This week there has been some good news for the construction and tourism sectors in Scotland. Both these industries have been hit extremely hard by the limitations of lockdown but with the R number in Scotland now estimated as between 0.6 and 0.8 there is some easing of what can happen.
The R number is an estimate of the rate of transmission – if it is at 1 that means that one infected person will infect another and so on. When it is less than 1 the rate the Covid19 virus can spread is limited. This estimated figure is only available for the whole of Scotland – there may be considerable regional variations.
The Scottish Government working with the construction industry and trade unions has been working towards a way of getting back into operation but doing so safely. Measures have now been agreed with physical distancing and hand hygiene that will ensure workers can be gradually phased back to work safely.
In further good news for house builders is the announcement that the Scottish Government’s ‘Help To Buy’ scheme has been extended. The lockdown measures meant all this was put on hold and in recognition of this and of the importance of this sector, the scheme has been extended to March 2022.
The scheme is open to first time buyers and existing homeowners and helps you with up to 15% of the purchase price of a new build home.
You can find out more about it here: Help to Buy (Scotland) Affordable New Build Scheme
This scheme will help those who wish to buy a new affordable home and the construction companies involved. The investment from the Scottish Government to fund it comes in at £50 million this year and £55million next year.
Scotland’s once vibrant and expanding tourism industry has been devastated by restrictions on travel within Scotland and worldwide.
Announced on 10th of June in the Scottish Parliament by Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing, is a possible re-start of 15th of July.
A Scottish Tourism Recovery Taskforce has been established to help with this process.
Fergus Ewing said:
“I’ve been engaging with businesses since the beginning of the outbreak and I have heard their calls for more clarity which today I can provide. Businesses should start to prepare for a provisional return to trading – with appropriate safety guidelines – on the 15th July 2020.
“This date cannot be definitive and is conditional on public health advice and progression to Phase 3 of the route map. Businesses must now use this time to satisfy the necessary regulations and adapt to the new way of living.”
Scottish Government financial support to the sector is worth over £2.3billion but the recovery will take some time. Many countries are limiting travel and with the UK death rate of Covid19 being so high (41,128 covid19 related deaths 10th June 2020) it may well be that visitors will choose to avoid coming to any part of the UK.
Tourism bosses are hoping that a staycation will be the choice of Scots and that they will use any holiday time they have to explore Scotland.
Test and Protect
All of this good news but it depends very much on the R number remaining low and of the successful implementation of the Scottish Government’s Test and Protect Strategy.
Figures for the first 2 weeks of this were released on 10th of June.
From 28 May to 7 June 2020, 681 cases were recorded in the contact tracing software, from which 741 contacts have been traced.
These figures are quite low, and testing in Scotland continues to be well below capacity, so it is difficult as yet to know if Test and Protect, delivered by local Health Boards, is working.
Individual behaviour will continue to limit the spread of Covid19 and the 2m distancing rule applies in Scotland. People are also strongly advised to wear a face covering/mask when in shops and on public transport. Exceptions to this are the very young and those with a health condition such as asthma.
Face covering/masks do not protect the wearer but if even only 60% of people wear one when out shopping it significantly reduces the spread of this highly infectious and deadly virus. This means it protects the shop workers who have to remain working in that space long after the consumer has left and other shoppers.
As usual the personal hygiene rules – washing hands etc apply.
If enough people apply this approach then the virus will be suppressed. This is vital if we are wish to transition to Phase 2 which will only happen if the R number continues to remain well below 1.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame