Covid Scotland: Have governments learned anything in 12 months? - Elsa Maishman

A week is an incredibly long time on the health desk of a news outlet during a pandemic.

Returning on Monday after a short break felt - yet again - like encountering an entirely different landscape to the one I left, including a new booster vaccine target, new rules around self-isolation, and the threat of fresh restrictions looming.

However, none of these were particularly unexpected given the outlook from various experts over the past few weeks, and all feel uncomfortably familiar.

There is a palpable feeling of deja-vu in all the warnings and concerns and announcements, stirring up memories of around this time last year when cases were rising and there was only one question on everyone’s lips: But what about Christmas?

Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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Back then, there was a sense of rising panic among healthcare workers and leaders, as it appeared that governments were not listening to their concerns and throwing caution to the wind in a bid to save Christmas.

It didn’t work, and the mixed messages and last minute changes of plan were for many worse than the alternative, with a horrendous case spike in January thrown in.

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This year, Scotland has a huge advantage against Omicron: vaccines, which early reports so far suggest do help protect against the new variant, even if they may be less effective than against previous strains.

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But there is also a disadvantage compared to last year: the NHS is in a much worse state, with much reduced capacity to cope with extra demand. Staff are exhausted, with some even choosing to leave the profession due to burnout.

Many public health experts have so far supported the caution of the Scottish Government’s approach to Omicron, while business owners and the hospitality industry have pleaded for a sorely needed festive season without restrictions.

Nicola Sturgeon is set to give a major update today on the progress of Omicron, the booster vaccine campaign, and any further restrictions.

Action taken now might prevent a repeat of the extent of increased pressure in January and February seen in 2021, which would be disastrous to the now more stretched NHS.

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We can only hope the Scottish Government has learned the lessons of last year.

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