This week in the House of Commons MPs have been busy considering the government’s plans for dealing with the global COVID-19 outbreak known as coronavirus.
At the time of writing this column, six people in Scotland have tested positive for the virus out of 1256 individuals tested. The first patient in the Greater Glasgow & Clyde area to be diagnosed has been confirmed, and it’s clear that this number is likely to rise significantly in the coming weeks.
I’ve met with both the Chief Executive and leader of West Dunbartonshire Council to discuss resilience and response planning locally. I also receive regular briefings from both the UK and Scottish governments who are working together closely to ensure a coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak.
These may be worrying times for many, and that’s understandable given how the virus has impacted places like China and Italy. However, it’s important to stress that for those who do get infected the vast majority will only experience mild flu-like symptoms and recover fully.
We’re being assured that the NHS is well-prepared and everything possible is being done to protect the health of patients and the public. Clydebank’s own Golden Jubilee Hospital is at the forefront of Scotland’s response to COVID-19, where more than 400 nurses, call handlers and health advisors are based operating Scotland’s dedicated coronavirus advice helpline.
The First Minister met with NHS24 staff in Clydebank to highlight the importance of staying up-to-date with the latest health advice as the virus spreads. Everyone has a role to play in helping contain the outbreak, and the Chief Medical Officer is clear that the most important thing we can do is to follow basic hygiene procedures.
Scientific advice shows that the best way to limit the risk of infection at this stage is to wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face, and use tissues for any coughs or sneezes. And if you’ve recently returned from an affected area and have symptoms, make sure you stay home and call your GP or 111.
Statutory sick pay has now been extended and should be available from day one rather than day four of illness. Whilst this is welcome, concerns remain especially for the self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts. The SNP will continue pressing the UK government to protect workers’ rights and alleviate the threat of unfair benefit sanctions for those affected.
As ever there’s a lot of misinformation and fake news being shared on social media these days, so be vigilant and only follow advice from legitimate sources. The best place to find the latest medical advice on coronavirus is online at www.nhsinform.scot or via the dedicated NHS helpline on 0800 028 2816.
This column has been written for publication in the Clydebank Post.