RNI readied for a second wave, face masks everywhere – and revellers break every rule in the book

by Colin Campbell

PRIME Minister Boris Johnson, who has adopted a deliberately –  some might say excessively – upbeat tone in recent weeks, yesterday dampened that down with dark warnings that there are ominous signs of a second wave of the virus emerging in cities and regions across Europe.

WEDNESDAY RNI USE NEW
The RNI is being readied to cope with a second wave.

At local level NHS Highland has closed down the Royal Northern Infirmary to prepare it for a “second wave” over the winter. That would not have been a decision taken lightly. A powerful second wave would be the ultimate nightmare scenario, a prospect to inspire dread.

The prospect of ending up back where we started last March or anything close to it over the grey and cold winter months when there is no sunshine and warmth to lighten the mood would crush the spirits of many people and could tip those in a fragile frame of mind right over the edge.

It doesn’t bear thinking about, but clearly it is being thought about.

And so we have to return to the scenario which prevails in Inverness city centre at nights at weekends, and which is no doubt being replicated across the country. The contrast between the face-masked caution in shops during the day and the free-for-all atmosphere in the precinct at weekend nights could not be more stark.

Among hundreds of revellers in and around increasingly busy pubs it’s as if the virus threat didn’t exist and all the warnings issued over the past four months by Nicola Sturgeon and her scientific advisers had never been made.

There is not the merest trace of social distancing and any sense of caution has been thrown to the winds. Queues of people stand shoulder to shoulder to gain access to some of the more popular pubs. Groups of friends gather together in the streets or outside pubs in familiar bonhomie. There are extravagant reunions where social distancing has been replaced with pals clinching each other as if they’ll never let them go.

It was blindingly obvious that when drink started flowing among revellers seeking to make up for lost time this was exactly what was going to happen.

When Ms Sturgeon appears at briefings to state with the utmost gravity that no one should drop their guard and become complacent the nightlife scenario makes a mockery of her cautionary words.

Should pub owners, staff and stewards try to bring activity in and around their hostelries more in line with the rules? Even if they tried to do so their efforts would be overwhelmed by boisterous, boozy customers.

Short of closing down the pubs again and returning the city centre to a weekend night ghost town – unthinkable so soon after they’ve just reopened – inevitably the precinct will go with the flow and we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

But if there is a second wave and we can only pray that these fears don’t come to fruition, there is every likelihood that we’ll have a pretty clear idea where it emerged from.

Who wants to be killjoy in this situation? It has been uplifting to see life flood back into an entertainment centre that has been depressingly desolate over the past four months.

All we can hope for is that the dreaded second wave doesn’t happen, or at least remains very minimal. That virus infections in Inverness and the Highlands remain at virtually zero. And that concerns that the city centre after dark could and is a transmission hotspot prove groundless, nullifying the lingering prospect of a morale destroying winter ahead.

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