Isles FM News: Monday 27th April 2020

WE MUST PREPARE FOR “NEW NORMAL” AS PLAN TO EASE LOCKDOWN PUBLISHED

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has said that the public must prepare for restrictions on normal life to continue for some time.

The comments come as the Scottish Government published a new document outlining how decisions will be taken to control coronavirus (COVID-19) while restoring a degree of normality to everyday life. The paper - COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making - sets out the position during this ongoing period of lockdown and outlines the factors that must be considered as we move gradually to ease restrictions.



It also recognises that new ways of living – effectively a “new normal” – may have to be in place for some time to come.

Travel to and from the Western Isles is currently restricted to islanders and essential workers only, with CalMac now taking less than 1% of the passengers they were taking at this time last year. The islands MSP has written to the Scottish Government to ask that decisions on lifting travel restrictions to and from the islands should potentially be taken separately to when lockdown ends nationally, to make sure that any changes come at a time that is informed by local factors.

MACNEIL MEETS VIRTUALLY WITH SCOTLAND OFFICE OVER NON-EEA FISHERMEN

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil today met virtually with Minister Douglas Ross at the Scotland Office along with other cross-party colleagues to discuss a range of issues.

Mr MacNeil raised the point that one of the cheapest things which could now be done is the enabling by the Home Office of non-EEA fishermen to come and work in the west coast of Scotland. Mr MacNeil pointed out that this could be one of the few things the government could do quickly, easily and cheaply.

Commenting Mr MacNeil said: "It wouldn't cost a penny, in fact, it would raise tax revenues as well as helping the Scottish fishing industry get going as quickly as possible.

"I hope the Home office drop their stubborn nonsense which they have maintained over the last few years. Their arrogance cannot continue and surely this time we will see that the Scottish Office can manage to make them listen to some sense and enable non-EEA fishermen to work in the west coast of Scotland, helping the much needed recovery in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas. All they need to do is lift a pen and the problem is sorted."


Cameron warns that remote communities at high risk from COVID

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has warned that communities in his region may be put at risk if guidance related to travel into the Highlands and Islands is relaxed too early.

Mr Cameron spoke out after a study by the University of St Andrews indicated that death rates from Covid-19 could be between 50% and 80% higher in rural communities and remote small towns.

He said: “The study makes for very sobering reading and suggests that remote communities, which tend to have older populations, are especially vulnerable.

“One of the authors of the report, Professor Kulu, has been quoted as saying: ‘The Welsh, Gaelic- and Cornish-speaking communities with relatively old populations are likely to experience heavy population losses if the virus spreads widely across the UK.’

“The Highlands and Islands have, at the moment, comparatively low infection rates and we want to keep it that way.

“This means that we will have to be very cautious before we suggest to visitors that they should consider venturing north. The last thing we want to see is a late spike in the infection rate in our part of the country.”

John Finnie Praises Highlands and Islands Communities for COVID-19 Compliance
Scottish Greens Highlands and Islands MSP John Finnie has praised the overwhelming majority of individuals in the Highlands and Islands for complying with the emergency regulations to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak.
John Finnie’s comments come after Police Scotland published figures showing how they had used emergency powers in Highland & Islands Division.
The figures reveal that the overwhelming majority of people are complying with regulations, however Police Scotland did note that in the Highland & Islands area:, 226 dispersed after being informed by police; 25 dispersed after being instructed; 90 fixed penalty notices were issued; 3 people were returned home using reasonable force AND 4 arrests were made
Commenting on the figures, John Finnie MSP said: “It is heartening to see that the overwhelming majority of people in Highlands and Islands continue to comply with the emergency regulations. The current situation is strange, and we are all being asked to act differently. But the sense of community spirt that has come to the fore in recent weeks has been remarkable and I commend all those who are saving lives by heeding the advice and staying at home.
“The Police have been given new powers to deal with those flouting the law during this unprecedented emergency. I believe that overall these powers are being used responsibly, however it is important that the highest level of scrutiny applies and in that regard I welcome the appointment of top human rights lawyer John Scott QC to oversee the use of these exceptional powers.”


WE ARE STILL HERE TO HELP!

During these extremely challenging times, NHS Western Isles would like to remind members of the Western Isles community that your Health Service remains available to you when you need us!

We are acutely aware of the national and local position, with reduced attendances at Emergency Departments, GP Practices and people not wanting to bother health service staff with issues that they would, under normal circumstances, seek help for.

