Media round-up for Tuesday, March 24, 2020

This round-up is intended to keep the media briefed on the COVID-19 impact on Council services across Aberdeenshire. The public can keep up to date with changes online at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/featured-items/coronavirus-covid-19/

National position

As outlined by both the UK Government and the Scottish Government, as of yesterday evening (Monday), the only permissible reasons to leave your home are as follows:

• to shop for basic necessities and that should be limited to once a day
• to take exercise once a day – but alone or with your own household, not in groups
• for medical reasons or to care for a vulnerable person
• to travel to essential work if that cannot be done at home. Further guidance to employers is pending.

The UK Government has also provided guidance on the closure of all retailers that sell non-essential goods and other non-essential premises, as part of further social distancing measures.

Changes to services: Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership
 
Across Aberdeenshire there will be changes to the way our Community Hospitals operate during our response to COVID-19 and following the announcements from the Prime Minister and First Minister. From today (Tuesday) we are restricting all visiting to our Community Hospitals to only those agreed in advance by the Senior Charge Nurse.
 
All of our Minor Injury Units across Aberdeenshire except for our three largest units at Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Huntly will close with immediate effect.
 
Also from today, all of our Care Homes, Very Sheltered Housing complexes and Supported Living Accommodation will be closed to visitors unless agreed with the relevant manager in advance. Families can still deliver packages/gifts to loved ones but will need to contact the home directly to find out what local drop off arrangements are.
 
All non-urgent AHP (Allied Health Professionals) appointments have been suspended with support being provided by telephone where required. All affected patients will be contacted directly (Occupational Health, Speech & Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Dieticians).
 
Our Primary Care Teams (GP practices etc.) are extremely busy at the moment and they are triaging all appointment requests and have suspend non-urgent services and appointments. Anyone experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms must call 111 and not their GP. Anyone with symptoms should not attend their GP Practice unless told to do so.
 
It is vitally important that children continue to receive any immunisations they are due to have. Parents and carers will be contacted directly with information and appointments.
 
Our Health Visiting Teams are prioritising essential visits and will be offering telephone appointments to those that urgently require them from now, where appropriate, to ensure that support is available.
 
Our community nursing teams are prioritising their workload and focusing on urgent and essential contacts only. This will continue to develop over the coming days and weeks.

Volunteers

Volunteers provide vital support to communities across Aberdeenshire and as such are considered essential workers.

This means volunteers will continue to be active across a range of essential services over the coming weeks.

Construction contracts and housing services
 
Officers are working with the council’s contracting organisations in light of the announcements by the UK and Scottish Governments regarding construction works. 
 
The service is currently assessing and defining what may constitute emergency business critical works that may require to be undertaken over the next few weeks.
 
Emergency works will be undertaken where required, taking account of guidance on social distancing, handwashing and respiratory hygiene.
 
Contractors supporting the housing improvement programme are being asked not to begin any new works in properties for the time being. Works already underway will be completed where possible to ensure the health and safety of tenants with the availability of all facilities (e.g. kitchens, bathrooms and heating).
 
Further information about changes to housing services can be found at  https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/housing/housing-covid-19/

Business support grants

Businesses can now apply for help to the Scottish Government Coronavirus Business Support Fund. The fund is administered by local authorities and depending on the type and size of the business premises, applicants can apply for either a £10,000 grant or £25,000 grant.

To apply, please complete the business support application form and email it to business.grants@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

This is in addition to the wider support available to the business community which can be found at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/business/business-covid-19/#grants

A2B dial-a-bus services
 
The majority of A2B dial-a-bus services operated by Aberdeenshire Council minibuses are suspended from today (Tuesday), except Turriff A2B which will be suspended from Thursday, March 26.
 
Central Buchan A2B (operated by Kininmonth Coaches) is operating a reduced service for essential travel only.
 
Westhill A2B (operated by Falcon Coach Hire) is operating a reduced service for essential travel only.
 
