Bill Heaney


The major concern of the day has switched away from the number of people dying in hospital after contracting coronavirus to the availability of personal protection equipment for NHS frontline workers and the number of deaths of residents and staff in care homes for the elderly.

How are they being affected? What are the numbers for people who have been admitted with coronavirus and for those who have died in these homes? Do they have enough equipment and is that equipment up to the job?

How many members of staff have died or been taken ill or are isolating and how many of them are absent from work? And how many volunteers have offered their help?

We have reported that one home care worker has sadly died in this pandemic and that Catherine Sweeney’s funeral Mass was taking place today at St Patrick’s Church in Strathleven Place, Dumbarton.

Just a tiny number of mourners allowed to attend the service because of social distancing. A widow with one daughter, Colette, Catherine lived in Silverton. Her final committal took place at Dumbarton Cemetery.

Meanwhile, there are straightforward questions to which the local electorate deserve answers, but West Dunbartonshire Council and its leader Cllr Jonathan McColl are not prepared to address them.

They have called a halt to long-standing the custom and practice of dealing with the press and banned and boycotted The Dumbarton Democrat

Nicola Sturgeon, Jeane Freeman, Catherine Sweeney and Jonathan McColl, who refuses to discuss the virus pandemic.

The Council have ignored the democratic protocols in relation to freedom of the press without going through any legal process and without the approval of any committee of the Council.

The availability of personal protective equipment continues to be a major problem, but the director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland says staffing is now a major issue within care homes.

Theresa Fyffe says there is a huge amount of turmoil for nurses working in that setting.

She said: “If you take the number of staff self-isolating, who are sick themselves, or are shielding family, this has a significant effect on staff in the care sector.

“And you have nurses travelling between different care homes so there is significant risk. Right now the pressure is on in the care home community.”

The UK government has promised all care home residents and staff with Covid-19 symptoms will be tested for coronavirus as laboratory capacity increases.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman addressed these matters at their media conference, but their message was over-complicated, confusing and unconvincing.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “determined” to ensure everyone who needed a test had access to one.

Labour’s new leader Keith Starmer welcomed that pledge but said the social care sector needed more support.

Care providers meanwhile have been calling for more testing for weeks, with charities saying the virus is “running wild” amid outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes.

NHS coronavirus testing is not available to most people – and scammers are taking advantage by advertising home testing kits, which are illegal to sell.

The public should be wary of scammers who have been targeting vulnerable people, including those self-isolating at home.

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Care worker with test kit.

The National Economic Crime Centre, said the virus was increasingly being used as “a hook to commit fraud”.

Stuart Mackinnon, of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland, says some money is reaching companies but that more needs to be done quickly.

Although he has seen some cash getting through to small businesses, some of the UK schemes are yet to get up and running.

Small firms are hugely resilient and can bounce back from most circumstances, he said. “But we are going to need government to get the right help to them at the right time and as time goes on we may need a second a third wave of help.”

Cabinet Secretary Jeane Freeman says she expects to speak to Matt Hancock after she sought further reassurance that all personal protective equipment suppliers are able to provide for care homes in Scotland.

That comes after the chief executive of Scottish Care, which represents private care homes, said suppliers were being asked to prioritise facilities in England.

Yesterday that claim was described as “rubbish” but it is clear that Ms Freeman, who continues to make inquiries into the matter, thinks there may be some substance to it.

Ms Freeman said she was aware that at least one company south of the border was still claiming it had been told to only supply England.

Also, in England, a leaked document suggests protective gowns and masks could be re-used.

But Ms Freeman said PPE must be safe for health professionals to use. She said: “If Scottish health experts feel that is possible, they will have to bring that forward and discuss it with nursing and doctors’ bodies, the RCN and BMA, to ensure there is clinical support for such a move. There is nothing like that is on my desk at the moment”.

The Health Secretary insisted the critical element is that the equipment is safe and of quality to meet the needs of staff and patients being treated.

Jeane Freeman said Matt Hancock would clarify the UK government’s position over Scotland’s access to personal protection.

She told Good Morning Scotland that she was “sure Mr Hancock will reply to me today to resolve this”.

Ms Freeman also said that she would be asking the national procurement service to provide more supplies to the care sector in Scotland without affecting supplies to other areas.

She added that she is continuing to work with council body Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and the care home sector to see what more they can do.

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Keir Starmer

Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer, pictured left,  has called on the government to “set out the criteria” of an exit strategy from coronavirus lockdown.

He appealed: “Tell us broadly what the strategy is.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Grocers Federation is calling for local shop workers to be treated in the same way as those working in the emergency services during the outbreak.

And the Scottish Courts are looking at ways they might continue sitting in spite of the virus.

Andrew Tickell, lecturer in law at Glasgow Caledonian University says nine possible alternatives will be discussed today.

These include using a smaller number of jurors, holding criminal cases in other places where social distancing is easier, re-configuring the courtroom, or using remote video juries.


MOney in notesThe coronavirus pandemic has brought the global economy to its knees and is likely to result in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

It also warned that global debt markets may come to a sudden stop, echoing the 2008 credit crunch, if companies become more distressed amid a prolonged recession due to the crisis.

In its latest world economic outlook report, the Washington-based fund says it expects the global economy to “contract sharply” by 3 per cent in 2020 with the euro zone, the epicentre of the pandemic for the past month, experiencing an even sharper 7.5 per cent contraction.

Under its best-case scenario, the world is likely to lose a cumulative $9 trillion (€8.2 trillion) in output over two years – greater than the combined gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany and Japan, Gita Gopinath, the IMF’s chief economist, told a news conference.


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Donald Trump

The United States will halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) while a review is conducted, President Donald Trump, pictured right,  has announced, adding some states in the US could reopen before the end of this month.

Speaking at the White House coronavirus briefing, Mr Trump lambasted the UN body, claiming “so much death has been caused by their mistakes”.

The review will assess the organisation’s role in “severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus”, he said.

“Had the W.H.O done its job . . . the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death.

“It would have been so easy to be truthful,” he said of the Geneva-based organisation.

Noting that American taxpayers provide between $400 million and $500 million a year to the body, he said: “In contrast China contributes roughly $40 million and even less.”

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