Tiers on the horizon

This week parliament is to debate the Scottish Government’s new five tier system of lockdowns. Alison Johnstone previews.

Given the UK Government’s three-tier system allows pubs and restaurants to stay open even when the virus is spreading like wildfire, it’s appropriate to keep an option open that will enable Scotland to take more precautionary measures if required.

But let’s face it, this is not getting any easier. The longer restrictions last, the more challenging they become. It’s absolutely vital that any system which impedes people’s daily lives is clear and understandable and that everyone understands the intended aims of all measures.

We have something now that we didn’t have in March, and that is hindsight. We now know what happened when the UK, including Scotland, didn’t lock down quickly enough. We know that abandoning rigorous test and trace at an early stage was a mistake. It became clear that within a few weeks of restrictions being relaxed, the virus was on the rise once more. This should have been expected.

Of course, the return of schools and universities is very important for our young people’s wellbeing and prospects.

The rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 we have seen in recent weeks is a pattern which is being reflected across Europe, and worryingly the virus is becoming more widespread again among older populations.

Recent reports have suggested that in the first wave older people with symptoms were sent into care homes, and that people did not get life-saving treatment for other conditions so that the NHS did not become over-run.

This is wholly unacceptable. It is vital that we protect those most vulnerable to this deadly virus.

That is why we’ve been consistent that rigorous testing needs to be ramped up so that people are being tested before they display symptoms, especially those working on the front line of tackling this crisis.

That includes nurses, doctors, care assistants, teachers, lecturers and support staff.

It is also why any talk of a ‘truce’ or ‘ceasefire’ over Christmas is deeply irresponsible. You cannot negotiate a truce with a virus, you have to do everything in your power to limit its spread while you work towards a vaccine.

In the meantime many people are understandably fed up, and there must be measures in place to protect everyone’s mental health, whether that be access to green space, mental health support and the technology required to link up with friends and family.

If the public are going to buy into new restrictions, they need at least three things in my view.

They need to know that the Scottish Government is living up to its side of the bargain by ramping up testing to find and isolate the virus.

They need support if they are asked to self-isolate so they know they are not going to lose income or their job, and that their own family’s wellbeing will not be risked.

And lastly they need to know that the rules of lockdown are fair. We cannot have a repeat of the situation where it was acceptable for large parties to head to the hills to shoot grouse but children were not allowed to play together in the park.

With these things, we can head into holiday season knowing that we are all playing out part to get back to normal as soon as we can.