison or another place of detention.

Further 76 Covid deaths as vaccine rollout continues

The total number of deaths after confirmed coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 5704.

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Scotland has recorded a further 76 deaths from coronavirus as a mass roll out of the Covid-19 vaccination continues in Glasgow.

The total number of deaths after confirmed coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 5704.

There were 1307 new cases of Covid-19 reported on Saturday, with 2085 people currently in hospital with the virus.

Of that number, 159 people were in intensive care, a decrease of two from Friday.

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Meanwhile, the roll out of mass vaccinations at the NHS Louisa Jordan, situated at the SEC Glasgow, continued on Saturday.

A total of 65 vaccine stations have been created at the hospital, utilising the large floor space to ensure a rapid turnaround in a safe environment. 

Last weekend, more than 5000 health and social care staff were vaccinated at the site.

The latest figures show 380,667 people have received their first coronavirus vaccination, with 5188 having received their second dose.

Call to help tackle ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among minorities

Equalities minister writes to community leaders amid concerns that misinformation about the jab could spread.

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Concerns over 'vaccine hesitancy' among ethnic minority groups.

Community leaders are being asked to help tackle “vaccine hesitancy” among ethnic minority groups in Scotland, a minister has said, amid concerns that misinformation about the jab could spread.

It came as an equalities group called on the Scottish Government to ensure that translated public health information reaches older people in minority communities who may have language or literacy issues.

The Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council (Elrec) said older South Asian people often rely on family networks for information and may encounter “foreign messages” spreading false claims.

Equalities Minister Chistina McKelvie said there is an overlap between the groups who are most hesitant about the vaccine and those most affected by Covid-19.

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Elrec chairman Foysol Choudhury said: “There hasn’t been official translated information made available to minority groups, specifically to those with language and literacy issues which is quite prevalent amongst the older BAME (blame and minority ethnic) generations.

“People not being able to understand something is daunting as it is but if it relates to their health and wellbeing then it’s an actual risk to them.

“Many older South Asians living in Edinburgh and Lothians rely on friends and family to relay information to them, and this doesn’t always happen so they are left to rely on foreign messages which may not always be correct.

“Misinformation in these circumstances can be just as deadly as the virus. People need to know factual information about every aspect of the pandemic.”

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He continued: “I call on the Scottish Government to ensure the facts regarding the vaccine are communicated to the BAME community in a way that reassures them.”

McKelvie said she has written to community leaders “asking for their help in developing and delivering targeted messages to communities, to address specific barriers they may have to taking up the vaccination”.

“We are keen to explore how local community leaders, or people who are visible and well known in those communities, can help encourage people to take up the vaccine, and that’s why we’ve written to over 100 representative organisations including Elrec, providing ideas and support to make that happen,” she said.

“We also know that there is a significant overlap between the groups disproportionately affected by Covid-19 – which include minority ethnic people – and those most likely to be vaccine hesitant.”

She said an expert group had been set up earlier in the pandemic to advise the Government on how to meet the needs of minority communities.

Scientists warn against easing lockdown amid mutant Covid

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says new variant of the virus may be associated with 'a higher degree of mortality'.

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The mutant coronavirus variant found in England may be more deadly than the original strain.

Scientists have warned there can be no early easing of lockdown rules after evidence the mutant coronavirus variant which emerged in the south-east of England may be more deadly than the original strain.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the new variant may be associated with “a higher degree of mortality”.

He said the UK Government could have to bring in further restrictions on travel following a warning that other new variants found in South Africa and Brazil may be more resistant to the vaccines that have been developed.

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association has reportedly written to chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty calling for the gap between doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be reduced to six weeks.

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The private letter, seen by the BBC, said the current plans of people waiting up to 12 weeks for a second dose – which Health Secretary Matt Hancock said is supported by data from an Israeli study – are “difficult to justify”.

It said: “The absence of any international support for the UK’s approach is a cause of deep concern and risks undermining public and the profession’s trust in the vaccination programme.”

At a No 10 news briefing on Friday, the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said early evidence suggested the new UK variant could increase mortality by almost a third in men in their 60s.

His warning followed a briefing by scientists on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) which concluded there was a “realistic possibility” that it was associated with an increased risk of death.

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It was already known that the new variant was up to 70% more transmissible than the original – leading to a tightening of restrictions across the UK from late December onwards.

Rowland Kao, professor of veterinary epidemiology and data science at the University of Edinburgh, said the latest findings suggested it was responsible for the “unexpectedly high” numbers of hospital admissions, especially around London.