Whilst NHS Western Isles staff are working hard to prepare and plan for potential pressure on our services as a result of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months, we would urge the local community to continue to access services as and when they need to. We are still open; we are still here for you. Nobody should suffer in silence and nobody should try and cope alone if they are in need of health service support.

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAulay, said: “For the past number of weeks, we have all been constantly overwhelmed on a daily basis with information on COVID-19 and we are all aware of the impact it has had on how we all live our lives and on the NHS. Normality for us all has become something very different in a rapid space of time, which causes alarm and confusion.

“What has not changed, however, is the issues that members of our community still continue to experience. Whilst so much has stopped as a result of COVID-19; issues with our physical, non physical and social wellbeing do not just stop. Coping or simply accepting health issues at this time is not necessary and not something we would advise.”

NHS screening services for breast, bowel and cervical cancer have been paused during COVID-19 but if you’ve noticed symptoms and are concerned, your GP practice is open and ready to help. Getting checked early is one of the main reasons why more people are surviving cancer.

Cameron warns that remote communities at high risk from COVID
Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has warned that communities in his region may be put at risk if guidance related to travel into the Highlands and Islands is relaxed too early.

Mr Cameron spoke out after a study by the University of St Andrews indicated that death rates from Covid-19 could be between 50% and 80% higher in rural communities and remote small towns.

He said: “The study makes for very sobering reading and suggests that remote communities, which tend to have older populations, are especially vulnerable.

“One of the authors of the report, Professor Kulu, has been quoted as saying: ‘The Welsh, Gaelic- and Cornish-speaking communities with relatively old populations are likely to experience heavy population losses if the virus spreads widely across the UK.’

“The Highlands and Islands have, at the moment, comparatively low infection rates and we want to keep it that way.

“This means that we will have to be very cautious before we suggest to visitors that they should consider venturing north. The last thing we want to see is a late spike in the infection rate in our part of the country.”

 

NHS Western Isles pays thanks to CalMac for their support

NHS Western Isles would like to record its sincere thanks and appreciation to Caledonian MacBrayne for their help and support in establishing a timetable that ensures our patients who require lifesaving treatment on the mainland can continue to do so safely and efficiently.

The current timing of the Stornoway to Ullapool service that has been established (ferry leaving Stornoway at 7am and returning from Ullapool at 6.30pm) enables patients to travel on the morning ferry, despite the early start from home, reach Raigmore at a time when the services they need are open, receive their treatment and travel back over to Ullapool just in time to return on the afternoon ferry.

Patients had been concerned that the loss of the Inverness flight could place their treatments, and therefore their health, at risk but the timings of the CalMac ferry are just right.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We would like to pay sincere thanks to CalMac who are literally providing a lifeline and health critical service to the local population. More than 50 patients have travelled on the ferry for life saving treatment in the past four weeks, and the scheduling of the timetable is critical, allowing patients to attend for treatment and return home on the same day. Services on the mainland have been scheduled to suit the current timetable.

“We are aware there has been an approach to CalMac to change the timetable. We would stress that many patients live in the remote parts of the island and to have the ferry depart earlier would make it even more stressful both physically and mentally for them at a time that is already physically and emotionally very challenging.

“A ferry timetable change could also result in some patients having to stay over-night on the mainland if appointments could not be brought forward and, for some of these patients, this may not be possible without being admitted into hospital because of their fragile state of health.”

 

MACNEIL WELCOMES FAROESE OFFER OF HELP

Angus MacNeil MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar has welcomed the offer from the Faroe Islands, who have offered to do Covid19 testing for us if need be and if that was requested.
Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said: “It has been obvious for a while that testing has been required, testing at the point of admission to hospital is not what successful countries have been doing in stopping the spread of this virus.
“We already have a professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University backing Hebridean testing. We now have this offer from the Faroe Islands to do the testing and I think it is up to NHS Western Isles now to take a step forward and not just take orders from Edinburgh but to decide what we need in the islands and what is good for us.
“It was interesting to hear the First Minister last night say that they decided to close down and stop testing when the infection rate was at 3 times, that wasn’t the case in the islands and it probably isn’t the case in the islands even now, so therefore the case for testing is unanswerable and it should get underway.
“The fact that the Faroese are offering some of their capacity to help us should be grabbed with both hands by the Scottish Government and NHS Western Isles should be lobbying the Scottish Government to make sure that happens.”