I KNOW that people locally will be worried by the coronavirus outbreak, with many constituents getting in touch with my office.

We have seen a rise in the number of cases within the Forth Valley area and we can expect that number to rise.

For those in our community with health conditions or complications, this will be a particularly concerning time.

To provide real-time information on how the virus is spreading in Scotland, which will inform NHS planning and allow resources to be directed where they are needed most, surveillance testing for coronavirus is being expanded.

The programme will be extended to GP practices covering up to 1.2 million people across all health boards in Scotland and will test people presenting with relevant symptoms, including with flu-like symptoms or general respiratory illness and underlying health conditions.

It will also support the continued testing of people admitted to hospital with symptoms. People following the guidance to stay at home for seven days if they have mild symptoms of a new cough or raised temperature will not be routinely tested – and should only phone NHS 111 or contact the GP if their condition worsens.

It is important that people use official and reliable sources of information to find out the latest information and advice – this can be found at www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus.

Clackmannanshire Council also has a webpage which contains the latest information relating to council service – including schools. This can be accessed at www.clacks.gov.uk/social/coronavirusinformation

There is no doubt that Covid-19 will have challenging implications for businesses and the economy over the coming weeks and months, with tourism and hospitality sectors facing immediate pressure.

The Scottish Government has announced £320million of assistance to Scottish business which will provide support through what is likely to be a difficult time.

Businesses receiving support are being encouraged to operate with fair work principles including supporting staff to self-isolate when they need to and if they have caring responsibilities and to consider keeping staff in employment where at all possible.

I’d encourage any businesses with questions relating to the impact of Covid-19 to contact the helpline launched last week on 0300 303 0660.

One thing that has been heartening to see as the situation develops has been the way in which the community has come together, with fantastic examples of local businesses and organisations offering free meals, help and delivery services to those needing assistance or who are self-isolating. It is reassuring to know that we are able to look to our neighbours in time of need and find that support.

To end on a positive note, I recently spoke at Forth Valley College’s first Modern Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony, a brilliant celebration of the successes of those who have worked hard to complete their training.

I also visited Sterling Furniture to meet with apprentices there during Scottish Apprenticeship Week to learn further about the benefits of in work learning. It is fantastic to see so many talented people taking advantage of the opportunities Modern Apprenticeships offer.