Coronavirus: Borders politicians react to second lockdown

ALONG with the rest of mainland Scotland, the Borders went back into lockdown this week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement on Monday amid rising numbers of coronavirus cases – around half of which are now caused by the new strain, according to the First Minister.

The new lockdown, which will last throughout January, includes a law ordering people to stay at home (but they can leave for essential purposes).

Borders politicians have given their reaction to the heightened measures – and we have printed their comments below.

Stuart Bell, Tweeddale East councillor and SNP leader in the Borders – “Lockdown is not welcome news”

“In any year – in any normal year – January is a tough month. We have just had the long build up to a festive period and now it’s back to normality. Oh, and it’s cold and dark too!

“The First Minister’s announcement of a legally enforceable lockdown – that we must stay at home except for essential purpose – is not welcome news in mid-winter; but we have seen a massive rise in the Borders in confirmed positive COVID cases from 31 per 100,000 at the beginning of December to 195 at the end of the month. Our Borders health service is coping, but it is under pressure.

“The messages we first heard in March last year to ‘Stay at Home, Save Lives, Protect the NHS’ are again essential.

“By helping each other, by staying safe and by taking care, the Borders got through the restrictions in spring last year. We can do it again.”

Christine Grahame, MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale (SNP) – “These sacrifices are very difficult”

“I know how difficult this further lockdown will be for everyone – but it is absolutely necessary to bring this killer virus under control.

“If the country does not act now then we risk the NHS being overwhelmed and even more people will die because of this virus.

“Borders General Hospital specifically is over 60% of its COVID capacity at the moment.

“This is not a theoretic risk – it is the desperate reality Scotland faces now and over the coming weeks.

“That means everyone must play their part in a national fightback. And that means sticking to both the letter and the spirit of the new rules. Do not look for loopholes.

“So please stay at home and don’t go out unless it is entirely necessary. And do not travel beyond the Borders if you are going out to exercise.

“If your usual exercise spot is busy, don’t add to the crowd. Try somewhere else close by where you are not giving the virus more opportunities to spread.

“We know there is renewed hope with the rollout beginning of a second vaccine – and they will be delivered to the population as fast as possible – but they can’t protect us all yet.

“So we must not let our guard down. Instead, we must re-double our vigilance and stick even more tightly to these toughened new rules.

“I know these sacrifices are very difficult but they will not be in place for a moment longer than absolutely necessary. But, unfortunately, they are currently more vital than ever.

“I know everyone in the Borders will play their part in this national effort and together we will get through this.

“So, please, stick to the rules: Stay Home. Save lives. Protect the NHS.”

Rachael Hamilton, MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Scottish Conservatives) – “Many businesses have been left in the dark”

“Given the rising number of cases, I believe we must act quickly to slow the spread and protect our NHS at this difficult time.

“What we need now is clarity from Nicola Sturgeon on the Covid vaccine rollout and business support grants.

“People want to know that there is a robust plan in place and when themselves or their vulnerable relatives will receive the vaccine.

“With new restrictions, we must see the SNP Government hand over grants and funding quickly to businesses too.

“£185m was announced in early December, yet we have seen very little detail on how it will be passed onto businesses.

“My party have called for 10-day turnaround guarantee for businesses, given many have been left in the dark with no funding for far too long.”

David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (Scottish Conservatives) – “Disturbing data about pace of disease”

“Rapid transfer of coronavirus, particularly the new variant, has inevitably led to the return to a strict lockdown, locally and nationally.

“These measures, even though disruptive to our lives and the economy, are a proportionate response to disturbing data detailing the pace at which the disease can spread.

“My thoughts remain with constituents whose lives, or those of family and friends, have been impacted by COVID-19 and I’m inspired by many across the Borders working in many different ways to help bring the virus under control.

“Our dedicated NHS staff have faced increased challenges in recent days as has the wider care sector and other key workers.

“I’m pleased the vaccine programme is underway locally and I’m encouraged the Oxford – AstraZenica vaccine is now becoming available as it can be stored and delivered more easily, a particularly useful quality in rural regions like ours.

“It is vital in the coming days that the Scottish Government uses locally more of the £8.6 billion extra funding provided to them by the UK Government to assist struggling businesses through the crisis.”

John Lamont, MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh, and Selkirk (Scottish Conservatives) – “This is really hard news”

“This is really hard news for businesses and individuals after lots of hard work to keep our public spaces safe. People have not been able to hug or spend time with family and friends for almost a year now.

“However, sadly the Borders has now one of the highest rates of Covid-19 in Scotland. This is hugely concerning. I know that NHS workers are doing their best to keep everyone safe and you can help them by sticking to the rules.

“Despite all the doom and gloom, there is hope on the horizon. Well over one million have now been vaccinated across the UK. In the Borders, all care home residents have received their first dose of the vaccine. These are reasons to celebrate, but we must remain vigilant until it is deemed safe.”

Colin Smyth, South Scotland MSP (Scottish Labour) – “A bitter blow for local people”

“This new lockdown won’t come as a surprise to anyone but will still be a bitter blow for local people, with the extended school closures particularly challenging for families.

“People will be dismayed and worn down by the latest news and will rightly ask why a year into the pandemic, we still do not have regular COVID testing for teachers and senior students in our schools.

“The lack of mass testing for all key workers is just one of the catalogue of failures that means people will feel we are almost back to square one in the fight against COVID.

“It’s increasingly clear that the virus will continue to be out of control until the vaccination programme has been ramped up and rolled out to a lot more people. It’s frustrating that people over 80 still haven’t received letters with details of their vaccination appointment and I know there are many anxious people waiting.

“In the meantime, I would urge everyone to follow the tough new rules to minimise the virus spread as best we can until we get to that point.

“Although everyone predicted the restrictions on businesses such as hospitality would go on longer than the three weeks promised, Government support for firms is still far too slow. It’s just not good enough that weeks after new help was announced for some sectors, applications never mind payments, haven’t even started for many grants.

“We need support landing with businesses now if we are to stop the economic crisis in our area getting even worse.”

Scottish Borders Council – “It is essential that everyone follows the guidance”

A council spokesperson said: “It is essential that everyone follows the updated guidance to stop the virus spreading further and to protect vital services.

“SBC already has plans and support in place for the Level 4 restrictions that came into effect on Boxing Day but we are working hard to ensure we are as prepared as possible for this further tightening of restrictions. Any further details will be communicated as soon as possible.

“We remain focussed on making sure the most vulnerable people in our communities receive the support they need in these challenging times.

“Community Assistance Hubs will continue to operate to support those in critical need in all our communities and co-ordinate support across a range of partners and community groups.

“In terms of education, arrangements are already in place for all schools and Early Years settings to be open from January 5 for invited children of all ages as well as the children of key workers up to S2. All other young people remain on holiday until 11 January.

“From 11 January online and remote learning will be provided for all pupils, with in-school arrangements continuing for invited young people and the children of key workers. These arrangements will be in place until at least the start of February.

“For more information on our response and impact on services visit www.scotborders.gov.uk/Level4.”

Border Telegraph | News