Shetland Times Column 17th December 2021

The First Minister’s message on Tuesday, given the rapidly increasing cases of Covid with the Omicron variant, is to restrict your social contacts. Guidance was announced of a three-household limit when socialising indoors, social distancing measures are back in settings like shops, and working from home for those who can.

The hospitality sector has again been decimated as people understandably cancel bookings for festive celebrations, and the fear is that some businesses will not re-open again. There is news of financial support to help business but at the time of writing no detail is available. The self-isolation support scheme criteria does not help all households on low incomes.

I still receive correspondence from people who almost dismissively consider that if someone gets Covid-19 then the worst it will be is like having flu. That may be the case for some. I have, however, met people living with Long Covid. I’ve directly heard their stories of how their lives, and consequently the lives of those closest to them, have been completely altered, often unrecognisable from before. Some can no longer work. Children are affected too.

It is why I joined the Cross Party Group in Holyrood to look into Long Covid’s impact on the estimated 100,000 people living with the condition in Scotland. 

No-one knows who will get Covid or Long Covid. At the beginning of this pandemic we shielded those known to be more vulnerable. To protect those around us and the wider community it’s not as difficult to maintain mask-wearing, hand washing and sanitising, and physical distancing mitigations compared to lockdown measures.

The end of the year is often a time for reflection. I think of the hopes we had last Christmas, with a new vaccine on the horizon; a feeling that there was a sliver of light at the end of the Covid tunnel.  Whether we like it or not the virus is going to be with us for a long time to come and, although Omicron makes this feel like a dark period again, I remain hopeful that we will adapt. I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted.

This is my last column of the year and as ever an appropriate time to offer my thanks to those working on the frontline to keep essential services going – social care, ferries and transport, shop workers, posties, and of course NHS and healthcare staff.

My thanks to the emergency services and volunteers like those in the RNLI who are always there for us.

I think too of the many unsung volunteers and all they do quietly in the background of our community.

Thank you all for all you do.

Sadly, for some, this festive season will be the first following the passing of a loved one and they may be feeling lonely or isolated.

If I have a Christmas message, it is to be kind and to look out for each other. We have come this far together and we will get through it.

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