'THE coronavirus pandemic has touched nearly every aspect of our lives in a way that it would have been hard to contemplate even a few short months ago. Since then, for most of us, life at home has become the new normal.

Just before the lockdown kicked in I was self-isolating at home after a member of my family displayed some symptoms of the virus. That time made me re-evaluate a lot of things, but it did mean that when the lockdown came into effect I had already become used to working with my team and colleagues remotely.

But not everyone can stay at home. People continue to work in our hospitals, supermarkets and other vital services. We make the sacrifice of staying at home to protect ourselves but also to make the lives of key workers that little bit easier.

Even outside those directly employed on the front lines it has been heartening to see charities and communities in Fife rise to the challenge the pandemic poses. Fife Voluntary Action has recruited more than 1,800 volunteers, ready to do what they can to help those in need. On top of that the organisations crowd funder to help individuals and families struggling the most during the lockdown has raised a remarkable £41,500 as I write.

Sadly, not everyone has approached the current crisis with the same community mindedness.

In St Andrews, a private accommodation provider demanded that students who had been forced to return home continue to pay full rent until the end of the academic year. After I wrote to the landlord on behalf of the students and raised the issue in the press, the firm relented and agreed to let students brake from their contract early.

In another case a private nursery in Fife was insisting that parents continue to pay while the nursery was closed or lose their child’s place, but I’ve now received assurances from the nursery has now reversed the policy and has assured parents that nobody will lose their place because of the crisis.

I’ve also had several reports of people in rural areas struggling to access online deliveries from supermarkets. I’ve been engaging with retailers and asking them to ensure the most vulnerable are given priority. I welcome the Scottish Government’s new helpline, which is designed to ensure vulnerable people who don’t have family or friends able to support them can continue to access food and medicine. You can reach this line on 0800 111 4000'.

Things will, eventually, get back to something that resembles normality but there can be no doubt that there is still a significantly long and difficult road ahead of us. The Government needs to significantly step up testing and have a clear, safe, plan for the transition out of lockdown. But, in the meantime, I’ll be doing everything I can to support you and in situations where I can’t help directly I will be able to point you towards an organisation that will be able to help. Please do not hesitate to get in touch via mark.ruskell.msp@parliament.scot.