Guy Stenhouse: Within a month, all Covid restrictions should be gone

THE words we did not hear from Nicola Sturgeon last week as she kindly gave us some of our freedom back were “Boris got it right about Omicron and I got it wrong”.

That should have been what we heard because the catastrophic Covid tsunami she had been wailing about until the previous week had turned out to be nothing of the kind.

Yes, lots of cases but well under a thousand people in hospital primarily because of Covid rather than having it but actually being there for something else.

Total deaths in Scotland in the last reported week were well below rather than above the average you would expect for this time of year.

The Scottish Government pretends extra lockdown measures it put in place over the last few weeks are what have now allowed the slow march towards freedom to begin. This is nonsense. The Covid figures in England where the Prime Minister did not panic and impose the extra restrictions we had here are not materially different to those in Scotland. Interestingly, the Covid figures in the totalitarian state formerly known as Wales are not any better either.

Nicola Sturgeon over-exaggerated the danger, made a cautious call and got it wrong. Were some lives saved from Covid as a result – probably yes – a handful but policy must be about balance rather than one-dimensional perfection.

You feel you shouldn’t see your GP and even if you want to you may not be able to. You could go to A&E but only if you have a day or two to spare and you might catch Covid there anyway. You may be hoping to see a specialist but after several months you still don’t have an appointment. People with desperate illnesses which are not Covid are much worse off. Do they count? They should. We are told these collateral problems are because of Covid but the truth is they are as a result of our now over-exaggerated response to it. Before widespread vaccination and better treatments Covid was a disease which deserved specific restrictions to be put in place – but not now – in terms of real danger to your vaccinated granny it should not be feared more than flu.

As well as the toll on physical and mental health which over-allowance for Covid brings it also has significant adverse economic effects. Overall productivity suffers, businesses in industries such as hospitality and travel are wiped out. This matters and it is not money versus health because in the long run we can only have the health service we want if we have an economy which provides the wealth to pay for it. This is what the SNP Government just does not seem to get.

A proper democracy is not when election winners get to be dictators but when government understands individuals should be free to make their own choices unless there are significant and immediate reasons why that is dangerous to society. Covid no longer fits those criteria and it is time for us all to move on.

The doomsayers tell us we must only expect a “new normal” in which our freedoms are still curtailed. This SNP Government’s tendency to over-step the mark and cling to powers over citizens it should no longer have must be faced down. We must move to a normal normal where the Covid restrictions are rapidly removed – within a month they should all be gone. Some things like working more flexibly should remain but being told to stay at home, social distancing, compulsory face masks – no – it really is time to break free and allow people to make their own choices. England is moving rapidly in that direction and so should we.

Hug your granny, ride on the bus, meet friends for dinner, get back to work without being afraid, book a holiday, start a business, offer a job to somebody. The measure of your life is not how long it is but what you do with it. Go for it.

Guy Stenhouse is a Scottish financial sector veteran who wrote formerly as Pinstripe.

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