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Ross-shire public urged to play part in race between virus and vaccine as new Covid-19 spike triggers appeals

By Hector MacKenzie

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MSP Gail Ross: 'Don't look for loopholes'
MSP Gail Ross: 'Don't look for loopholes'

Ross-shire is on standby for another sharp spike in Covid cases as stark statistics reveal the alarmingly rapid spread of the virus.

Figures released since the controversial Boxing Day lockdown show rising case numbers across across the county with health staff braced to play their part in what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called "a race between vaccine and virus".

As Ross-shire MSP Gail Ross pleaded with people not to look for lockdown loopholes and play their part in curbing further spread, thousands of pupils are being prepared for more remote learning from home and many parents left with childcare headaches.

Dr Ross Jaffrey of the respected Safe Hands, Save Lives group said the widespread geographical distribution was worrying with the virus "now very real for every village in the Highlands".

He backed lockdown and said that being in level 1 likely attracted people from other parts of Scotland for Christmas nights out here.He said people locallyare already visibly increasing the simple protective measures needed and lockdown should gradually bring rates down though.

Dr Ross Jaffrey: 'Turn the tide'.
Dr Ross Jaffrey: 'Turn the tide'.

He said: "January is likely going to be a month we will want to forget - but could also be the month that ultimately turns the tide on defeating the pandemic."

Dingwall councillor and former Academy rector Graham Mackenzie, who lost a brother-in-law to the virus, said he understands its "devastating impact"and backed Ms Sturgeon's action.

He said: "If I was still at Dingwall Academy I would have serious concerns about pupils returning – so I believe the correct course of action has been taken." He said: "I know this is tough on business and our communities, but we need to recognise the severity of this virus, and particularly this new strain."

Cllr Graham Mackenzie: 'Devastating'.
Cllr Graham Mackenzie: 'Devastating'.

He added: "The vaccine is on the horizon – so I think however difficult it might be it is time to grit our teeth and just get on with it."

Referring to an outbreak linked to customers who visited local pubs, said: "For people who went for an innocent drink before Christmas, they are now suffering the horrendous consequences of having Covid."

Fellow ward councillor Margaret Paterson urged people to abide by restrictions but voiced concern about the mental health impact. She urged people to reach out for help if they are struggling. She said: "No one needs to feel alone, but I know that this is often the case."

Cllr Ian Cockburn (Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh) said: "We need to get a step ahead of the new Covid-19 variant to enable the vaccination of the population to take place. We have to be proactive, not reactive it is hard on all but has to be done."

Councillor Maxine Smith (Cromarty Firth) said that as a business owner "who still hasn’t recovered from the first lockdown I am devastated, of course, alongwith many others" and encouraged. governments to provide quick and effective grants.

But she said she "fully understands" the decision, adding: "I’ve seen first hand many local families contract this debilitating disease, many with different symptoms to the previous strain. If we don’t want our weak and vulnerable to die then we all have to make sacrifices."

Cllr Isabelle Campbell (Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh) said:"I think it is the only way to stop the virus spreading until everybody is vaccinated."

She said Highland Council would do it can to help schools with virtual learning.

She said: "Teachers like health care workers and the elderly must be vaccinated first. The speed the vaccination is carried out is vital for normality to come back to our lives.My hope is that we all overcome the challenges presented by the virus stay optimistic that we will soon be looking back on these challenging times with renewed hope that we will have emerged stronger and wiser."

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