There is not an anti-English bone in my body, says FM Nicola Sturgeon

By Bill Heaney

Today is the sixth day in a row in which zero deaths with Covid-19 have been registered in Scotland.

And none of the three new cases of the virus have been linked to the Glasgow care home, which saw seven new cases yesterday

FM Nicola Sturgeon told reporters that the decision to exclude care home workers from the UK’s post-Brexit work visa scheme was wrong and “potentially devastating”

The risks of contracting coronavirus increase as lockdown eases and the public should follow public health advice “rigidly”, while planning for a second wave of the virus is “well under way” .

But the first minister has warned a resurgence of the first wave is the bigger risk and could have dire consequences.

The health secretary, Jeane Freeman, highlighted the Right Care, Right Place campaign to encourage the public to keep A&E departments clear for real emergencies

And Scotland’s chief nursing officer, Fiona McQueen, thanked the public for wearing face coverings and pointed out the science shows they not only protect others but also the wearer

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has again refused to rule out the option of quarantining people travelling from England to Scotland to control the spread of coronavirus.

At the Scottish government’s daily briefing in Edinburgh, the FM said she hoped it wouldn’t be necessary and rejected a suggestion that it was inevitable if the prevalence of the virus remained greater in England than Scotland.

Looking ahead to the opening of tourism businesses in places such as Loch Lomondside, Ms Sturgeon said she wanted visitors to be able to enjoy Scotland, but said they must stick rigorously and rigidly to the guidelines designed to suppress the virus.

She insisted there was not an anti-English bone in her body, saying those who suggested otherwise were just plain wrong.

Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the possibility of quarantining people entering Scotland from other parts of the UK as “astonishing and shameful”.

He was responding to Ms Sturgeon saying “all options” must remain open should coronavirus infection rates “diverge” between different parts of the UK.

Meanwhile, second wave planning is under way in Scotland

Scientists are warning a second wave of coronavirus in the UK could be worse than the first.

Experts are concerned the NHS could come under extreme pressure, not just from a resurgence of coronavirus but also from seasonal flu and a backlog of regular, non-coronavirus workload.

The FM said the planning the report recommends is being “taken very seriously” by the Scottish government.

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, added: “That planning for autumn and winter is well under way in NHS Scotland and with our colleagues in social care.

“Our [health] boards have been advised to hold a capacity to deal with an upsurge in Covid cases, both in beds and ICU [intensive care units].

“We are also factoring into that the viruses that come with autumn and winter – flu and other respiratory conditions.”

BB sports broadcaster Alison Walker says visiting her parents, who both have dementia, at their care home has been a distressing experience under current restrictions.

The rules forbid hugging and touching and she hasn’t been able to hug her mother, Olive, since March.

“The speed of the deterioration is palpable. My mum has deteriorated more in the last three months than in the last three years,” Alison said.

Now she is backing calls made by charities in England for relatives to be given key worker status to allow them more contact and visits with family members in care homes.

Pauline McLean, the BBC Scotland Arts Correspondent, had some cheerier news for people wishing to enjoy what’s left of the summer.

The Edinburgh Fringe is to take place this summer – online. The world’s biggest arts festival was officially cancelled in April, along with the city’s other summer festivals, but the Fringe Society which oversees the event say they’re anxious to “keep the spirit of the fringe” alive with a number of alternative events.

They’ll include a round-the-clock showcase of online performances, a weekly virtual cabaret night and a weekly Fringe on a Friday livestream show. Ticket sales will support fringe artists and venues who want to bring shows to Edinburgh in 2021.

Despite complaints that the festival has become increasingly commercial and irrelevant to locals, almost a third of the tickets went to people resident in Edinburgh all year round.

Fringe Society CEO Shona McCarthy described it as “the perfect combination of local and global”.

She says the 2020 Digital Fringe will help support artists and audiences and keep the spirit of the Fringe alive until the festival returns in 2021.

The festival is open to anyone who wants to perform, whether amateur or professional, and the quality of shows varies accordingly.

One of the Fringe events will be a 60 second showcase which gives artists a chance to perform a minute of a 60-minute show. Clips will be shown on a continuous loop so that audiences can dip in and out of Fringe shows at random.

Meanwhile, a Scottish clothing company have raised concerns about what they see as anti-English rhetoric caused by protests at the border and concerns about quarantine for visitors.

They feel it might affect their business because it would discourage visitors from England.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon replied: “I haven’t seen the particular comments, but what I will say is that there is not an anti-English bone in my body.

“I come from partly English stock – my grandmother was English – and I lead a party that is full of English people.

“We are dealing with a public health crisis right now and anybody who tries to say the decisions we are taking in a public health sense are political, constitutional or suggest an attitude towards people from other parts of the UK are just plain wrong.”

