In these incredibly difficult times it is vitally important that we follow the rules laid out by the Scottish and UK governments. This will also be an incredibly difficult period for lots of people both financially and emotionally.
Below I have curated a range of rules, advice and support options designed to see us through this crisis. The rules on what to do to protect yourself and others during this crisis come from government and NHS sources while the support options are sourced from both government and third sector sources.
What you should be doing
The First Minister and Prime Minister have announced strict rules designed to contain the spread of COVID-19. These amount to an effective ‘lockdown’
This means you should only leave your home for the following reasons:
- To shop for basic necessities and that should be limited to a maximum of once per day
- To take exercise once per day – but only alone or with members of your own household, not in groups
- For medical reasons or to care for a vulnerable person
- To travel to essential work if that cannot be done at home.
On the last point, further guidance on what constitutes essential work is being prepared for employers. The UK Government has provided this guidance on what constitutes essential work, and more is expected from the Scottish Government soon.
If you feel your employer is expecting you to come into work unreasonably and you live in the Highlands & Islands, please feel free to get in touch with me and I will provide any support I can.
These are not guidelines. These are rules. Following them will save lives and police will soon have the power to enforce these rules where necessary.
If you or someone in your household falls ill
The symptoms of COVID-19 are a continuous cough and/or a fever. If you develop these symptoms do not go to your GP, pharmacy or hospital.
Instead phone 111 if your symptoms:
- Have not improved after 7 days
- Are severe or you have a shortness of breath
- Worsen during home isolation.
You should also phone 111 if you develop breathlessness or it worsens, especially if you:
- Are 70 or over
- Have poor underlying health
- Have heart or lung problems
- Have a weakened immune system, including cancer
- Have diabetes
In an emergency you should still phone 999 and tell them you have COVID-19 symptoms.
Further advice on COVID-19 is available from NHS inform, including specific advice for parents.
Support available to you
Ready Scotland has links to a wide range of organisations who may be able to help you. Among others this link includes advice for Older people, pregnant women, people facing problems with housing related to COVID-19 and people with mental health conditions who may be struggling during isolation. This is being updated on a rolling basis.
Similarly the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe) has complied a comprehensive set of resources, all from official sources, which cover a wide range of topics including education, support for businesses and information on changes to Social Security at this time.
If you are on a low income and in need of immediate financial assistance you can apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund for a crisis grant. You do not need to be on benefits to receive a crisis grant, simply a low income. Those on benefits currently can apply to the fund.
Finally, the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations has established a Coronavirus Community Assistance Directory. This tool lets you find organisations that can offer non-medical support directly. You can search by location and type of support needed.
Highlands & Islands
Bearing in mind the Government advice to stay at home it is incredibly important that people do not travel to the Highlands and Islands to stay in holiday homes or B&Bs at this time. This also applies to people within the Highlands & Islands who should not travel within the region.
Both CalMac and NorthLink have, rightly, announced that their ferries should only be used who live on the islands served by these routes and even then only if there is an absolutely essential need to travel for supplies.
Each of the local authorities in the Highlands and Islands are working incredibly hard and are at the front line of responding to the crisis. However, many council services will be severely disrupted throughout this period. Further information is available from their Coronavirus webpages listed below: