THERE are moves to speed up the vaccination programme in the Kingdom as the number of COVID infections are "almost double" what they were last month.

Fife Council chief executive Steve Grimmond also stated that, while much of their efforts are dealing with the impact of the pandemic, there was a "significant risk" of a severe weather event putting even more strain on services.

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In an update to councillors last Thursday, he said: "There's no doubt that the emergence of the new COVID variant, and what was being witnessed in the south of England, led to the conclusion over the festive period that unless more significant restrictions to limit human interaction were put in place, we were likely to see rising COVID levels here and growing pressure on health services.

"Sadly, we are now seeing, over the last week, a significant rise in the level of infections in Scotland and Fife.

"The current levels in Fife are at 212 weekly infections per 100,000 of the population and a positivity rate, which is the percentage of people who test positive, of 10.4 per cent.

"These levels are almost double what they were in December."

He continued: "More positively, the COVID vaccination programme led by NHS Fife and the health and social care partnership is under way with initial priority groups being vaccinated, including residents and staff in our care homes.

"Work to accelerate delivery of the vaccination programme is progressing with infrastructure across Fife, vaccination centres and local delivery in place.

"The Scottish Government anticipate that 900,000 vaccinations will be concluded, including in Fife, by the end of January."

Mr Grimmond said there could be other difficulties ahead and explained: "While our current emergency focus remains on our response to the pandemic, the council's incident management team also considered the potential for impact from a range of concurrent risks, most notably Brexit and a severe weather event."

He said that, from an emergency and resilience point of view, they hadn't experienced any adverse impact from Brexit so far but added: "In relation to the likelihood of a severe weather event, there remains a significant risk and medium-term forecasting supports that."

With a new lockdown beginning on Monday, the chief executive discussed the impact across all services at the policy and co-ordination committee and reinforced the message that "staff that can work from home should do so".

He said: "All 170 schools and early learning childcare facilities are open from today (Thursday) until February 1 only to vulnerable young people and key workers' children who have no alternative.

"Special schools remain open to all pupils.

"Schools will provide online learning to all pupils from next Monday until at least February 1 and there's a range of information and materials that have been issued to parents and schools.

"While our community centres and community-use schools are closed, they continue to operate to support essential work, including emergency food provision and essential childcare, for COVID testing and as vaccination centres.

"Customer service centres remain open for essential appointments while customer contact centres and the community helpline continue to support local people."

Mr Grimmond said business support grants would continue while new funding would help support people working as, for example, taxi drivers, travel agents, those who have a mobile business and the hospitality trade.

He added that the health and social care partnership "continues to deliver essential services to our most vulnerable people" while balancing the demands of COVID and winter pressures.