Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Covid-19 and The Persuaders

So after six long months the upshot is that not enough people have been persuaded to change their behaviour in the battle to slow and stop the spread of Covid-19.

The good news is that while we're not exactly back to where we started in March with a total lockdown, yet again we face big restrictions on seeing family, friends and loved ones.

The blunt truth is that too many of our fellow citizens have ignored the charms of Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon along with the expert advice to observe social distancing, wear face coverings and wash our hands at every opportunity.

Just weeks ago (see BBC Scotland link below) Nicola Sturgeon was making grand claims about eliminating the virus altogether, yet here we are again banned from seeing friends and family in our own homes - all because some people can't behave responsibly.

To cap a bad week Scotland has today recorded 486 new cases of Covid-19 which is the highest daily figure since records began.

So it seems fair to ask if the message from politicians is not hitting home, not being taken seriously enough, what other steps are required to persuade people to change their behaviour.


Scotland 'not far away' from eliminating coronavirus

26 June 2020

Image caption - Reuters The first minister wore a face mask during a visit to a shop in Edinburgh ahead of its reopening on Monday

Scotland is "not far away" from eliminating coronavirus, the country's first minister has predicted.

Nicola Sturgeon was speaking as she announced there have been no deaths from confirmed cases of the virus in the past 24 hours.

This was the first time the figure had been zero on a weekday since 20 March.

Ms Sturgeon said the statistic was "really significant" and a further sign of the progress that has been made.

But she again warned against complacency because the virus "has not yet gone away" and is "on the rise again" in some other countries.

Coronavirus in Scotland - latest updates
Police clear large crowds from city park
Which lockdown rules will change next - and when?

Ms Sturgeon said: "Suppressing the virus, driving it as far as we can towards total elimination, has to be our overriding priority.

"We have made exceptional progress over the past three months, and the figures today highlight that.

"But it has only been possible because the vast majority of us have stuck to the rules."

The first minister stressed that elimination was different from eradication, and was about "getting it to the lowest possible levels we can in a country".

She added: "It doesn't mean it has gone away, it doesn't mean it won't rise again if we stop doing the things we need to do, but it gives us more confidence that we can keep it under control.

"I think we are not that far away from that. The challenge is keeping it there." 

Reuters Image - Many shops and visitor attractions are preparing to reopen in the coming weeks including Blair Drummond Safari Park near Stirling

The number of cases of coronavirus in Scotland has fallen dramatically in recent weeks, with the number of people testing positive in single figures on some days.

There are currently only 17 coronavirus patients in the country's intensive care units.

And Ms Sturgeon said the percentage of people who tested positive for the virus was now well below 1% - and was just 0.3% on Thursday.

But with the country's three-month lockdown due to be eased significantly over the coming weeks, she urged people not to become complacent of the threat caused by the virus which has been linked to the deaths of more than 4,100 people in Scotland.

What will reopen in Scotland and when?

29 June - Most non-essential shops, many indoor workplaces, visitor attractions including zoos, outdoor sports courts and playgrounds

3 July - Five mile travel distance relaxed, most self-catering holiday homes and second homes can be used

6 July - Outdoor hospitality such as beer gardens can reopen

10 July - People can meet in extended groups outdoors and with two other households indoors

13 July - Shopping centres can reopen, organised outdoor contact sports for children can resume, dentists can reopen for most routine care

15 July - Pubs, restaurants and all holiday accommodation can reopen, as can hairdressers, barbers, museums, cinemas, libraries and childcare

Ms Sturgeon pointed to a resurgence in cases in countries that are coming out of lockdown, such as Germany and the US, as a warning sign that "we ignore at our peril".

She added: "The virus has not gone away, and it will not go away of its own accord.

"A big concern for me is that, as we ease more restrictions, people drop their guard - it is perhaps human nature.

"And of course, the potential for that increases as people are out and about and seeing each other much more."

Police dispersed large groups of people from Kelvingrove Park as Scotland enjoyed the warmest day of the year so far on Thursday, while there were also big crowds at the Meadows in Edinburgh.

Ms Sturgeon said she understood people wanting to enjoy the sunshine, but she urged them to do so sensibly by avoiding crowded places and trying to find somewhere quieter.


Politicians and Coronavirus (19/09/20)

The essential point about Covid-19 is that if we all take social distancing seriously, remain cautious, wear face masks and wash our hands at every opportunity - the virus cannot jump from one person to another.

Yet politicians across the UK are now rushing to tell us that because they have failed to persuade fellow citizens to behave responsibly they have no choice but to impose even more rules which prevent people from seeing their families and friends.

Everyone from Boris Johnson to the Mayor of London to the first ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be saying essentially the same thing, no doubt while also suggesting that something or someone else is to blame.

Yet what it boils down to is a failure of our politicians to unite behind an agreed strategy which is capable of changing people's behaviour. 

Follow My Leader ((10/09/90)

The Scottish Government seems likely to follow the lead of the UK Government later today by announcing further restrictions on people's lives to help reduce the spread of Covid-19.

According to leaked press reports Scotland will reduce the numbers of people who can meet to just 6 individuals - both indoors and outdoors.

The present 'rules' are driven by the science allegedly, there is no doubt that politicians revel in having small differences in their own back yards - at a time when it would be better if we were all singing from the same hymn sheet. 


Politicians and Coronavirus (09/09/20)

Glasgow councillors were back in the news again after the Daily Record broke a story about Council leader, Cllr Susan Aitken, enjoying a drink in a Merchant City pub with three colleagues.

Nicola Sturgeon waded into the row at the weekend to remind public figures, especially elected politicians, that they need to be seen to be above reproach.

Yet the First Minister's words fell well short of the criticism directed at Aberdeen and Celtic footballers recently when  the Scottish Government threatened to shut the game down altogether, if players stepped out of line again.

I can't say I'm in favour of shutting things down as it seems to me the job of politicians is to hammer home the message about the importance of remaining cautious and continuing to socially distancing - while wearing face masks and washing your hands frequently.

I was in Spain over the summer, Catalonia to be precise, and my personal experience is that these issues are taken far more seriously in other parts of Europe than they are in Scotland.

Spain currently has a higher Covid-19 infection rate than Scotland or the UK, but the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez has already said that life must go on and that there will no return to a full lockdown.

Face coverings are mandatory in all public spaces in Spain and just recently Spain banned smoking and vaping in outdoor hospitality spaces in an effort to combat the spread of Coronavirus.

Whereas my experience in Glasgow is that the wearing of face masks or using hand sanitisers in shops is very patchy and not enforced - with lots of people wearing face coverings hanging round their chins, for example. 

The reality is that if people take social distancing seriously, remain cautious, wear face masks and wash their hands at every opportunity - the virus cannot jump from one person to another.