For further information, email a2bdialabus@aberdeenshire.co.uk or call 01467 535 333. The A2B team is also offering customers advice on any local delivery services provided by community groups or local shops.

Roads, Landscape and Waste Services

In line with Government advice, the service plans to pull back from normal operations to focus on the delivery of core critical services as follows:

• Waste collection and disposal (further information below)
• Emergency road repairs and coordination
• Roads winter maintenance
• Provision of burial services

The service will also be developing appropriate redeployment plans and arranging for staff training to enable them to undertake alternative roles in support of priority activities.

Waste Services  
• All recycling centres are now closed. Please only use the kerbside collection service for the time being. All waste and recycling must be contained in the bins, as no side waste can be accepted. 
• To save space in bins, avoid buying items with excessive packaging where you can, squash air out of plastic bottles, stack plastic pots inside each other, put paper and card inside a cereal box, squeeze air out of non-recyclable waste bags and compost your garden waste at home.
• All household bin collections are currently operating as normal. Residents should put out their containers for collection for 7am on collection day as there may be changes to collection times. More here: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/waste/waste-covid-19/ 
• Seasonal garden waste points and bulky waste uplifts are suspended until further notice

Planning & Environmental Service – Environment and Specialist Services

• The Bennachie Visitor Centre will remain closed indefinitely. All Ranger Service public activities and events are cancelled until the end of May.
• Staff will continue to work and prepare for the future programme of activities and the reopening of the centre.  
• The team’s contact details can be found at https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-culture/ranger-service/
• To keep up to date with the Ranger Service you can join the team on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Aberdeenshire-Council-Ranger-Service-516122458423812/

Environment, Archaeology, North East of Scotland Records Centre (NESBReC)

As far as possible, NESBReC will continue to provide a normal level of service. The centre is having to work differently to comply with the Government’s guidance on personal contact so things may take a little longer in some cases. The team can be contacted via: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/planning/

Registrars services
 
Out of concern for the welfare of employee and clients and following advice issued by the Registrar General, face to face registration appointments have been withdrawn for the forthcoming period.
 
The service intends to resume provision of registration appointments via telephone and email contact over the next few days.
 
Customers with specific enquiries relating to the registration of birth marriage and death, or regarding marriage ceremonies, should contact their local registrar directly to discuss.
 
The following services remain available by telephone, email or by Skype meeting including:
 
• Submission of marriage notices
• Discussion of marriage ceremonies and general registration enquiries
• Copies of extracts (registration certificates)
 
Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies
 
Marriage and civil partnership ceremonies are unfortunately not permitted to proceed at the current time. Exceptions may be considered only in particularly time-sensitive circumstances due to specific health conditions. Please contact a registration office directly to discuss.
 
The following applies to all intended marriages, whether religious, civil or belief body:
 
Submitted marriage notices are valid for only 90 days. However, where marriage notices expire due to COVID-19 considerations, couples will be permitted to re-submit subsequent notices at a later date free of charge.
 
Couples may cancel or postpone planned ceremonies at no financial penalty to them. Cancelled ceremonies will be fully refunded and postponed ceremonies may be rescheduled at no additional cost to the couple
 
The service is emailing all couples with civil (registrar led) ceremony bookings, and all religious and belief body celebrants to confirm their awareness of the above information.
 
Citizenship
 
Group citizenship ceremonies have been cancelled for now. Those due to participate in a ceremony should contact their local registration office if they wish to enquire about completion of the naturalisation process.
 
Contact

 
For more information please contact your local registration office. The team is available from 8:45am to 5pm by telephone and email to provide information and support. The team is currently experiencing an unprecedented demand for assistance, and greatly appreciates the patience and understanding of customers in this regard.

Parks and open spaces
 
• Country parks and open spaces will remain open but social distancing guidelines must be strictly observed
• Toilets in country parks, open spaces and in cemeteries have been closed
• Play areas are closed with immediate effect

Other News

Fraserburgh Vintage Car Rally, which was due to be held on Sunday, June 7, has been cancelled