By Lucy Ashton
Care homes in West Dunbartonshire, Argyll and elsewhere are going through a staffing crisis, Jackie Baillie, the Dumbarton) MSP and Labour Party spokesperson for health told the Scottish Parliament this week.
She told MSPs: “Care packages are being cancelled as we speak, due to staff absence.
“I have a constituent who had carers coming in four times a day and all that support has been pulled. She has been told that that will last for at least a week and to phone an emergency helpline if anything should go wrong.
“That puts her health at considerable risk. What can the First Minister say to people who feel abandoned as their care packages are withdrawn? What urgent support can she put in place, and will she confirm that exemptions from the 10-day self-isolation rules apply to health and social care workers?
The First Minister replied: “This is part of the challenge that we are facing. It is not just through isolation, but through people having mild illness from being infected by the virus that they cannot go to work.
“That is why we need to crack down on the virus; otherwise, we will see impacts on our schools, public transport and people who rely on care packages. We will continue to work with the health service and social care to mitigate impacts as far as possible.
“I absolutely understand the impact on anybody of not having their care package for a single day, let alone multiple days.
“The route with this is to get the virus under control. That is why what I have set out today is so important, and it is why it is so important that we all continue to urge people across Scotland to do the right thing by following all the guidance.”
Dumbarton constituency MSP Jackie Baillie and Labour leader Anas Sarwar.
Earlier Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar told Ms Sturgeon: “The rapid spread of the omicron variant is a real cause for concern, so Parliament must be prepared to make the right decisions in the national interest. We might not yet know how dangerous the variant is, but we know that the virus risks lives.
“I know how hard it must be for families across Scotland after almost two years of the pandemic, but we cannot let our guard slip or our resolve weaken at this crucial moment. We all have a duty to protect one another and to do what is in the best interests of our country and our NHS.
“Therefore, I urge the people of Scotland: do your duty. If you are eligible for a first or second dose of vaccine but have not yet had it, please book the appointment now. Those who are eligible for a booster appointment should book it as soon as they can.
“As Christmas approaches, we all want to protect every precious moment that we can spend with our loved ones. That means that people should work from home if they can, wear a mask where appropriate and take lateral flow tests before going to social events or visiting others at home.
“It is also important that, in taking decisions, we take people with us. That means sharing as much information as possible, including the data and the science.
“Throughout the pandemic, hospitality has been one of the hardest hit sectors. Many of those businesses would have been hoping that Christmas would be the time when they could catch up on lost earnings in order to survive. Therefore, they will need extra support. I welcome the assistance that has been outlined, but I urge the Scottish Government to engage with those businesses and to deliver the timely support that they need.
“I also note what the First Minister said about wider support packages. If that means the UK and Scottish Governments working together to find the package, that is what needs to be done in the national interest.
“I have a few specific questions. All over-18s are to be offered a booster appointment by the end of the year, with the target being that 80 per cent will have received it by the end of the year. That is only 18 days away, and will require more than 75,000 vaccines a day being administered. I welcome the plans for mass and drop-in vaccinations centres, but how quickly will they be operational, and will there be military assistance?
“Given that there will be higher demand for lateral flow tests, is the First Minister confident that we have an adequate supply of them, and what steps are being taken to make them more easily accessible to people across the country?
“No one should have to think about the financial impact of self-isolation on them or their family. I note the additional money, which is welcome, but what consideration will be given to increasing eligibility and the amounts that are available to individuals who need the money?
“Finally, I say to the people of Scotland: stay safe, follow the advice, and we will get through this.”
The First Minister replied: “On hospitality, I do not think that I addressed the point that was raised in the previous round of questions about whether the money will be delivered before Christmas. We will do our best to ensure that the money, or as much of it as possible, is delivered as quickly as possible—I hope, before Christmas.
“I absolutely agree that hospitality has taken a sucker punch in the past couple of weeks due to the inescapable and unavoidable public health advice.
“We know that omicron is spreading fast generally, but its high attack rate means that if one person in a group of people at a Christmas party has it, almost all are liable to be infected. That higher attack rate has made the advice unavoidable.
“On Covid booster jags, the additional capacity to administer them will start to become available over the next few days and the course of this week in the form of extra centres and, where necessary and appropriate, mass vaccination centres and additional appointments at existing centres.
“We will make maximum use of the military; there is a UK Government commitment to make more military support available.”
Dumbarton-educated Bob Doris, who represents Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn for the SNP. told MSPs: “A constituent’s elderly mother has advanced dementia and was admitted to hospital a few days ago.
“On previous admissions, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde permitted visiting under an essential visitor policy, which specifically mentioned both dementia and end-of-life care.
“However, my constituent is struggling to see his mother, which has left her distressed and anxious and the family worried.
“I am, of course, in communication with the NHS, but I ask the First Minister whether there has been any change to essential visitor guidance in the light of the omicron variant?
“If not, will the Scottish Government work with NHS boards and staff to ensure that the guidelines are clear, well understood and applied to ensure that emotional support and end-of-life care can be offered appropriately?”
Ms Sturgeon gave Mr Doris an assurance that this would happen.