The past 20 weeks or so have brought hardship for everyone and heartache for many.

Fingers-crossed, the Covid-19 public health emergency is all but over and a sense of normality is finally returning to our communities and towns. There are more retail shops opening, builders are back on construction sites, restaurants, cafes and bars are filling with customers again.

Unfortunately, Scotland has had the third highest number of excess deaths in Europe.

We had 4,906 excess deaths which was a 30 per cent increase on what we would expect to have seen. Many of these will be a direct result of Covid and others could be indirectly related such as people being unable to get life-saving treatment in time. The data shows 950 excess deaths were among cancer patients.

In Scotland we’ve had more than 4,000 excess deaths among those in the shielding category.

In Scottish care homes there were more than 1,600 Covid deaths and West Dunbartonshire witnessed the sad loss of 124 people due to Covid which is a personal tragedy for their families, friends and carers.

We are over the worst but the recent outbreak in Inverclyde where two of the infected holidayed in Balloch for a week shows that we need to be on our guard, to be vigilant and to continue to look out for each other.

The public health emergency has been overtaken by an economic emergency where potentially we could experience thousands of business failures and unemployment exceeding the three million unemployed of the 1980s.

In West Dunbartonshire unemployment in June 2019 was 2,570 but this year it increased by 87 per cent and by June 2020, the claimant count had increased to 4,810. We need government help and a quality jobs guarantee scheme to support into work.

Fortunately, there is some light at the end of this tunnel as all of our young people begin their return to school next week.

It’s not been an easy step to take and it’s involved balancing different risks and putting in place appropriate measures to make sure that it’s a safe return for all adults and children.

Our schools are Covid-safe and it’s up to us all to make sure that they remain that way so we all need to play our part so that pupils can return to their educational studies and meet up with their friends again in a safe environment. So let’s keep it that way.