Calls for Fifers to redouble their efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus have been stepped up as a move to dreaded Tier 4 restrictions begins to look increasingly likely.
Concerns are growing in the Kingdom about the prospect after figures revealed more than a fifth of Fife’s 100-plus neighbourhoods had recorded more than 200 cases per 100,000 population in a seven-day period.
Three areas, namely Dunfermline Bellyeoman and Townhill, Glenrothes Woodside and Methil East, all recorded seven-day rates in excess of 400 per 100,000 population, while the Fife average rate of 135.5 per 100,000 is one of the highest in Scotland.
Only NHS Ayrshire and Annan (155.9) was higher, according to the latest Scottish Government evidence review paper, with the likes of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (128.6), NHS Lothian (115.8) and NHS Tayside (105.6) all far lower than Fife’s figure.
The Courier also understands that Fife’s test positivity percentage is also giving experts cause to worry, having risen from 5.2% two weeks ago to 6.8% – again one of the highest in Scotland.
Hopes are still high that a move to Tier 4 can be avoided, but Alan Mitchell, chief executive of Fife Chamber, said such a scenario would be “devastating” for the region.
“It would push to the brink businesses in hospitality, retail and many other sectors even closer to closure and put already at risk jobs in even greater danger,” he said.
“But in even stating her concern about a spike in Covid rates in Fife the First Minister has created a huge dilemma for business owners and their employees and suppliers.
“They will now be left to agonise over whether or not they will be allowed to trade and whether or not they should order in stock.
“Fife shouldn’t go into Tier 4 simply on the basis that there has been a recent Covid spike.
“So we hope that good sense will prevail when Fife is assessed during the next review.”
Mr Mitchell added that a move to Tier 4 would make it “impossible” for many businesses to trade profitably.
“Regularly moving up and down tiers makes it nearly impossible for many businesses to plan with any confidence,” he added.
“If this carries on then it can only end in fewer businesses and fewer jobs in Fife. That means future health harm for many people because a depressed economy creates and reinforces poverty and social depravation, which devastates the health of those most impacted by them.”
Mid Fife and Glenrothes MSP Jenny Gilruth was one of those who had been hopeful a move to Tier 2 was on the cards and has called on communities to “double down” in the days ahead to suppress the virus.
“Nine months into this global epidemic, we are all suffering from Covid fatigue,” she noted.
“Tough but necessary restrictions have been in place to varying degrees on our lives since March and no individual, family or business has been immune to the challenges posed by the virus.
“The Covid threat is still very real: the virus is present in our communities and could spread out of control unless we stick with the rules.
“We’ve all had to make many sacrifices this year so let’s do all we can to continue our collective endeavour for our friends, neighbours and loved ones.”
The Covid levels are expected to be reviewed again on Tuesday, just three days before Christmas.
Jeff Ellis, secretary of the Fife Licensed Trade Association, says hospitality businesses now face a “perfect storm”.
“The combination of further measures intended to combat the virus and the impact of Brexit in terms of reduced numbers of tourists – both foreign and domestic – as well as the general economic downturn with the resulting constraints on discretionary expenditure bode very ill for already hard-pressed businesses,” he said.
“I have a horrible feeling that 2021 will be just as bad as 2020, if not worse.
“A couple of business owners have already indicated that moving into Tier 4 now would for them be the last straw.
“Not only is there the issue of whether to order new stock this raises the issue of what to do with the short-dated stock a business already has intended to rescue something from the Christmas period.
“It should also be remembered that for businesses that are unable to offer food they have been effectively in lockdown for many weeks.
“Wet-led community pubs have only been able to serve non-alcoholic drinks until 6.00pm indoors under Tiers 2 and 3, which has meant that those businesses have been nowhere near viable.”
Neighbourhoods with 200+ cases per 100,000 population in Fife (and seven-day case number):
Dunfermline Bellyeoman and Townhill (29)
Glenrothes Woodside (33)
Methil East (15)
Buckhaven, Denbeath and Muiredge (12)
Dunfermline Headwell (14)
Dunfermline Masterton (12)
Dunfermline Touch and Woodmill (6)
Glenrothes Auchmuty (8)
Glenrothes Balfarg, Pitcairn and Coul (6)
Glenrothes Caskieberran and Rimbleton (15)
Glenrothes South Parks (8)
Glenrothes Stenton and Finglassie (7)
Kelty East (9)
Kirkcaldy Gallatown and Sinclairtown (10)
Kirkcaldy Newliston and Redcraigs (10)
Leuchars and Guardbridge (10)
Leven West (12)
Methil West (8)
Rosyth South (8)
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