New coronavirus helpline set up for vulnerable Scots

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image captionThe new helpline is aimed at people who do not have a support network at home

A helpline has been opened to provide advice to Scots who are at high risk from coronavirus and do not have a support network at home.

The service is aimed at people who are older, disabled, are pregnant, or who received a flu jab for health reasons.

It will connect them to local services which can help provide food and medicine as well as emotional support.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said it would let "our most vulnerable" access "the essential help they need".

The phone number is 0800 111 4000, and it will initially operate between 09:00 and 17:00 - although this could later be extended.

The government said the dedicated NHS Inform website for Covid-19 was still the fastest way for people to get the latest health advice and information.

People should only contact NHS 24 - by dialling 111 - if they are displaying symptoms which are particularly severe, which have not improved after seven days or which worsen during home isolation.

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The new helpline is aimed at people who are in particular at-risk groups - such as those over 70 and those who need the support of mental health services - beyond those who fall into the "shielding" category.

It is primarily focused on people who do not have internet access, with the government pointing anyone else looking for support to its Ready Scotland website.

The phone line will link callers to their local council, who can help arrange deliveries of food and medication as well as links to social work services for vulnerable children or adults and contact with local volunteer groups.

Alison Evison, president of council umbrella group Cosla, said the impact of the virus was "even worse" for people without a support network.

She said: "This national helpline and support arrangements will provide reassurance to our most vulnerable citizens. It is there to support those who are at home with nobody around to help them and with no other way of seeking local assistance. It will allow them to immediately access the essential help they need."

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