by Colin Campbell
A PANICKY-sounding Margaret Davidson, leader of Highland Council, has expressed her concern at the developing Covid situation across the region.
The rise in cases – that is, infections – leads her to assert the situation is not only bad, it’s “almost unmanageable”.
At a time when cool heads and measured view are needed, that’s quite a claim from the council boss.
She said: “I am very concerned about the exponential rise in cases in Highland. We are seeing the impact of this particularly in our schools. Around half our schools have been affected since term began and we are experiencing some very large outbreaks. This is causing extreme pressures for all our staff and for the NHS. On top of this we have many large gatherings occurring and there are very few national restrictions to prevent or limit these super-spreader types of events.
“Since the change in self-isolation guidance, the level of cases has become almost unmanageable and there is considerable disruption to learning and to communities.
“We need the Scottish Government to look at this again and provide some clarity over the situation we now find ourselves in.”
So what does the council leader want the Scottish Government to do, and what “clarity” does she want?
Their approach seems clear enough. Open up, get on with life and try and get back to some kind of normality.
There is disruption in schools. So what does Margaret Davidson want next? For them to be closed down again?
Beyond that, what else does she want for our “communities”? Businesses and shops to shut and a return to lockdown?
She’s also wrong about there being “few national restrictions” on large gatherings.
There are no national restrictions on large gatherings, which she claims are “super spreader events”.
Presumably she won’t be going to a football match anytime soon.
Her alarmist intervention was completely at odds with the much more measured tone of Dr Tim Allison, NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy, who acknowledged the rise in virus infections in the Highlands in a piece he wrote for the Inverness Courier just four days ago.
He said: “The number of cases of Covid has risen across the country and in many cases this has been dramatic. There is no single cause for this, but several factors are worth commenting on. To start with there is the rise of the delta variant of Covid. Then there are the changes in restrictions. More places are open, and people are spending more time closer to each other.
“Local people have been really good in following guidance and that has kept the level of infection much lower than it would be otherwise, but as guidance is relaxed so is the way everyone behaves.
But he added: “The good news is that the vaccination programme continues to have a huge impact on Covid. The virus sadly still causes serious illness and death, but hospital admission is far less likely for people who are vaccinated. For the most part the message stays the same, including taking the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, following guidance such as on face coverings and isolation, washing hands and most importantly isolating and getting a PCR test if we have Covid symptoms.”
So Dr Allison says, wash your hands and follow the guidance on face coverings. And the vaccination programme is having “a huge impact” in the battle against the virus.
He doesn’t seem to think the situation is in any way “unmanageable”.
As of Monday there were only 20 people in hospitals across the Highlands with Covid and there has been no one in intensive care for weeks.
The hospitalisation figure is a very slight increase from a week ago but it still doesn’t sound like an unmanageable burden for the NHS to cope with.
No doubt council leader Davidson is alarmed by the rise in virus infections. And she won’t be alone in that, nor should she be.
But if she’s even vaguely hinting at turning the clock back to the way things were six or 16 months ago – and it’s totally unclear what she wants – I suspect she’ll find herself in a very small minority among those she’s been elected to serve.