Hearing the sounds of football celebration on Friday night, and the rumble of the tourist wheeled luggage in the street this morning, perhaps tells us that the Scottish Government is wanting to “move on” from the pandemic.
But what is the real situation? That is what our campaign strategy meeting sought to determine, that and what the Zero Covid Scotland campaign should be doing.
Cases of Covid-19 in Scotland are rising, with 1,209 new cases on 19 June, and a seven day average of 1,054. On 4 May there were 139 cases with a seven day average of 166. So the weekly average is now over five times the May value, so why are there less controls in place now than then?
An interesting insight to this question came from the Scottish Government response to our campaign letter, warning them about virus variants, which we sent two months ago.
“Our aim remains to Suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. We understand how challenging pursuing elimination is, but we can strive towards this as a goal. Even if we fall short of elimination, our collective efforts will have contributed to suppressing the virus to the lowest possible level.” 16 June 2021.
So, in principal the Scottish Government is still talking about elimination, but have relaxed the controls. This begs the question of when, if ever, controls will be applied to lower the rate of infection.
Rather than use the number of cases per 100,000 of population as a measure they now seem to be using Intensive Care Unit statistics, which is allowing the virus to reproduce in a partially vaccinated population, running the risk of new variants and Long Covid for many. I’ve put a copy of the letter that campaigners have been sending to MSPs about this at the end of this email, it goes into the arguments in more detail, particularly around the question of how the Scottish Government appears to be ignoring the advice of its own advisory committee.
At the same time we have seen the systematic failure of the Scottish Government to take practical steps to make workplaces and schools safer, pinning all of their hopes instead on a vaccination programme that may reduce hospitalisations. The Zero Covid Scotland campaign has always been pro-vaccination, but vaccination is only one of the steps needed to eliminate the virus.
To conclude this section, the Scottish Government is facing serious problems, as things have not fundamentally changed. We need to keep on pressing them over issues such as workplace safety, prevention, support, Long Covid, Covid justice and the public health system. There is also the question of the independent enquiry, are they trying to join Westminster in putting this off?
- Attend the The fight for Covid safety at work meeting on Zoom, Tuesday 22nd June 6pm.
- If you are in a Trade Union, raise the matter of the Zero Covid motion passed at the recent STUC conference (see “Amended Motion No.15” below). Ask them to affiliate to the Zero Covid Scotland campaign.
- Lobby your MSP. There are at least some who have shown their commitment to an idea of Covid justice by supporting Sarah Boyack’s motion S6M-00293 on Pharmaceutical Monopolies. Ask them all to work together for a Zero Covid Scotland.
Zero Covid Scotland campaign
Letter to MSPs
I am deeply concerned to read in the media that Health Minister Humza Yousaf is looking at changing Scotland’s Covid policy so as to lift restrictions according to numbers of patients in ICUs, regardless of infections and possibly even hospitalisations, both of which are rising once again.
Until now, the Scottish Government’s stated goal is to suppress infections, and decisions on restrictions are largely based on that. Looking only at hospital, especially ICU figures, in effect means letting the virus rip across the population, with less than 35% fully vaccinated.
I would ask you to urgently call on Minister Yousaf and Nicola Sturgeon to abandon this dangerous idea.
Prolonged restrictions are difficult for everybody, but the answer must be to do more to get infections under control, not give up on suppression. Other countries have for example, successfully reduced cases by focussing heavily on ventilation in workplaces, schools, and public places, including hospitality, as well as strengthening masks mandates, given the World Health Organisation’s recent finding that the virus is airborne. Giving up on suppression would mean:
- Condemning thousands more to Long Covid: The Office of National Statistics estimated that, as of early March 2021, 1.1 million people were living with Long Covid, and tens of thousands of them had been suffering with this for more than one year (tinyurl.com/cd9vau5v);
- Going against the advice of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group which, according to its latest published minutes from 21st April, stressed the need to “learn from previous waves and get case numbers as low as possible to reduce the risk of harm from further variants arising, which might undermine the vaccination campaign”. (gov.scot/publications/scottish-government-covid-19-advisory-group-minutes-15-april-2021/)
- Ignore warnings from both the UK Government’s advisory committee SAGE and the Independent SAGE, who have been warning of a risk of a large new wave of hospitalisations and death if restrictions are lifted too rapidly and without regard to keeping infections as low as possible. SAGE warned earlier this month that, the new variant could be up to 50% more transmissible and that if it even 40% more transmissible, the recent lifting of restrictions across England (similar to those in Scotland) is likely to lead to a resurgence in hospitalisation similar or possibly much larger than that during previous Covid waves, even without any additional vaccine escape: tinyurl.com/4cxufc3c Yet this weekend, Public Health England has changed its risk assessment of the variant first identified in India, to high risk for vaccine escape (especially for making partial vaccination less effective, having classed it as high risk for being more transmissible earlier already (tinyurl.com/bdtaxkzr).
Many thanks in advance for making representations about this to the Scottish Government.
Amended Motion No.15
Zero COVID Strategy
“That this Congress notes that COVID-19 is a terrible public health tragedy. But it also starkly highlights the deep underlying inequalities we saw in society before the current crisis, and these will only get worse if the UK and Scottish Governments continue with the current failed strategy of trying to contain the virus rather than eliminate it.
“Congress recognises that the death toll (and long-term health damage) in Scotland, and indeed across the world from COVID-19, have been considerably worse in deprived communities, among disabled people and among black and ethnic minority people.
“Those in lower paid jobs are more likely to be the key workers who are on the frontline of this crisis, shouldering the immense burden of keeping our country going.
“In the most deprived communities, workers fear a positive test result, knowing that they couldn’t afford to self-isolate should they receive one. On the other hand, stock markets have boomed, and the corporate privatisation vultures have trousered billions from British Government hand-outs of public cash.
“Congress calls on the Scottish Government to introduce legislation that would compel employers to stop non-essential work, while protecting the income of workers as part of a Zero COVID strategy.
“Congress recognises that the weakness in Scotland’s economy has been exposed by the pandemic. It has suffered more than most due to its reliance on the service economy, as in retail, tourism, and the hospitality sector.
“Congress believes that the UK and Scottish Government pursuing a Zero COVID strategy will help us to rebuild infrastructure and the expertise, after ten years of cuts, that we will need to deal with future pandemics.
“Congress further calls for every intervention made by the Trade Union Movement to be to reduce the gap between rich and poor, reversing the entrenched levels of inequality of health and wealth that plague our society.”