Covid in Scotland: Amid hopeful signs, we must start preparing for the next pandemic in earnest – Scotsman comment

Nicola Sturgeon’s language was cautious but, as she announced that restrictions on indoor events and hospitality would be lifted from Monday, she spoke of a “much more positive” Covid situation and expressed hope Scotland was entering “a calmer phase of the epidemic”.

With signs that Omicron is now past its peak, the First Minister’s statement may signal the start of a different relationship with the virus.

Monday may not quite be ‘freedom day’, particularly with the NHS still under considerable pressure, but hopefully the number of cases and deaths will continue to fall as the restrictions are lifted and, gradually, normal life will return.

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Pessimists have been proved right on that score many times over the past two years and Sturgeon warned that should the situation worsen, the controversial Covid passport scheme could be extended.

In the event this does happen, the Scottish government should be much more open about the case for such a move than it has been in the past.

As we reported recently, Scottish ministers unlawfully withheld estimates of the number of deaths and cases ahead of the second Covid wave in late 2020 after a request by The Scotsman. They were found to have broken the law by Scottish Information Commissioner Daren Fitzhenry who ruled that disclosing the modelling used by the government at the time was in the public interest.

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If the public is to take greater responsibility for taking precautions against Covid, then the case for government transparency is arguably greater than ever.

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And that spirit of openness should now extend to the process of learning lessons from the pandemic so we are never caught quite so ill-prepared again. As we have said before, the inquiry into the handling of the pandemic is absolutely key to this process.

International comparisons are difficult, but it seems clear that countries like Scotland, which had recorded 10,093 Covid deaths, as of yesterday, out of a population of nearly 5.5 million, should be able to learn from the strategy adopted in South Korea, which has seen just over 6,300 fatalities out of a population of nearly 52 million.

We are all weary of the pandemic but, however daunting a prospect it may be, however much we would rather not think about it, we need to get ready for the next one.

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