The vaccine breakthrough, as well as giving us all hope at last, will perhaps end some of the nuttiness of the current Covid restrictions.
In Dundee, a pub offering free teas to vulnerable people has been told to close because it was not serving meals.
The city’s Tier 3 measures have all but shut down the hospitality sector, in line with much of the country, despite extraordinary efforts by companies to make their premises Covid safe.
Meanwhile, coronavirus continues to disrupt schools in Tayside and Fife, although there is little evidence of transmission within classrooms.
Nicola Sturgeon has warned that a vaccine would not be a quick route out of lockdown but her finger wagging is losing its power to frighten the public. The harshest curbs may have stopped pubs selling alcohol but publicans are still managing to meet an unquenchable demand from customers who don’t remember voting for prohibition.
There was a carnival atmosphere in an Edinburgh street on Saturday afternoon as punters bought takeaway pints and plonked themselves down on the pavement with their drinking buddies.
Perhaps they had been reading about the capital’s almost non-existent transmission rate, with positive Covid tests dropping by nearly 3,000 in a week to just 0.08%, according to King’s College London’s authoritative ZOE Covid Symptom Study.
New cases fell in Scotland
Throughout much of Scotland, the number of daily new cases fell last week and the R (reproduction rate of the virus) was down to 0.9. And infections nationally have stopped increasing in most age groups apart from modest rises in the over 60s.
In England, fine autumnal weather over the weekend brought people out in their droves, two days into the lockdown there. Non-essential shops were closed, as were pubs, restaurants, cafes, and cinemas, but people did not heed the order to stay at home. Parks in London were even more packed than normal on Sunday, with snaking queues at coffee stalls and reports of food markets being mobbed.
Despite instructions from Home Secretary Priti Patel and from Sturgeon to take a robust approach, the police are in a quandary, encountering what could be described as “compliance lite” on a mass scale. It’s one thing to raid an illegal rave or dish out fixed penalty notices to partying freshers but how do they clamp down on the whole of Battersea Park?
On both sides of the border, people are pushing the boundaries in a way that didn’t happen back in March.
Some blame the confusing rules this time round but it seems that for much of the public the mood has relaxed – and this was even before news of the vaccine lifted spirits nationwide.
People are not setting out to break the law, just working around it. Businesses are said to be doing everything to avoid getting into trouble while continuing to trade, where possible, in the run-up to Christmas.
It is human nature to seek escape from the gloom but will governments, devolved and Westminster, also change their tune and try to match public optimism?
There was little sign of that in Scotland, with Sturgeon refusing to ease restrictions on Tuesday, while admitting cases had “pretty much levelled off”. She should not take public goodwill for granted and will need to produce more transparent reasons than she has to date for prolonging constraints on our liberty.
For Boris Johnson, the stakes are even higher, with his credibility hanging by a thread. His case for the current lockdown was based on dodgy data and his chief scientific advisers have been open to ridicule.
His senior ministers are not to be trusted and he has had to seize their mobile phones to uncover the traitor who leaked his lockdown plans. How can his government get the public on side when they are not on board themselves?
We have witnessed in the past week the disturbing scene of a daughter under arrest for rescuing her mother from a care home. And the poignancy of an old soldier defying authority to lay his Remembrance Day wreath.
The collateral damage of trying to suppress the virus at the cost of everything else is becoming increasingly clear, as the job losses mount and the toll on the nation’s health, physical and mental, escalates. Families forcibly separated in the festive period and the poorest further impoverished by Covid’s economic ruin will not be a good look for superannuated politicians preaching to us about sacrifice.
We are promised a return to normal life by spring, when the vaccine is made widely available but governments must take their lead from the public now.
That means an end to the scaremongering tactics, laying bare all the statistics on which decisions are based, and allowing people to take their own risks. Covid may not be over yet but we have passed peak tolerance.
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