With over 500 hospitalisations, and a seven-day average of confirmed cases over 1,000, Scotland’s spread of covid-19 certainly looks “out of control”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon denied that was the case yesterday, as she has to do, but the estimated ‘R’ number has been over one for about two months now, and the places that have had the tightest restrictions for longest, on the west coast of Scotland, are still registering the most confirmed cases every day. The First Minister says we are at a “perilous point in the journey”, but does she know where the destination is?
England today begins its three-tier system of restrictions, which Sturgeon has vowed to introduce a variation of after the October holidays, and said it will be subject to parliamentary scrutiny first. That’s around two and a half weeks away, but if the virus continues to spread at the current rate of growth, events will surely overtake that plan. Labour leader Keir Starmer is calling for a two to three week “circuit-breaker” lockdown in England now, after it was revealed Sage advised this three weeks ago. Cautious Keir can see the way the wind is blowing. Sturgeon said she accepts the Scottish Government has not fully acted on Sage’s advice either, but that a “balance” had to be struck between public health and the economy. But of course that balance only becomes harder to find as case numbers rise.
Craig Dalzell, Common Weal’s head of policy & research, who has proposed a localised system of tiered responses based on randomised testing, has been pretty scathing of the plan to follow Johnson’s lead in introducing the new UK system, saying “instead of copying one of the worst countries in the world we should be learning from the best”. Dalzell says the UK Government’s new system is likely to remain overly-centralised and thus insufficiently responsive to local developments.
Dalzell cites a recent Lancet publication which has compared various countries’ covid-19 restrictions across Asia and Europe, including the UK’s. One of the findings that stands out is that the five countries examined in Asia all have strict rules on mandatory testing of everyone who enters the country, whereas European countries “have been slow to require routine testing of travellers”. Since many of the covid-19 testing facilities are close to airports, it seems an obvious and easy decision to make testing of all those on inbound flights mandatory. That’s just one simple change that could be implemented that would potentially make a big difference.
But after the fierce backlash against the new hospitality restrictions, the First Minister has made a renewed commitment to a “four-nations” approach at “the strategic level”. Political safety in numbers is presumably part of the thinking. What it means is that Scotland will be taking the covid-19 “journey” now firmly hitched to Boris Johnson’s wagon, with Sage in the back seat, no longer holding the map. Who knows where we’ll end up.
Source Direct is a free morning newsletter providing you with all the latest Scottish news in your inbox each morning, including:
- Analysis of the key stories
- A summary of what’s in the Scottish papers
- The latest on Source
- Interesting opinion pieces from around Scottish media
To sign-up for Source Direct, click here.