ONE of Nicola Sturgeon’s key advisers on the Covid pandemic has said a return to lockdown would be “unbearable”.
Devis Sridhar, professor of global public health at Edinburgh University, said people would ask “What is the exit? What are we now waiting for?”
Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, she said: “To reimpose restrictions now, I think, would just be very difficult”.
However she said the recent surge in cases – plus an “inevitable” surge this autumn – could threaten to overwhelm the NHS, leaving government little choice.
As she was speaking, the First Minister announced another record number of Covid cases, with 6,835 new diagnoses overnight, up from 4,925 cases the day before.
The latest positivity rate was 14.2 per cent up from 11.5% the day before.
Ms Sturgeon said case numbers had doubled in the last week and the rise in Scotland, where schools returned last week, had been “particularly sharp”.
She said she could not rule out a return of restrictions, but denied reports the Government was “currently” considering a circity breaker lockdown.
Discussing the pandemic and politics with broadcaster Sally Magnusson, Prof Sridhar was asked if Scotland could stand another lockdown, or if people would baulk at it.
She replied: “I personally think it’s unbearable.
“I think last winter was absolutely catastrophic for people.
“The silver lining was vaccines were coming.
“I was doing a lot of media in December, and the message I had to people thinking about Christmas was ‘Hold off till January, get your vaccine and have Christmas in February… survive this Christmas and you can be there for all the other Christmases.
“Because you saw the vaccine was there.
“You had a reason to get through those difficult months and to wake up each morning and say ‘I’m going to get through the day even if my life is feeling much more meaningless than it did in the past’.
“To reimpose restrictions now, I think, would just be very difficult because the question is, What is the exit? I mean, what are we now waiting for?”
However, she added that, despite vaccines meaning only 3 to 4% of Covid sufferers are now hospitalised, if enough people were infected, the NHS could still be swamped, with disastrous knock-on effects for all its other services.
She said: “But if hospitals are going to collapse, that’s not just for Covid, that’s for everything else – cancer treatments, surgeries, if your kid has appendicitis, if you have a heart attack, if you’re in a car injury. Hospitals collapsing is kind of the thing you want to avoid.”
She cited her native Florida as an example.
“They are seeing hospitals turning away patients, and this is a first-world country, because they don’t have beds. Can you imagine that happening in Scotland?
“So that is the very difficult predicament.
“Which is, How do we get out of this?
“We double vaccinate a huge part of the population, and maybe we can vaccinate more under 40s, maybe we could do 12 to 15s.
“With the flip side being hospital collapse is just unimaginable, because then your excess mortality jumps, not because of Covid, because of all their stuff.
“And NHS staff are exhausted, they’re burned out.
“It’s been a rough 18 months for them and it feels unfair to put them through another wave of infections when they’re still recovering from two major waves we’ve had.”