A public health expert has urged the Scottish Government to set out how it plans to ease the coronavirus lockdown, but warned that life may never return to normal after the pandemic.
Nicola Sturgeon has said it is too early to start planning how restrictions will be lifted, but Professor Linda Bauld, from Edinburgh University, said it should be discussed openly “to alleviate the pressure that people are feeling”.
The behavioural scientist echoed warnings from the First Minister and the World Health Organisation against prematurely lifting the measures, but said the Government should talk about plans to give people hope the lockdown will end.
Prof Bauld said being forced to remain at home unable to see family and friends, as well as a deluge of negatives stories in the news and on social media, were taking a toll on people’s mental health.
She also expressed concern that people were not seeking medical help and treatment, worried that it would put additional pressure on the NHS.
Asked on BBC Radio Scotland how the public were responding to the measures, Prof Bauld cited a study by King’s College London suggesting nine out of 10 people support the lockdown measures.
However, she suggested that rising numbers of people flouting social distancing rules “will ring alarm bells for the Government”.
Prof Bauld said that when the Government is ready, it should “begin to talk about what the options are for easing the restrictions if we feel the health service is not being completely overwhelmed – which it isn’t at the moment”.
She added: “I think we need to start talking about what measures might look like.
“We’re not going to go back to normal – I don’t think we’ll ever actually fully go back to normal – but some of the things just to alleviate the pressure that people are feeling now, particularly in a time like this when it’s a holiday and people are not able to see their families.”
At the Scottish Government’s daily briefing on Friday, Sturgeon said it was too early for planning an “end game” for lifting the lockdown.
Asked if the Government should be discussing a strategy to lift social isolation measures, she said there was not enough evidence to do so without risking “disastrous effects in terms of the virus spreading”.
Sturgeon said she wanted the country to return to normal as soon as possible, but would not allow “impatience” about the lockdown “to do the damage that we’ve been trying to prevent”.
She said: “Next week there is likely to be another Cobra meeting to start looking at this, but we’ve got to get the timing of this right because the consequences of not would be absolutely devastating.
“These are horrendously difficult challenges for everybody who is advising governments and for governments everywhere,” she added, pledging to “give as much clarity as I possibly can to the public about what we’re asking them to do know, and why we’re asking you to do it”.
“Because it’s by complying with these rules now that we do give ourselves the best chance of getting out of this quicker.”
National clinical director Jason Leitch added that the decisions would be made when the country reaches the “downward curve” of Covid-19 cases and deaths.