The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a serious, real and present issue affecting all of us. The virus, and our necessary response to the threat it poses, will impact on every aspect of our lives, especially public health and the economy.
By now you will probably be aware of the advice and information about the issue. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a statement last week which summarises the countrywide response. The Scottish Government has similarly advised everyone experiencing symptoms to stay at home. NHS Scotland has more information on the virus and its initial symptoms; mainly fever and/or persistent cough. Health Protection Scotland has more information. And if you want to better understand the virus, its impact and implications then we recommend reading some of the reports by the epidemiology team at Imperial College London, advisers to the UK government.
On Friday we received information on the Scottish Government’s COVID-19 helpline. As you may know, during the recent cabinet reshuffle, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop recently became Economy Secretary too. This message contains her statement:
A helpline providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on COVID-19 has been announced by Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop.
The helpline, which is now live, will be open Monday to Friday, between 8.30am to 5.30pm.
Based at Scottish Enterprise’s existing call centre in Clydebank, advisers across Scotland will answer questions from businesses related to COVID-19. The helpline will also help the Scottish Government identify the current challenges facing businesses.
On Thursday the First Minister confirmed that the Scottish and UK Governments are moving from the containment phase to delay, and that large gatherings of over 500 people will be cancelled to support the resilience of emergency services.
The Chief Medical Officer has advised people with mild symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 including continuing coughing, or a fever or a temperature of above 37.8 should self-isolate for seven days from Monday 16 March. Those who have been in contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms should only self-isolate if they begin to experience symptoms.
During a meeting with representatives from Scotland’s business support organisations including the STUC this week, Ms Hyslop stressed the importance of everyone following the latest COVID-19 advice.
Ms Hyslop said:
“Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus but people have a vital role to play in helping us contain any outbreak by following the latest health and travel advice.
“This situation presents a significant risk to global and domestic economic activity. That is why today we are launching a business helpline which will provide companies in Scotland with the support and guidance they need to respond appropriately.
“We continue to work closely with our partners to identify what further support businesses need. For example, the Minister for Local Government and Planning and the Chief Planner wrote to all planning authorities this week encouraging them to relax their approach to the enforcement of planning restrictions on shop delivery times and opening hours.
“I also chaired a meeting with representatives from Scotland’s business support organisations including the STUC to hear their concerns and provide reassurance that the Scottish Government will do everything in our power to protect the workforce, businesses and our economy.
“I’d also encourage everyone to refer to the new guidance on COVID-19 that includes workplace advice on reducing the spread of infection.
“Following the UK Government’s budget we also require urgent clarification on what funding Scotland will receive from the announcements made by the UK Government, at a time when prospects for the economy and public finances remain very uncertain as the short term impacts of COVID-19 unfold.”
The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660. The helpline will be open Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. Callers should select option one to speak to the COVID-19 team. https://www.gov.scot/news/covid-19-helpline-for-scottish-businesses/
Initially the UK Government did not advise cancellation of large-scale events at the moment. As stated above, the Scottish government is, however, so that emergency services can focus on frontline health and safety provision where it is needed most. The UK Government has since implemented the same policy. This will impact significantly on music, and indeed on many aspects of the cultural economy. While this remains an advisory policy, and is a blanket for anything greater than 500 capacity, it pushes promoters and venues to cancel shows with no financial recourse. We will examine this topic further in the near future.
COVID-19 is a cause for concern. But it is important to be calm, consider the best course of action for you, your family and friends, people in your communities and your business. Continue to exercise proper and sensible hygiene (wash your hands as often as possible), follow all the links in this post, read the advice and seek help only when you need to.
Social distancing is an effective way of mitigating infection risk. And self-isolation is vital for those experiencing symptoms. In both these instances, if you can work remotely, then do.
Do share your concerns and ideas with SMIA members via our social media channels, especially Twitter @thesmia.
Stay well and take care.
Dougal, on behalf of the SMIA team. Dougal Perman is Executive Chair of the SMIA.