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Highland Council readies for 'unprecedented challenge' of coronavirus

By Scott Maclennan

A briefing about Highland Council's response to coronavirus.
A briefing about Highland Council's response to coronavirus.

Top Highland Council officials have revealed that despite facing the “unprecedented challenge” of coronavirus work is well under way to deal with the impact on services.

Led by chief executive Donna Manson, the focus of the efforts is currently on maintaining vital services and offering advice on schools and community resilience.

Her main message is that it is no longer business as usual and she made a plea for people to be patient with the council as it readies for the peak of infections having already ordered two primaries near Tain to close as a precaution.

Schools have been told to conduct all education within the school and a ban on any trips, including to swimming pools, is in force.

However, the Highlands is in the "fortunate" position of having a lot of educational laptops for pupils and online classrooms can be used if schools are shut.

The council's emergency liaison group works with the Highlands and Islands Local Resilience Partnership (HILRP) which involves police, fire and ambulance services, the Scottiwsh Environmental Protection Agency and the third sector agencies in dealing with civil emergencies.

Together they will undertake assessment of significant local issues, identify vulnerable people and offer advice. Volunteers are being called on to register with the British Red Cross to offer support with co-ordinating responses within communities.

Mrs Manson said: “It is an unprecedented challenge.

“We are receiving extensive advice and support from the Scottish Government in responding to the challenges and clearly we have a key role as a council and as a partner in delaying the spread of the virus across our Highland communities.

“We are – on a daily basis – looking at all council services. We have declared that it is no longer business as usual. We are in the process of adapting services and prioritising services and working with trade unions and our staff.

"Our statutory services will continue as best as possible.

“We will have to stop doing some things and we will have to start doing some things, like in welfare, that perhaps are going to become an area of priority as we adapt to this situation.”

Related: Two primary schools in Tain closed

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