This article was originally submitted on the 26th March
As Covid restrictions ease across the UK and Europe, hospital cases have continued to hit record highs in Scotland. Last week, one in eleven people tested returned positive results.
As a result of this increase, three hospitals in Lanarkshire were reported as beyond full. Since then, their medics have urged people to attend the accident and emergency departments only if their condition is urgent or life-threatening.
The Office for National Statistics believe that 473,800 people had Covid in the week ending 20 March, from a weekly sample.
This increase in hospital cases has been caused by a more infectious Omicron sub-variant, BA.2, which has been responsible for a surge across at least eighteen European countries, including Germany.
It is suspected that this European wave will hit North America within weeks.
The World Health Organisation’s regional chief stated that Europe was facing a new surge in cases after multiple governments have ended many, if not all, restrictions, including wearing face-masks on public transport and inside public areas.
Since restrictions have ceased, people have stopped wearing masks and attended more social events.
The Scottish Government has lifted almost every restriction, although face-coverings will continue to be required on public transport and certain indoor settings. Additionally, the UK Government has ceased reports on daily cases.
Student responses to the Government’s decision have been mixed. Speaking to The Student, a third-year politics student stated: “There are many who firmly believe in keeping the restrictions in place.
“It’s like the virus has disappeared in the eyes of the Government. Unfortunately, the pandemic has not ended just because they say so. People are very much suffering, and the NHS is under a huge amount of pressure. That is the reality.
“Of course, I would love to return to normality. We all would. To do so, this takes patience and keeping reasonable restrictions in place for the time-being. The Government is trying to forcefully fast-track the end of the pandemic.”
Today, mask-wearing has become an etiquette issue, as an English student at the University of Edinburgh commenting that “When I returned home [to England] after the end of restrictions in February, it felt abnormal.”
“It definitely felt rude if you didn’t wear a mask in public. It may no longer be law, but it certainly is a situation of common courtesy now.”
However, some students, although surprised, have welcomed the new changes. An international relations student said:
“I know it has been a hard decision regarding these restrictions. But lots of people haven’t been able to travel or see their loved ones for years. The damage that the pandemic has had on mental health is overwhelming. I hope that the changes will see a change in people’s mental health in the coming months.
“Personally, I have had a hard time adjusting to constant changes led by the Government. It’s almost freeing to know that there is no rule to always bear in mind. We can finally live our lives properly.
“As long as we remain respectful of one another, I believe that this will work.”
Looking towards the future, restrictions will continue to lift in Scotland.
Free Covid tests will be available until 1 April. May 1 will see the end of contract tracing and the closure of physical test sites. Additionally, people who show symptoms will not need to test, but are advised to stay at home until their symptoms ease.
For further updates on the Scottish Government guidelines, please visit: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/.
Image courtesy of Joe Sullivan