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The last year has been extremely challenging. Nobody has been left unaffected as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe. This has undoubtedly been the biggest health challenge of our lives.

This month marks a year since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Scotland and, sadly, the first death. Today, March 23, is the first anniversary of lockdown, a day marked by a national silence for one minute at noon.

I pay tribute to every key worker who put themselves on the line over the last year to keep us safe and our essential services running. Those who continue serving our communities in the NHS, local government, pharmacies, utilities, and maintain the food and fuel supply, deserve our thanks for their hard work on our behalf. As do all those who volunteered to help out locally to ensure people struggling with the restrictions have support.

I’m also grateful to everyone who adhered to the constraints we have all been living under. I know how difficult it is to be separated from loved ones, juggle home working, home schooling, and to miss out on important events and celebrations. It truly has been an awful year.

While we have lost so much along the way, there is now real hope for better days ahead. In recent weeks we have seen fewer new infections, deaths and hospital admissions, while the vaccination programme is progressing beyond expectations. The situation remains fragile however, and we must each continue following the guidelines to minimise viral spread.

The immediate priority is the phased return to school. If everything goes to plan, Scotland will move fully back to a levels system in April, with a phased re-opening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like hairdressing.

I believe we are now firmly on the road back from this crisis.



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