Safety First

As difficult as the latest months of restrictions have been, there are some reassuring things we can cling to argues Alison Johnstone.

Firstly, the infection rate has come down, meaning the measures are working. When the ‘r’ number falls below 1, it means on average every infection leads to less than one other new infection, so the epidemic is shrinking.

Secondly, we now know there are a number of vaccines out there awaiting approval by safety experts. So, there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

However welcome these reassurances are, they do not mean we should relax.

Experts are warning we’re by no means in the position we were in in the summer yet. We’ve seen this year from the return of schools and universities and the opening up of hospitality that it does not take long for this virus to get out of control again. It is highly infectious.

The two-metre distance between people is an important safety measure because it brings down the likelihood of the virus spreading. That’s why that, while understandable after months of this, it is worrying that there are frequent reports and pictures showing people not doing this, whether subconsciously or through choice.

For example, there were reports of a large gathering on the meadows this weekend, where a student football game was treated to a large crowd who did not appear to be keeping themselves safe.

I really feel for students who have been denied a normal start to the term. This is a time of life when your world expands and you meet new people, sometimes from all over the world. This level of socialising has been seriously curtailed this year and it must be so difficult for them, especially those who have seen outbreaks in their student halls and been effectively locked in.

With students allowed to go home for Christmas and thankfully being tested before doing so, it’s vital we make this as safe as possible.

When it comes to the advice on getting together at Christmas, it gets complicated. We are being told that for five days we can form household ‘bubbles’ with no more than eight people over the age of 12. Within that, we are told to still keep two metres away from people who have come into the bubble from different households. This means there will need to be some very large dining tables in use if grannies and grandpas or uncles and aunts are coming over for Christmas dinner, and no pulling of crackers with anyone outwith your own household.

Oh, and of course you are supposed to keep the window open, no matter how cold it is.

Whether you are in a large family group or not, this will be an unusual festive period, but we have to look at the reasons behind these rules.

The Scottish Government has recognised that people are likely to get together over the festive period anyway, and there is a recognition that this year has been very hard on people’s mental health, especially for those who experience loneliness and isolation.

However, it seems clear to me that wherever you can, the best thing we can do for each other is to keep safe and limit the spread of the virus. We know that a vaccine is coming and that we will be able to gather our loved ones together when we know we are not putting them at risk.

I can’t wait.