More than 3.1 million people have received their first dose of Covid vaccine, while nearly 1.9 million, including the majority of the most vulnerable, have had both doses.
Against this background, Nicola Sturgeon said the government was increasingly looking into whether “vaccination might be breaking that link between rise in case numbers and significantly rising cases of serious illness and death...if that does prove to be the case and we hope that it will, we hope that our response to this virus can increasingly evolve as well”.
For a long time, our Covid strategy has been based on the necessarily blunt tools of social distancing, shutting down businesses and messages to “stay at home” – to reduce the spread of the virus at almost all costs, save life itself.
However, the First Minister’s new comments represent a welcome recognition that the situation is changing, the vaccines are fulfilling their promise, and that a more complex set of factors, particularly the economic effects, must now rise up the government’s priorities.
To be clear, the total number of Covid cases is still a concern, but the focus should now shift to the actual outcomes of the infection, ie the number of serious cases. If these remain relatively small, we should not consider a return to anything like the most severe restrictions imposed since the pandemic began.
This change of strategy makes progress on the vaccination programme and the provision of rapid testing facilities all the more important, as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar pointed out.
He also called on the Scottish government to take urgent action get Glasgow “safely out of lockdown”. “We can’t have Scotland’s largest city and one of the major economic engines of the country stuck in perpetual lockdown,” he said, adding that there “needs to be a recognition that uncertainty, perpetual lockdown and economic ruin also have devastating effects on people’s health and well-being”.
Sturgeon has demonstrated understandable caution during the pandemic, but support for continuing to re-open our society is now growing across the political spectrum for two simple reasons: the figures support it and the public want it.