The Zero Covid Scotland pledge was launched in March of this year and has so far attracted signatures from three Holyrood MSPs, many individuals, an MP, several scientists, and a trade unions council.
While work continues asking people and organisations to sign up to the pledge, we now need to look in more detail at how virus elimination can be achieved in Scotland. This is particularly urgent as concerns continue over community transmission, school safety, workplace health and safety, an ongoing reliance on the private sector for Scottish Covid testing, and the importing of cases and dangerous variants from England and elsewhere.
There is now a new opportunity, in the aftermath of the Holyrood election, for candidate pledge signatories, whether or not they were elected, to express and spread political support for the campaign within their own political parties and within the Scottish Parliament itself. Initiatives, whether taken by individuals or by parties, should include the hosting of a Zero Covid Public Hearing by the Scottish Parliament itself, and inviting written submissions by the campaign to the new Scottish Government Covid and Health committees.
In response to this developing situation, here are the campaign’s recommendations for a virus elimination strategy in Scotland. It has been formulated in conjunction with scientific advice from Professor Andrew Watterson and Dr Jeremy Rossman, both pledge signatories themselves, along with feedback from other pledge signatories.
- Promptly introduce comprehensive restrictions in relation to households, workplaces, and travel – no half measures – in zones where case levels are high, until case levels have been brought down to a safe level – only as necessary to protect public health and the economy, and based on the latest scientific data.
- Ensure each workplace is made safe – ventilation, testing, occupancy limits, etc for workers and users before opening (schools, colleges, universities and public transport are all workplaces) – only as necessary to protect public health and the economy.
- Deliver a public awareness campaign on the key transmission routes of the virus and the importance of the key mitigation measures.
- Establish a Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) system, entirely within the Public Health Service, with the capacity to act quickly and comprehensively enough to stamp out new outbreaks.
- Support – financially, practically and emotionally – each person asked to self-isolate, according to their needs. This needs to acknowledge that the biggest burden is borne by those who are already in the poorest health and that health inequalities are likely to widen if Covid is not eliminated.
- Prevent new cases and new variants from being imported across the boundaries between any high-risk red zones and green ‘safe’ zones by temporary boundary controls, both within Scotland and between the two Scottish and two English administrative areas at the Scotland-England land border – Zones that have already achieved low levels of infection coming together as bubbles exempt from restrictions.
- Provide guidance to avoid all overseas travel, unless absolutely necessary, to protect public health and the economy.
- Manage quarantine effectively for all overseas arrivals, making quarantine mandatory, easy and affordable, with oversight, testing and check-ins by the NHS FTTIS system, to protect public health and the economy.
- Vaccinate while we eliminate.
- Manage the impact of Long Covid and Long Covid in children.
- Set an example by donating from Scotland’s stock of vaccines to the most vulnerable people internationally – in war zones, occupied territories and refugee camps – before we vaccinate low-risk people in Scotland.
The Zero Covid Scotland Pledge
I / we support a Covid-free Scotland. Too many have died, more are struggling to recover and the most vulnerable have been hardest hit. I / we will support any policy that puts people first, eliminates Coronavirus and ends restrictions for good. An effective Scottish strategy depends on precautionary and preventative principles. This requires public health bodies to work transparently, with sufficient resources and powers to:
- Impose Scotland-wide tight restrictions for limited periods to reduce infection spread. This means closing all non-essential workplaces and making the rest safe for workers
- Use the time bought by lockdown to put in place an effective and adequately resourced Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support system, entirely within the NHS, ending all outsourcing
- Provide all people asked to isolate with the financial, practical and emotional support they need to make isolation possible for them
- Make quarantine for all people arriving from overseas or across land borders easy and affordable
- Keep vaccinating, in conjunction with these measures
Let’s end Covid illness, death, lockdowns and isolation. It’s time to reconnect with each other and build a healthy future.
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