“While the recent results showing declining case numbers is good news, and suggest that the variant is controllable via existing measures, these results on deaths imply that burden in hospitals will continue to be high requiring a more prolonged period of restrictions,” he said.

Professor Sir Mark Walport, a former government chief scientific adviser and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said even stricter measures may be needed if cases do not continue falling “at pace”.

“Decisions are going to have to be made on the basis of the evidence,” he told BBC News.

“If the evidence shows that the decrease in cases isn’t continuing, then clearly policymakers will have to consider much tougher measures.”

Johnson said the case numbers remained “forbiddingly high” and that it would be a mistake to unlock in England if it were to lead to “another big rebound” in the disease.

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On another bleak day, with a further 1,401 deaths across the UK of people who had tested for Covid-19 in the previous 28 days, there was some good news with evidence the various lockdown measures in place across the country were having an effect.

A sub-group of Sage said the reproduction number, the R, for coronavirus had fallen to below one across the UK, suggesting a retreating epidemic.

The Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M) put the R, which represents how many people an infected person will pass the virus on to, at 0.8 to 1.0, down from 1.2 to 1.3 the previous week.

It said the number of new infections was shrinking by between 1% and 4% every day.

However, Professor Whitty said the situation across the UK remained “extremely precarious”.

“A very small change and it could start taking off again from an extremely high base,” he said.

“If that happened again, we would be in really, really deep trouble.”

Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at Warwick Medical School, suggested the more serious concern was the evidence that the South African and Brazilian variants may be less susceptible to the vaccines.

“The other virus variants identified in South Africa and Brazil are more worrying as they carry more changes in the spike protein of the virus,” he said.

“It is important that we now determine the neutralising ability of antibodies against virus variants generated in response to vaccination and study the immune response in individuals infected with virus variants.”

Sir Patrick said the evidence remained uncertain and there was no sign either the South African or Brazilian variants had any “transmission advantages” over those in the UK and so would not be expected to spread more quickly or “take over”.

Meanwhile, a year has passed since the first people in Scotland were tested for coronavirus.

The Scottish Government confirmed on January 23, 2020, that five people were being examined after presenting with symptoms of the illness.

Two of them had been diagnosed with influenza after travelling to Wuhan, China, where the virus originated.

The first confirmed coronavirus patient in Scotland came on March 1, and was from Tayside.

On March 13, the first death related to the virus was recorded.

The UK entered full lockdown for the first time on March 23, but less than a month later Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned after making two trips to her second home.

A route-map out of the coronavirus restrictions was first published by the Scottish Government on May 21.

This has been updated throughout the pandemic and includes rules on school closures, business operations and personal freedoms.

Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, has seen the highest volumes for coronavirus infections and deaths – more than 31,700 and 863 respectively.

There have been almost 170,000 positive Covid-19 cases and 5,628 related deaths north of the border, as of Friday.

Scottish Government figures show 358,454 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination, and 4,689 have received the second dose

Cancer sufferer’s concerns over Covid impact on treatment

Liz McAinish contracted coronavirus while undergoing breast cancer treatment in 2020.

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A woman living with cancer who contracted coronavirus, needed a hip replacement and suffered a neck fracture in just five months is concerned the pandemic is impacting cancer services. 

Liz McAinish has been treated for primary and secondary breast cancer for the last five years.

However 2020 brought a whole host of new problems for the former police officer, after she contracted coronavirus in early March when little was definitively known about the virus. 

In May, a scan revealed a hip fracture which required hip replacement surgery.

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And then in July she received radiotherapy for a neck fracture.

“It’s just like getting hit with a tsunami, you just don’t know what to think,” she said.

“Surprisingly my symptoms in terms of Covid were quite insignificant. I just had a slight cough, not a significant cough at all and my temperature never went too high either. It was only about 37.5C.

“But I became more tired, really tired and I started getting really breathless. I actually thought it was the new cancer treatment that I was on. So I phoned up the cancer treatment helpline and they said well you better go to the hospital. 

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“So they assessed me for Covid and I said ‘I’ve not got Covid, it’s just my cancer treatment’. I expected to go to the cancer ward but I had a positive Covid test and spent some time feeling really unwell.”

With the help of friends and family, Liz has battled through and is now rebuilding her strength.

But she is concerned about what the pandemic means for cancer sufferers.

“I’ll never know what impact Covid had, because I had to stop my cancer treatment when I was in hospital. That was really worrying,” she said.

“I’m slightly concerned about the fact that the number of trials that used to be going ahead, it’s not the same number. So they certainly have reduced.

“So as somebody who has secondary breast cancer, where the trials are really important, that certainly worries me.”

