Coronavirus in Scotland: At what point will we just have to cope with Covid?

Rising cases of Covid-19 in Glasgow have led to fears the city may not make it out of level three restrictions on Monday with the rest of mainland Scotland.

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that Moray will likely not be joining the rest of the country in level two after a period of rapidly rising cases in the area.

Cases have also been rising in the Pentland area, and Midlothian has been pinpointed as a possible site of Scotland’s next flareup.

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But after nearly 15 gruelling months, at what point will rising cases no longer translate into lockdowns?

Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty ImagesPhoto by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The answer is unfortunately, not yet.

Members of the public are tiring of endless restrictions, as is clear from Moray and Glasgow, where in both cases public health officials have pointed to people disobeying mixing rules as a reason for virus spread.

Everyone wants to get back to “normal”, especially those whose livelihoods have been decimated by restrictions, and with the most vulnerable already protected by vaccines there are those asking why local lockdowns are being considered in Moray and Glasgow.

But the reality is that not everyone in Scotland has had a vaccine. While the programme has moved incredibly quickly, still just 34 per cent of people have had two doses.

Those are the most vulnerable of the population, its true, but just keeping people out of hospital isn’t the only goal of lockdown.

Some scientists are concerned that if the virus begins to spread among the millions of younger people who aren’t vaccinated, it could easily mutate into something either more deadly, or resistant to our current vaccines.

And while we are already working on a programme to adapt vaccines to future variants, there will be a time lag between them arising and a new vaccine being rolled out.

On top of this, while the vaccines appear to have a very welcome effect on hospital numbers, NHS capacity still needs to be protected.

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The workforce is utterly exhausted, and the backlog of non-urgent operations and consultations which have been put on hold during the pandemic is growing ever larger.

With a busy winter looming on the horizon, the last thing the health service needs is an influx of Covid patients in the next few months.

Arguments over whether it is realistic for Scotland to pursue an elimination strategy, or whether the virus will be treated like flu, or like measles, or like anything else we are used to, have gone round in circles for months.

For the moment at least, Scotland is facing a future of local flare-ups and crackdowns similar to those in Moray and Glasgow.

According to Professor Linda Bauld of Edinburgh University, people often compare Scotland to Israel, which has not had local flare-ups.

But the difference is that Israel is much further advanced in its vaccination programme, she said.

“We're not in that situation, we only have a third of people who've had both doses of the vaccine, and we're opening up at a significant scale, the changes on Monday are really big changes,” she said.

"And so we are going to see more infection, and it will be geographically more common in some areas and others.”

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