It has been a difficult start to the New Year with Aberdeenshire along with the rest of mainland Scotland back in the tightest Coronavirus restrictions.
This week, parents began the tricky task of juggling home learning with work commitments as the primary and secondary schools remain shut to all but the children of key workers.
It will be a challenging time for many people and the many businesses that have been forced to close their doors again.
But the figures and the spread of infection leave no doubt that these restrictions are very much required.
At the time of writing, the level of cases in Aberdeenshire was more than 277 per 100,000, with 12.4% positivity rate among those being tested. The World Health Organisation has said that anything above 5% means the virus is out of control.
Across Scotland, hospital admissions are now past the previous peak recorded last April.
The pandemic has also had a knock-on impact on non-urgent surgeries and GP services.
That is why we must all do our bit and ensure we fully comply with the rules.
Unfortunately, that means staying at home and not visiting anyone else. The only reasons anyone should be out are for essential purposes such as food shopping, exercise or to work if you absolutely cannot work from home.
If you must leave the house, then please remember to follow the social distancing and hygiene guidance.
Around a third of those infected with Covid-19 show no symptoms but can still pass it on, putting other people at risk.
The approval and rapidly increasing deployment of the various Covid-19 vaccines is hugely encouraging news, but it will still take time before we can return to anything resembling ‘normal’.
So my message would be to everyone – please stick to the rules until we get through this.
Away from Covid-19, In the lead up to Christmas time, there was a lot of media coverage about the prospect of a so-called ‘no deal’ Brexit.
NFU Scotland were among those speaking up to argue that “no deal would be no good” and urging UK Ministers to secure a trade agreement with the EU.
Others were more alarmist. SNP MPs predicted that there would be not be a deal and that the outcome would be “disastrous” for Scotland, and particularly for our farming sector.
Contrary to those doomsday predictions, the UK Government secured a zero-tariff, zero-quota trade deal with the EU that fulfilled all the commitments in the Conservative 2019 election manifesto.
As promised, the deal allows the UK to take back control of its laws, money, borders, trade and fishing waters.
And the Christmas Eve agreement was welcomed by NFU Scotland, who said it was “good news” – as well as business bodies such as the Scottish Retail Consortium and
There were some concerns expressed at the time of the agreement about the impact on seed potato exports.
This affects farmers here in Banff and Buchan and it is something that I have been aware of and working on with UK Government officials.
Essentially, it is about the EU granting third country ‘equivalence’ status to certain products, which can still happen and is not tied to the trade agreement.
I will continue to engage with the industry and government until this matter is resolved.