On Friday, Macmillan Cancer Support revealed 15% of cancer patients in Scotland are worried disruption due to the pandemic could reduce the likelihood of their treatment being successful.

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Janice Preston, Macmillan’s head of services in Scotland, said: “This is a time of almost unprecedented challenge for people with cancer.

“For many, the pandemic feels like the worst possible Groundhog Day, but we want everyone with cancer to know that they aren’t alone.

“We will keep doing whatever it takes to ensure people with cancer do not feel forgotten in this crisis and we want everyone to know that we’re here for them.”

Shoppers warned over essential trips to supermarket

The First Minister stressed the importance of wearing a face covering properly.

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Shopping: Sturgeon stressed importance of mask wearing.

Nicola Sturgeon has told supermarket customers to wear a face mask over both their mouth and nose, shop alone and limit visits to once a week as she highlighted the Covid-19 risk in retail.

The First Minister stressed the importance of wearing a face covering properly, as she announced a further 71 deaths and 1480 positive coronavirus tests had been recorded in the past day.

She told the daily coronavirus briefing that shopping for food is now “one of the few reasons why we should be leaving our homes” – as she stressed it is not risk-free.

“The new variant is spreading faster and more easily so it is all the more important that when we do go to a shop… we take the necessary precautions,” she said.

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“Remember, your face covering should be over your mouth and your nose.

“That’s really vital to make sure it’s giving you the protection that it’s designed to do but also that it’s giving the people around you maximum protection as well.”

She asked people to order their groceries online for delivery if possible, to otherwise limit visits to shops to once a week, and not to go into a shop if it is busy.

“Shop alone if you can, ” she said. “Don’t go with other people.”
The First Minister also announced extra funding to support health and social care workers.

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She said £500,000 will be given to health boards and health and social care partnerships to implement requests from staff, such as for free hot drinks or snacks during breaks.

Sturgeon said: “I’m flagging this up today just as a way of underlining how much we owe our health and care workers, but also as an example of what we’re trying to do to support them in practical ways while they continue to perform such an incredible service for all of us.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be able to repay those on the front line of health and social care for everything they have done and everything they have suffered over the duration of this pandemic.

“But in every way we can, it’s important to support them and to show our gratitude.”


Another 71 deaths from coronavirus registered in Scotland

The First Minister said the total number of coronavirus deaths in Scotland now stands at 5628.

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Scotland has recorded a further 71 deaths from coronavirus, the First Minister has said.

At Friday’s daily briefing, Nicola Sturgeon said the total number of deaths after confirmed coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 5628.

There were 1480 new cases of Covid-19 reported, with 2053 people currently in hospital with the virus.

Of that number, 161 people were in intensive care.

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She added that 169,699 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up from 168,219 the previous day.

The daily test positivity rate is 6.9%, down from 7% on the previous 24 hours.

Sturgeon added that 358,454 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

During the briefing, the First Minister announced extra funding to support health and social care workers.

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Nicola Sturgeon said £500,000 would be given to health boards and health and social care partnerships to implement requests from staff, such as free hot drinks or snacks during breaks.

The First Minister said it “could be the little things that help quite a lot”.

She added: “I’m flagging this up today just as a way of underlining how much we owe our health and care workers, but also as an example of what we’re trying to do to support them in practical ways while they continue to perform such an incredible service for all of us.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be able to repay those on the front line of health and social care for everything they have done and everything they have suffered over the duration of this pandemic.

“But in every way we can, it’s important to support them and to show our gratitude.”


Paw patrol: Two new pups join Police Scotland’s dog unit

Malinois Pyro and German Shepherd Duer will be trained up to be general purpose dogs.

Police Scotland
Paw patrol: Malinois Pyro and German Shepherd Duer will be trained up to be general purpose dogs.

Two new pups have joined Police Scotland’s dog unit.

Pyro, a 13-week-old Malinois, and Duer, a nine-week-old German Shepherd, will be trained up to be general purpose dogs.

Police Scotland said: “The duties of a general purpose dog can be looking for missing persons, searching for weapons and other evidence and looking for individuals who may be evading the police.”


Auctioneers predict ‘world record’ for rare whisky

The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old is one of only 14 of its kind in existence.

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Whisky: The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old is one of only 14 of its kind in existence.

One of the world’s most sought-after whiskies is predicted to become the most expensive bottle ever sold when it is auctioned next month.

The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old is one of only 14 of its kind in existence and is expected to beat the current world record hammer price of £1.2m, which is held by the same bottling.

