by Colin Campbell
I HAVE no special plans for Christmas but may decide to make some so that if Nicola Sturgeon tells me I have to cancel them I can go with by gut reaction and tell her get stuffed.
With not a turkey in sight.
This is a Yuletide rather than a political point of view.
She has struck as reasonable a tone as might be expected from her over the emergence of this new Omicron variant of the virus, but her warning that she could not “guarantee” people would have a normal Christmas was at least a partial indicator that she’s back in autocratic, dictatorial mode.
Her declaration that she would not hesitate to take “tough measures” if necessary confirmed that that’s probably where she is.
And Sturgeon the draconian covid dictator has had her day.
Her response to Omicron will I suspect be shaped by a new outbreak of rampant media scaremongering more than scientific evidence. Because as of now there is no scientific evidence that the latest variant is any more of a threat to people who have been vaccinated than any of its predecessors. That won’t be known for two or three weeks, and will remain inconclusive until Christmas has come and gone.
But that didn’t prevent the BBC’s health editor, no less, speculating that the latest variant “could be the worst yet”. And equally, it might very well not be.
With the BBC pumping out such blatant alarmism, as it has done throughout the entire saga, what hope is there for the papers, which can print any sensationalist trash they like.
In recent days I’ve seen numerous headlines of the “Still a chance to save Christmas” variety, the implication being that the festivities are hanging by the thread of a Christmas stocking, and that “saving it” would be a cause for rejoicing in itself.
Meanwhile, it is remarkably easy to come across people in this area who believe we are heading for another full scale lockdown, shops, gyms, pubs, the lot.
December is here, it’s not an uplifting time of year, but the source of such pessimism is hard to fathom. It has to be what they’re reading in these papers and being told, in some instances by doom mongers in the broadcast media.
Because it is not supported by the facts.
Are we alone in believing that the most important statistic relating to covid is the number of people who have been hospitalised by it?
Yes, infections are causing disruption in schools and care homes and among NHS staff. But in the extremely unlikely event that the you do catch the virus and feel off colour at home for a few days, is that any great hardship to bear?
There have been headlines about hospitals being “overwhelmed” and those who don’t bother to read what’s written underneath, too often in muddied and muddled reports where “crisis” is the most overused word, probably believe they are being “overwhelmed” by coronavirus patients.
In fact there’s no “probably” about it. Conversations we’ve had testify that they do.
So yet again, amid clear signs of growing concern, although still some way short of panic and then hysteria, can we try and put the situation in perspective.
As of yesterday, December 1, there were a total of 25 covid patients in hospitals across the entire Highlands. On Tuesday there were 28, on Monday 25, and on Sunday 26. Across the entire Highlands. That is, out of a population of over 200,000.
Although the numbers fluctuate, over the past two weeks they have actually been falling. During the earlier part of November they were around the mid 30s. Now the number of patients on average is in the 20s. Not that it makes a great deal of difference.
These are Scottish Government figures, updated on a daily basis, and easily available online by keying in “Scottish Coronavirus Update” and clicking on a couple of links until you can access them by NHS Board area, in our case NHS Highland. I check them fairly often. What I take from them is that if you’re vaccinated and do somehow catch the virus, the chance of falling badly ill with it if you’re in reasonable good health, sick enough to need hospital treatment, is extremely minimal.
So whatever else the NHS is being overwhelmed by, it is not coronavirus patients. And no one has been in intensive care in the Highlands for months.
Omicron may turn out to be a new plague nightmare which sends these numbers soaring. Or which, optimistically, seems more likely, will be much less of a threat, and the nerve shredding foreboding some triple vaccinated people already have over it will fade away.
Christmas is likely to be over before we know.
But while it seems that some people are doomed to be unable to shake off their virus dread for months or even years ahead, there is a growing consensus among many others that we cannot press the panic button every time the scaremongering headlines appear as another variant emerges.
And as of now, why should people in the Highlands even be thinking of Christmas being “under threat”, far less another full scale lockdown being imposed, with 99.9 per cent of the population either unaffected by or suffering no serious symptoms from the virus, and only a couple of dozen people in hospital with it?