THIS week's community column comes from Helensburgh's Labour MSP, Jackie Baillie.

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For the last seven months, my job has been taken up almost entirely by the Covid-19 crisis – everything from fighting for support for those who have found themselves in financial hardship to demanding permanent local Covid-19 testing facilities.

Our communities have been some of the hardest hit in Scotland by the virus and the way that local people, voluntary groups, NHS and social care staff have rallied together to protect those in need is truly wonderful.

In July and August, we welcomed the fall in the number of cases – families were able to reunite, children returned to school and the hospitality industry was able to re-open its doors.

READ MORE: Opinion: Kilcreggan coronavirus outbreak a sobering reminder on our own doorsteps

Unfortunately, in recent days we have seen a steady increase in the number of positive Covid-19 cases across Scotland. Local authorities – including neighbouring West Dunbartonshire – have had stricter lockdown restrictions imposed and the First Minister has announced a countrywide limit of six people in two households able to come together.

One thing is becoming clear - Covid-19 is still a very real and present threat and our community must be as prepared as we can to face it.

Testing is key. That means it is absolutely vital that we have a permanent local testing hub that operates from 9am to 5pm throughout the week.

Currently, the mobile unit at the council offices in Dumbarton is running a service on alternate days, which is a start.

READ MORE: Helensburgh's MSP denies urging BBC to axe TV coverage of Nicola Sturgeon's coronavirus briefings

However, on the very first day that it was opened, a local constituent told me that they had been advised their nearest centre was Dunoon - they don’t drive, which means travelling for over two hours on public transport with Covid-19 symptoms!

Similarly, a parent contacted me to say he had been told to take his teenage children to Dundee to access testing.

This is obviously completely unacceptable. I will not stop fighting until a permanent and fully operational hub is up and running.

I encourage anyone who is displaying symptoms to access a test and hope that everyone will join me in abiding by the restrictions. I know they can be frustrating but they are there to not only protect ourselves, but to protect the most vulnerable in our community. Stay safe.

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