There has been a plea for people in Caithness and other parts of the Highlands to follow Scottish government guidelines on Covid as levels of the virus are expected to peak in the coming weeks.
The call was made by Highland Council chief Margaret Davidson and comes as rules on self-isolation and testing have been relaxed in Scotland to align with those in the rest of the UK.
Trudy Morris, chief executive of the Caithness Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the changes and said they “strike a good balance between the need to protect public health and the impact of staff shortages on the capacity of workers. companies to operate “.
“The announcement of additional financial support for businesses is also welcome, but does not go far enough to cover the substantial losses that businesses have suffered during the holiday season. We are also concerned about the persistent delays between the announcement of support and its roll-out in enterprises. Lots of promises have been made, but as of yet we have little or no details on how and when much of this support will be delivered to businesses. “
“Regarding the proposed new strategic framework around Covid restrictions, it is vital that companies are consulted within this framework. As those most immediately affected, business owners across Scotland must have a real input into the functioning of any framework and ensure that the Scottish Government has a clear picture of the impacts of any future changes. rules. It is also important that this framework is not only defined in theory but applied in practice – our experience with the previous system of levels of protection is that the structure was quickly deviated in favor of a series of fragmentary and seemingly arbitrary geographic restrictions. . “
She added: “Businesses in the North Highlands have shown time and time again that they are ready to go above and beyond to support public health measures and keep the communities in which they are based safe. What they need now from the Scottish Government is support and stability to ensure that they can continue to operate safely and productively in the months to come. “
Thurso and Caithness Highland Northwest Councilor Struan Mackie said: “While the easing of some restrictions this week is welcome for many, especially with advice on self-isolation and testing. In line with other parts of the UK, voters and businesses will continue to fail to understand why certain activities like outdoor events and bar service remain banned in Scotland, but considered safe to undertake elsewhere. “
He said it was “deeply frustrating that in Scotland many of the toughest restrictions continue to be imposed”. Mr Mackie added: ‘If the Scottish government insists on having different rules to suppress the spread of Covid-19 and all subsequent variants, we must see the Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and Minister of Health Humza Yousaf clearly describe what evidence these decisions were based on. “
They spoke after Councilor Davidson urged people to take advice on the coronavirus “to help keep Council services running.” “We want to continue providing our services as usual, but the local government, like other companies, will be adversely affected by the highly infectious variant of Omicron. Peak levels of Covid are expected in the coming weeks and while our departments have business continuity plans in place, we recognize that entire teams may be forced to self-isolate, which could have a negative impact. impact on service delivery and mobilization of replacement staff may not be possible due to location or impact on services elsewhere.