Inconvenience is a cheap price to pay for saving lives

Phase four of the lockdown exit seems another world away until there's a coronavirus vaccine.

Inconvenience is a cheap price to pay for saving lives Pixabay

Covid fatigue has set in and you don’t need to look far to find the evidence.

A survey this week concluded that only a quarter of people required to self-quarantine are doing so. Put another way, 75% of people are wilfully ignoring advice designed to keep everyone safe.

A quick chat with friends garners numerous anecdotes pointing to a flaunting of the rule to wear masks on public transport to some pubs who simply ignore any attempt to take customer details.

Rules for going to and coming back from some countries have changed. Calculated gambles to holiday abroad become miscalculations as the rules change again.

Refined lockdowns in greater Glasgow even scupper an overnight with a friend on a sleepy island or picturesque Argyll. I should know as I have just cancelled a planned trip this weekend.

In a sense it was always going to come to this. Reducing the prevalence of a virus is not the same as eliminating it. Even New Zealand, which was believed to be Covid free, has reimposed restrictions.

Some, not all, young people genuinely believe the statistics point to immunity for those blessed by youth. Many citizens are genuinely not clear about the rules as weekly refinements add complexity to messages which were once crystal clear.

As the numbers dying on a daily basis are small relative to deaths at the peak of this pandemic, there is a psychological loosening of what was once disciplined behaviour.

And yet the virus is still out there, still has the capacity to be fateful and can take hold and spread as before.

All of the mood music now tells me that we are not moving to phase four. Not in three weeks’ time and not in three months’ time.

In fact, given that phase four resembles the old normal, I doubt we will get there in full until such time as a vaccine is ready or everyone in the population has been tested. And we are still a long way from either scenario.

Only a heart of stone would not feel for those who run theatres, concert venues, nightclubs, football stadia, etc, and who hang on a politician’s every word looking for even a sympathetic inflection of a voice which gives hope.

The brutal truth as they know deep down is that there isn’t much hope, if getting back to normal is the goal.

Tentative limited reopening planned for September 14 of theatres, live music venues and indoor sports venues has been shelved with a decision to be taken again on October 5. Don’t build up your hopes on that front is my very clear sense from ministerial tones.

Call centres and offices will remain closed as it brings more people into contact with one another and will increase the numbers using public transport. And, of course, more than a million people in five council areas cannot visit other households anywhere or indeed receive visitors.

In pubs, restaurants and homes, gatherings are now limited to six people from two households. Face coverings will have to be worn in hospitality venues if people are moving around.

Today’s parliamentary statement amounts to a significant tightening of rules during phase three. It is therefore simply a pipe dream at the moment to even contemplate a move to phase four, which seems parked on an impossibly long horizon.

96% of businesses are now trading. Schools have reopened. The tightening of rules is the quid pro quo for this as the R number is now over 1 and could be as high as 1.5.

Scotland is currently recording three times more positive cases of the virus than it was three weeks ago. It is accelerating, albeit from a relatively low base. This trend is not unsurprising. The more you open society, the greater the scope for transmission.

Encouragingly, the infection rates in Scotland at the moment are below those seen in countries such as France and Spain after cases there started to rise after an initial bottoming out.

It feels like phase three is the default position with further changes to rules likely depending on where and how the virus has spread. Until there is sustained and conclusive evidence of the R number falling materially then any move to phase four is simply another world away.

If you want to travel on a supporters bus and have everyone enter a football ground to cheer on your team, then all head for the pub afterwards and round the evening off with a jig at your local nightclub then dream on. It isn’t happening.

The First Minister acknowledged today the level of frustration out there. Perhaps she has had a look at the same social media posts I have been looking at.

I too get that some are frustrated and indeed that many are angry, bewildered by what they see as inconsistent messages. And, of course, when you are invited to believe and trust a politician that is always an invitation for some to let off steam.

After I cancelled my Argyll weekend, my other half arranged a night out on Saturday. That will have to be curtailed too as it involved more than three households. It feels that the rules trip you up at every point.

But I get why they are necessary and I support them. This is about keeping people as safe as possible.

It’s about saving lives.

Inconvenience is a cheap price to pay if it keeps just one more person alive.