First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday voiced hope there is light at the end of the tunnel in the fight against Covid as we move into the new year.
Her comments, echoed by some of Scotland’s leading scientists, came as millions of Scots spent their first day in the stricter Tier 4 lockdown.
The latest figures yesterday showed more than 1,100 new cases of coronavirus reported in Scotland as the whole country, except island communities, was placed under the toughest level of restrictions.
Ms Sturgeon told The Sunday Post: “This has been, without question, the most difficult year most of us can ever remember. I can never thank people enough for the sacrifices they have made, while the dedication and professionalism of our health service and other frontline workers has been, and continues to be, inspiring.
“It’s more important than ever that we do all we can to keep ourselves and each other safe in the days and weeks ahead – and we can now look forward to the new year with genuine hope that 2021 will bring brighter and better things for everyone.”
Leading experts backed the First Minister’s message.
Dr Linda Bauld, professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University, said: “I think there is reasonable cause for positivity and that, while the next six to eight weeks will be really tough, when you look beyond that there are huge reasons to be optimistic. The main one is to do with vaccines and we do expect to hear further news relating to the Oxford AstraZeneca one within a fortnight.
“Survival of those who have the virus has also improved by around a third and we can expect more new treatments next year.”
She said: “The community spirit we have seen over recent months is also a good thing and we are also building resilience. As people go through a crisis, we know behaviourally that we adapt and show resilience and that may stand us in good stead in the future.
“We shouldn’t be complacent and there has indeed been a shock with the emergence of the new variant of the virus. We need to recognise that even with the optimistic developments that we have seen, there is still a long haul ahead so it is about maintaining resilience for a few months more.”
Dr Stephen Reicher, professor of Social Psychology at St Andrews University, and a member of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 Advisory Group, said: “It is important to look forward with optimism but we must not see the vaccine as the magic bullet and therefore relax everything else.
“Vaccine uptake will also be patchy and, as we have seen with measles, if you have sections where there is less uptake, you get outbreaks.
“If we apply ourselves in observing restrictions, developing policies and rolling out the vaccine and new therapies, then we can get on top of things. But optimism must not lead to complacency.”
As of yesterday, all of mainland Scotland has been placed under Tier 4 restrictions to help combat the emergence of a new, faster-spreading variant of Covid-19.
The move means non-essential shops have had to shut, while bars, cafes and restaurants can only provide takeaway services.
The only exceptions are islands, including Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, which have been placed on Tier 3 restrictions.
The latest daily figures showed 1,149 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Scotland, which was 8% of all new tests carried out. Concerns were raised yesterday about an outbreak of the new strain in south-west Scotland. Health officials say 64 cases of coronavirus have now been identified in Wigtownshire, with another confirmed in Annandale.
The Scottish Government is not releasing further daily updated figures, including those on deaths, over the holiday period.
Ms Sturgeon added yesterday: “Level 4 restrictions are now in place across mainland Scotland.
“Please stay home/local as much as possible, to help stop this new, faster spreading strain of the virus running out of control.”
The First Minister said she intends the measures to be in place for three weeks.
The return of in-person schooling has been delayed, except for the children of key workers, with teaching starting online on January 11 and schools expected to return to physical teaching on January 18.
The Boxing Day sales, which traditionally see high streets mobbed with bargain hunters, moved online yesterday as the Covid restrictions hit in-store sales.
The Tier 4 restrictions meant shops and malls were closed for the first time in decades on December 26.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe