From Friday, four adults from up to two different households will be allowed to meet outdoors; non-contact sport will be able to take place outside; and from March 26, communal worship for up to 50 people should be allowed – providing social distancing can be observed and the level of the virus does not prevent it – according to new guidance published by the Scottish government.
However, Nicola Sturgeon warned that “even though we are heading firmly in the right direction right now, we cannot afford to take our foot off the brake too soon. We still need to keep the virus under control if our hopes for a much more normal summer are not to suffer a setback.” There was a similar message from Downing Street, with Boris Johnson's spokesman saying his government was moving in “a very cautious way” along the road map towards greater freedom.
Speaking to the Commons’ Science and Technology Select Committee, UK government adviser Professor Chris Whitty spelt out the reasons for our leaders’ shared concerns.
“A lot of people may think this is all over. It is very easy to forget how quickly things can turn bad,” he said. “Under all the scenarios, if we unlock very suddenly, all the modelling suggests we would get a substantial surge while a lot of people are not protected.”
Even if the restrictions are gradually lifted and the vaccination programme continues apace, there could still be another 30,000 deaths by summer next year, Professor Whitty warned.
When we are being let off the leash, after relative confinement for so long, it may seem natural to run a little wild, to bend the rules just a little bit, then a bit more.
But we must resist this temptation. As this crisis continues, we all still need to be responsible and sensible citizens and to avoid joining the ranks of the ‘Covidiots’, like the politicians who think the rules don’t apply to them or the football fans who mindlessly celebrate a triumph.
For snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in our struggle with Covid has an obvious and unavoidable outcome: more people will die.