Ms Sturgeon added that the best thing she can do for businesses in Scotland is deal with the public health crisis and welcome visitors to the country.

Tom Martin from the Daily Express asked the first minister if she was concerned about any flash points linked to alcohol that might occur as pubs reopen tomorrow.

Ms Sturgeon replied: “I remember saying at an earlier stage of this I wanted to treat people like grown-ups, so maybe this is a point where I should do that.”

People have to be really careful and on our guard, particularly when they have had some alcohol – “”I don’t want to be the big wet blanket,” on people’s summer enjoyment, but I don’t want to be standing here in a month’s time reading out horrific figures.

“It’s in everybody’s interest that we just all keep the heid around this and do the right things.”

Reporter Bekki Clark, from Global, pointed to the scientific report suggesting a second wave of the virus could be worse than the first and that the elderly in care homes were worst hit by the first.

Will the first minister consider locking down certain parts of society?

Nicola Sturgeon points out that the report is “a reasonable worst-case scenario” but that the planning it recommends is being “taken very seriously” by the Scottish government.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman added: “That planning for autumn and winter is well under way in NHS Scotland and with our colleagues in social care.

“Our [health] boards have been advised to hold a capacity to deal with an upsurge in Covid cases both in beds and ICU.

“We are also factoring into that the virus that come with autumn and winter – flu and other respiratory conditions.”

Nicola Sturgeon says the government will publish the evidence from the sub-group of the expert advisory group looking at education when it is possible to do so.

The deputy first minister [John Swinney] is due to make a statement on a date for schools re-opening in the parliament next week and will be at one of these briefings this week.

“We will give as much detail as early as possible and be very clear about the basis of the decisions we are taking.”

Chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen thanked those who have embraced face coverings and says she was impressed that everyone was wearing them on her weekend trip to the supermarket “in stark contrast to the week before”.

She said that “the scientific advice is changing” and evidence is increasing that they not only stop asymptomatic people spreading the virus but that it also protects the wearer.

Ms McQueen admitted that while some might find face coverings “uncomfortable and warm”, she urged the public to think of medical staff who have to wear them all day – “It is a small sacrifice for a short period of time.”

Ms McQueen said people should apply hand gel before putting the face covering on, to place it on the face without touching nose or mouth and make sure it covers the nose and mouth.

“Pulling it under nose or under chin negates the point of wearing a face covering,” she said. “We don’t want disposable face coverings in our oceans or on our beaches, so please make sure you dispose of it in a bin.”

BBC Scotland’s chief political correspondent Glen Campbell asked what impact the decision to exclude social care workers from the new UK health and care visa will have in Scotland.

The first minister replied: “I think potentially it will have a devastating impact on the social care workforce.”

A fast-track health and care visa has been unveiled as part of the UK’s plans for a points-based immigration system when freedom of movement with the EU ends in January.

Ms Sturgeon reiterated that between 6% to 8% of social care workers in Scotland come from other countries in the EU.

She added that to exclude them from this visa risks sending a message we were not being grateful to those we owe so much to and added it was the “wrong decision”.

The Right Care, Right Place campaign urges public to keep A&E for emergencies, said Jeane Freeman.

She encouraged the public to keep A&E departments clear to deal with real emergencies.

They should keep using their local pharmacy, their GP, their local minor injuries unit or NHS 24 during the pandemic.

“We need you to keep doing that, getting the right care in the right place,” she said, pointing out that A&E is not the right place for many cases.

Ms Freeman said to use:

The pharmacy for minor illnesses such as coughs, earaches and common conditions like urinary tract infections.

The minor injury unit for non-life-threatening but painful injuries

The GP practice during the day for an appointment or advice over the phone.

NHS24 or out of hours’ services when you are too ill to wait for the GP practice is open.

In emergency, call 999 or go to A&E.

The FM called “on every single one of us to stick rigidly to the rules”.

She stressed again people must follow the five pieces of advice in FACTS: They are:

Face coverings in enclosed spaces

Avoid crowded places

Clean hands and surfaces regularly

Two metre distancing; and

Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptoms.

The first minister says guidance has been published for places of worship and for organisations and businesses on how to collect and store customer data.

Data collection was absolutely crucial to the Test and Protect system, and the guidance could be found on the Scottish government website where everyone should co-operate by giving their personal details.

Meanwhile, UK charities have launched an appeal to help world’s most vulnerable countries

An appeal to help the world’s most vulnerable through the coronavirus pandemic has been launched by the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Fourteen charities – including Oxfam, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and the British Red Cross – will join together to ask the British public to donate.

And the UK government will double the first £5 million of donations.

Much of the money will go to refugee camps, where overcrowding and poor sanitation allows the virus to spread.

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