The rare bottle leads the sale of the second half of one the world’s largest private whisky collection to go under the hammer.

Amassed over decades by former PepsiCo bottling magnate Richard Gooding, the first part of the collection – more than 1900 bottles – made more than £3.2m when it was auctioned online last year.

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The rest – again more than 1900 lots – was due to go on sale last April but seller Whisky Auctioneer was hit by a cyber attack, which Police Scotland are still investigating.

Whisky Auctioneer founder Iain McClune said no data was compromised and the issues have been resolved.

Whisky lovers will now get the chance to bid for what is described as the drink’s “pinnacle” bottle in an online auction in February.

The ten-day auction opens on February 12 and bids are expected from many of the 65 countries in which the Perth-based online auctioneer has customers.

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Mr McClune said: “The 1926 has only been at auction once in recent years and at that time it broke the world record for the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold, and we’re hoping that will happen again.

“The second part of the collection we expect to sell for several million pounds. It’s a fantastic opportunity, the collection covers so many iconic, scarce and high-value bottles.

“We’ve got whisky dating back to 1921 – 100 years ago – and others from closed distilleries in Scotland that have rarely been seen before at auction.”

Angus MacRaild, an expert on old and rare whiskies, said: “There’s never been a collection of this volume, breadth and scale that has come up for auction ever. It’s really quite an unexpected thing to happen in the whisky world.

“There’s a good chance the Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare will break the world record for the most expensive whisky sold. For completists, particularly of Macallan, it’s the pinnacle bottle.

“There’s lots of other bottles in the collection as well which will break individual records for their particular bottlings.”

Mr MacRaild said among the bottles on offer is what he considers to be one of the greatest ever – a 12-year-old Largiemeanoch from Bowmore Distillery on Islay.

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“Having tasted it myself it’s one of the most exquisite examples of Scotch whisky ever bottled and a good illustration of the kind of taste Mr Gooding had,” he said.

“His collection is a real liquid library of bottled history, something I’ve not seen the like of.”

He said there are lots of bottles on offer which will not “break the bank”, being expected to fetch from £200 to £1000 – but will interest people looking to drink rare whiskies.

He added: “The breadth and depth of the collection really reflects the personality of Mr Gooding. He was first and foremost a whisky drinker.”

Mr Gooding regularly travelled from his home in the US to Scotland with his pilot to source special bottles at auctions and distilleries before his death in 2014.

During the first phase of the sale, Whisky Auctioneer became the first site to sell a million-dollar bottle, with several other lots achieving hammer price world records.


Haggis launched to the edge of space for Burns Night

Scottish butcher Simon Howie worked with space education and research firm Stratonauts.

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Haggis: Scottish butcher Simon Howie worked with space education and research firm Stratonauts.

A haggis was launched to the edge of space for the first time as Burns Night celebrations reached new heights.

Scottish butcher Simon Howie worked with space education and research firm Stratonauts to launch the 454g haggis in Perth and Kinross this month.

The haggis was attached to a weather balloon and soared more than 20 miles – 107,293ft – above the Earth – equivalent to nearly four times the height of Everest.

After taking off from the Simon Howie headquarters in Dunning, it travelled over Stirling, Falkirk, Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills before landing safely in Lauder in the Borders.

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Mr Howie said: “After a year like no other, we wanted to kick off 2021 by lifting the spirits of the general public. We are thrilled to have worked with Stratonauts to take Scotland’s national dish to new heights.

“We hope that our space haggis gives everyone some much-needed cheer.”

The haggis was airborne for two hours and 37 minutes and covered a distance of 52 miles.

It has now been safely transported back to the company’s headquarters, where it will be preserved for years to come as the “first haggis in space”.

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Mr Howie said it is hoped the mission, which came ahead of Burns Night on January 25, sparks intergalactic and scientific interest in young people.

Once the current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, the company plans to run workshops in partnership with Stratonauts in local primary schools to encourage more pupils into science, technology, engineering and maths-related careers.

Lewis Campbell, Stratonauts director, said: “Launching from Dunning was challenging due to the winds as we needed to ensure a safe retrieval of the footage and of course the ‘space haggis’ itself.

“Having monitored the weather for weeks, a window of opportunity finally presented itself – and what a window it turned out to be. Perfect conditions.

“After reaching over 107,000ft with views of at least 250 miles, the haggis then fell to Earth at nearly 200mph before the parachute took over – meaning it is also probably the fastest haggis in the world too.

“We are delighted to have worked with Simon Howie on this flight to the edge of space and to fly a haggis to such great heights in celebration of Burns Night 2021.”


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