This was the week that saw six Scottish health boards amongst the top 10 worst-hit Covid regions in Europe, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures. NHS Tayside had the highest rate, with 1,146 cases per 100,000 people. Lothian, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Fife, Lanarkshire and Ayrshire and Arran health boards were also in the top 10, along with north-east and north-west England. The only areas in the table outside the UK are Nur-Sultan City in Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation’s capital, Moscow.
It was also the week that saw several Scottish hospitals cancelling non-urgent surgery and outpatient work, going onto “code black status” after reaching capacity amid increasing Covid cases.
There was little evidence of this yesterday at the Scottish Government press conference, with talk of “living with Covid”, references to the number of Covid cases “levelling out”, and cautious hope for further relaxations come 19th July.
But there were 2 elephants in the room with Nicola Surgeon yesterday, virus variants and Long Covid. Long Covid is already with us, affecting about 13% of cases, and as for variants, well, Britain has now been nicknamed “Plague Island” and the “Covid factory” by one reporter.
One of the things about an elephant in the room is that you don’t talk about it. Some MSPs raised the issues of variants and Long Covid in the questions following Nicola Sturgeon’s statement on 22nd June, but there appears to have been an almost eerie silence since then. Perhaps things are happening amongst MSPs that are not making it into the media, or perhaps it’s their way, in no words, of saying, as Boris Johnson so memorably put it, that we have to take responsibility for our own safety.
But ignoring elephants can be a problem too. Long Covid will be the elephant that will never forget, and a new, home grown virus variant could step on Nicola Sturgeon’s political toes very, very hard indeed. The SNP may be in a strong position in the Scottish Parliament, but Nicola Sturgeon may not be.