The First Minister says reducing people’s freedom to socialise is a trade-off to allow more care home visiting, the restarting of routine NHS procedures and keeping schools open.
In a statement to the Scottish parliament announcing a ban on people visiting one another’s houses, Nicola Sturgeon repeated that restrictions across the whole community are preferable to asking only the most vulnerable people to isolate.
Alongside schools and businesses, she told MSPs that getting the NHS up and running is a priority:
“We must restart as many previously paused NHS services as possible so that more people can get the non-covid treatment that they need.
“Our NHS must be equipped this winter to care for those who have covid and it will be. But it must be there for people with heart disease, cancer and other illnesses too.”
Scottish Conservative Holyrood leader Ruth Davidson asked why reducing the plight of people in Scotland’s care homes has not been in the First Minister’s speech.
“For one group of people the impact has been particularly cruel,” said Ms Davidson, “and it continues to be – and it is a group who have not been specifically addressed in this statement.
“While restrictions in care home visiting have eased over recent months, and this has been welcome, the reality is that there are some family members who have not been able or allowed to visit their loved ones for the full six months, causing enormous distress and even impacting on health.
“The head of Scotland’s care home industry, Dr Donald Macaskill, said this week the longer we keep people apart, the more people that will be lost to our covid response rather than to the disease itself.
“He set out our range of suggestions to allow families greater access, taking in testing, private room visiting and building covid-secure visiting capacity inside and outside homes.”
The First Minister responded that the phased reintroduction of care home visiting was a priority for the Scottish government:
“Part of the reason for acting quickly and substantially to try to drive community transmission down again is so that we do not need to go backwards in our plan to open up care home visiting.
“There is a plan that is being implemented right now. Not everybody, but many more family members now have access not just to outdoor visiting but to indoor visiting.
“There are greater restrictions in place in what I would describe as the hotspot areas in the West of Scotland, but we don’t want to go backwards in this plan across the country generally.
“And that is why it is important that the rest of us do the things that are being asked of us to keep the virus low.”
In her statement, Nicola Sturgeon said she realised that those people who were advised to shield during the early months of the pandemic would be feeling particularly anxious. But she was not asking them to isolate again:
“Fundamentally I want to assure you that your safety is uppermost in our minds. But we do not believe that asking you to return to shielding is the best way to secure it given the impact it would have on your mental and physical health.
“In our view all of us acting together collectively to reduce the spread of the virus is a better way to keep you safe.”