Covid: Sobering warnings from scientists and industry figures explain why this crisis is far from over – Scotsman comment

Amid all the hope brought by the development of effective vaccines have come sobering warnings that we should not think this is anything like over.

While we are all desperate for life to return to normal, there is a need to take care not to turn this wish into a reality in our minds too soon.

A Warwick University research paper published by the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Friday warns that “even in the best case assumptions for vaccine efficacy, vaccination alone proves insufficient to allow complete… release [of non-pharmaceutical interventions like the lockdown restrictions] within the year without significant further disease burden”.

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It adds that the new aggressive Covid strain, “the proportion of individuals that do not accept the vaccine” and “the proportion for whom it is ineffective in protecting” are likely to combine to result in significant further “severe disease”. "We conclude that vaccination must be combined with other interventions in order to provide an escape strategy,” the paper says.

What that means is that, while lockdown restrictions may ease, they will not go away completely and our economy – especially sectors like tourism and hospitality that are particularly important to Scotland – will continue to suffer for some time.

So the warning by EventScotland chief Paul Bush that the “summer of 2021 won’t see business as usual for the events and festivals sector in Scotland as was once hoped” has a sound basis on the expert advice that is informing government decisions.

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For businesses involved in staging major events, he says it is “highly unlikely we’ll see venues packed to the rafters at the Fringe or crowds filling our stadia for a summer of sport”.

Combined with the enforced cancellations last year and a main trading period of May to October for such firms, Bush points out that this will mean they will be without any significant income for more than two years. How many of us would cope as individuals in such a circumstance?

The tourist industry is also likely to continue to struggle, given domestic restrictions and the slower pace of vaccination in many other countries around the world. A staycation boom is probably coming, but it may not offset the loss of millions of overseas visitors.

The businesses that have been worst affected in this crisis should all be commended for the work they have done to survive this extraordinary time, but what the rest of us need to understand is that this really is not over and they will need further help.

Such help can come in different forms – from government aid to customers going out their way to buy something – but two of the most important things we all can do is to stick to the lockdown restrictions and get vaccinated.

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The Bank of England is predicting that the economy will bounce back quickly if the vaccination programme is a success but, as the Warwick University paper makes clear, that is an “if” that depends on everyone continuing to do their bit.

Given the importance of tourism and hospitality in Scotland and the ongoing impact of Brexit on exporters, especially those in food and drink, our economy is still facing particular and considerable challenges.

We are all desperate to “escape” but we must take care to ensure that the strategy – led by government but involving us all – is as efficient as possible.

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