Following the Scottish Government’s announcement around the introduction of a vaccine certification scheme (vaccine passports), coupled with the increasing rise in positive COVID cases across the Highlands, members of the Council’s Events and Festivals Working Group have considered the potential impact for public safety in planning the city events programme for the remainder of the year.
Councillor Ian Brown, Chair of the Working Group said, “The health, safety and welfare of the public and staff involved in the events has obviously been paramount in our thinking, and with the recent announcements, there are substantial challenges in ensuring that the traditional large-scale events organised by the group can go ahead in their usual format this year.
“I understand that colleagues in High Life Highland are working to identify ways that alternative activities are able to be facilitated in such a way that will allow families to mark these special occasions in the calendar, but neither encourages nor accommodates large gatherings.
“However, even an amended programme depends upon further announcements by the Scottish Government; clarification of the guidance for events and festivals; and the availability of the services and contractors required to support the events.
Amy MacLeod, recently appointed Events Development Manager with HLH explained, “Our position, and that of our partner agencies, has been, and continues to be about putting the safety of the public, and those involved in the events, as our number one priority.
“HLH took over the management and operation of the City’s events and festival programme in June. Since then, we have been working hard to liaise with partners with a view to delivering some level of innovative programme in the lead up to the winter and festive period.
“However, with the announcement by the Scottish Government around the introduction of vaccine passports from 1st October, I understand that all the city’s free-to-attend events exceed the numbers outlined last week in Parliament. Therefore, for several reasons, the events that people may have been expecting will not be possible in their usual format.
“HLH will continue to work with partners and contractors to identify what is possible. However, even as we consider the options, we must stress that the safety of the public and staff continues to remain foremost in our minds and will therefore dictate the programme.”
Dr Tim Allison, Director of Public Health for NHS Highland, said: “Cases across the NHS Highland area are widespread and are continuing to increase. We are urging everyone to please remain cautious and minimise contacts during this period of high levels to try to prevent further spread in our communities. In addition to trying to minimise our contact with others, there are still lots of things we can all do to help limit the spread even though many of the previous restrictions have eased. Wearing face masks when inside or in crowded areas, regular hand washing, regular testing using LFD tests when you have no symptoms and, when invited, please come forward to get vaccinated. All of these will help us in keeping the COVID numbers down.
“Members of the public are also being asked to continue to be vigilant for symptoms of COVID-19. The typical symptoms are a new continuous cough, a high temperature or fever and a loss of, or change in, normal taste or smell. However, people with COVID-19 can present with a wide range of symptoms including headache, sore muscles and joints, tiredness, sore throat, cold-like symptoms and diarrhoea and vomiting. Anyone that becomes unwell should isolate immediately and seek a PCR test.”
High Life Highland is working closely with colleagues linked to the national Events Industry Advisory Group (EIAG), which was established to represent the sector throughout the pandemic, by providing a coordinated voice across Scotland during the recovery period specifically around the events sector.
The Highland Charity is developing proposals for an alternative programme of activities that will take into consideration the Scottish Government guidelines at that time and that will mark these occasions for consideration by the Events and Festivals Working Group. More details about each event will be issued as plans are approved.