The Depute Council Leader has highlighted that, while progress has been made in suppressing COVID-19, the virus still presents a risk to health and poses challenges in delivering public services.

Councillor Norman Hampshire said:

“We all welcome the fact that East Lothian, like most parts of mainland Scotland, recently moved to a less restrictive way of life and is currently in COVID-19 Protection Level 2. It’s good news for local business as well as everyone who has missed seeing family and friends.

“But while good progress continues to be made with the vaccination programme, the truth is that COVID-19 has not disappeared – and will be with us in some shape or form for a considerable time to come. The progress is fragile and the virus, as fluctuating infection rates across different parts of the country have shown, is still a risk.

“That’s why we all need to continue following national advice, including on physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings where required, and get tested even if you feel fine – almost 1 in 3 people with the virus don’t realise they have it and could be passing it on, especially to younger people who have not yet had the vaccine.

“And it’s because of this continued risk that the delivery of frontline services, from health to local authorities, continues to be far from normal. Since the start of the pandemic our focus has been on maintaining essential services and other front-facing activities to support vulnerable people and communities. East Lothian Council staff have done an outstanding job – I can’t thank them enough - and we’re grateful to local communities for their understanding and support.

“While we are able to step up some frontline activities such as road maintenance and the phased  re-opening of libraries and community centres, we need to maintain many of the additional safety procedures which are in place for the protection of staff, customers and our communities and to reduce the risk of transmission.

“We remain in the response phase of the pandemic, with business continuity plans invoked. Many staff continue to be deployed on COVID-related work, while there is a need for many teams to work in different ways, follow government advice on operational activities and carry out extensive risk assessments.

“An example of this is the fact that we continue to successfully maintain statutory waste collection services and have operated non-statutory garden waste on a monthly basis, due to the introduction of additional safe working practices and the formation of crew ‘bubbles’.

“The reality is that public services cannot be fully delivered as normal at the current time. The road to recovery will be long and complex but, every step of the way, East Lothian Council – together with our communities and partners – will work as hard as possible to deliver essential  services for local people, in a way which is safe and sustainable.”

Published: Tuesday, 1st June 2021