by Colin Campbell
SIX people in the Highlands are in intensive care with coronavirus according to the latest figures released, the first time the unit has been needed for covid sufferers in five months.
On January 5, 6 and 7 the number in ICU was five, six, and six respectively. The last time covid patients were in ICU was in early August. Before that it was last March when covid patients last needed ICU treatment.
The latest figure for hospital admissions in the Highland stands at 33, a steady but not dramatic rise since the omicron variant became the main threat. That’s around the same number as for a period in mid-November.
Three weeks ago the number of patients fell to just seven for one day only. In recent weeks it has mainly hovered around the 20 mark.
People will make of this what they will.
But covid patients needing to be moved into intensive care units, even a very small number, is obviously markedly different from hospital admissions, which for the past five months has been the worst case scenario.
A year ago as we wrote here at the time, no one we knew anyone who knew anyone in the Highlands who had caught covid. It was that rare. Now the reverse is liable to be true.
I’ve already reported on two related families who were affected by covid. In their case, across an age range from eight years to 60, the symptoms were mild, non existent or they were not infected at all.
The oldest among them, aged 60, tested positive but experienced no symptoms. Three other adults and a child had mild, cold like symptoms. And three others remained covid free.
They in turn know several other families who are currently self isolating, all without seriously adverse symptoms. There have been 5,230 infections in the Highlands in the past week, bringing the total to 39,523.
Sturgeon, finally falling into line with England, last week reduced the self isolation period from 10 days to seven.
At the same time, she presented for the first time a veiled message that “it’s time to live with covid” and clearly indicated that the days of her bringing in tougher restrictions are over.
She appeared to concede that the omicron variant is so infectious that there are no further curbs that can check its spread.
Sturgeon also has other things on her mind. Pressure is being ramped up on her to prepare for the nationalists’ much vaunted “spring offensive” on independence which she announced last autumn amid much fanfare. The National newspaper yesterday revealed that separatist groups across the country were being issued with “tool kits” for the new independence drive due to begin in March.
Her attention will at least partly shift from the virus to the main reason for her existence. Nationalist zealots will accept no less.
For many people it would be wicked to try and drag a nation still affected by and groggily recovering from the trauma of the virus straight into a hugely traumatic and divisive battle over another referendum. But while uttering weasel words about “mental health” concerns it is a course of action these people are eminently capable of.
Keeping the situation in perspective, the current hospitalisation figures in the Highlands are still fractionally low. Just over 30 out of a population of more than 200,000 is clear evidence, as we and others have found and now have personal experience of, that for the overwhelming number of people infected the symptoms are either non existent, mild or at least tolerable.
Nevertheless the fact that even a very small number of people are in intensive care for the first time in August is an unwelcome change in the situation.
What is not known is how many are unvaccinated. These figures, despite being crucial to people’s understanding of the overall situation, have not been released, nor will they be.
The government drive to persuade people to get vaccinated continues, as the level of impatience and frustration over those refusing to do so rises among those who justifiably regard the vaccine as a lifesaver, compared with where we were a year ago.
But as covid hospitalisations and more significantly ICU admissions rise in the Highlands, the public is denied basic and essential information as has been the case since the beginning of the covid saga.
At a stark level, if it was made public that people were ending up in ICU because they were NOT vaccinated would that not be likely to make some non vaxxers change their minds?
That’s a reasonable proposition, at the very least.
But the SNP Scottish Government will have none of it, continuing with their policy of keeping vital information from the public and perversely creating mystery, confusion and for some people no doubt increased alarm.