Special: Scotland in grip of Covid-19 'second wave' as UK blunders
Edinburgh - The country leads Europe in the number of deaths, and England had the longest continuous period of excess mortality earlier in the year.
The 'second wave' of Covid-19 hit Europe sometime in September, and the UK finds itself first among equals when it comes to Covid-related deaths. The country leads Europe in the number of deaths, and England had the longest continuous period of excess mortality earlier in the year. At the time of writing this, the UK has 13,972 daily cases and Scotland has made up only 961 of those new cases and has witnessed no deaths of individuals who have tested positive. The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, stated that, although the recent spike in cases only constitute around 13 per centof Scotland's cases in March, the Scottish government had no intention of returning to similar figures.
Sturgeon last week said Scotland will be implementing a three-tier local lockdown system to rank Covid-hit regions, and accordingly enforce lockdown rules. She also said that it will closely resemble England's three-tier lockdown system, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the day before. Considering that Sturgeon intends to strategically align her three-tier system with those of the other countries in the UK, only the operational decisions will be unique to Scotland. It thus remains to be seen how different the new system's effects will be, as compared to other parts of the UK.
There is a visible difference between the English and Scottish approach to handling Covid-19. Scotland plans to implement its three-tier system after the end of its 16-day 'circuit-breaker' (a short lockdown to return incidence to low levels), which ends on October 26. This comes in the wake of already-tightened restrictions, such as a ban on household mixing and a shutdown of the hospitality sector (pubs, restaurants, and so on) in Scotland. On the other hand, England has moved straight into the three-tier system. Documents published on the government's website on October 12 revealed that experts from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had suggested a circuit-breaker lockdown to Johnson three weeks ago-advice that was blatantly ignored. Though restaurants and pubs are bearing the burden of Scotland's circuit-breaker, which has come under heavy scrutiny, Sturgeon's measures will perhaps avoid the failures that England has borne throughout this pandemic.
However, the primary difference that characterises the second wave in Scotland is that those being infected are overwhelmingly between ages 15 to 24. Some say this explains the lack of deaths, and others attribute this to the commencement of university in late September. Many have also come to blame students and young people for flouting lockdown rules and socialising during this time, especially as universities and schools remain open. While the movement, socialising, and shared living spaces of students is certainly a factor, Ms. Sturgeon has clarified that students are not to blame for the recent spike in cases.
An interesting point to consider is the effect that the pandemic will have on the Scottish push for independence. For the first time in its polling history, more people are in favour of independence than of staying in the Union (54 per centas compared to 46 per cent). Alongside the contentious matters of Brexit, allocation of natural resources, and so on, there has been a growing suspicion that Scottish care home workers were being allocated PPE kits disproportionately, and that there was large diversion of resources to England (although the
UK government thoroughly denied such claims). To add to this is the destitution faced by an increasing number of Scottish families following years of British austerity measures.
It is clear that the differences between the four countries in the UK has been greatly highlighted as each of them grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic in its own way. Such differences are also becoming increasingly clear between different parts of England itself. The mayor of Manchester recently rejected the three-tier system proposed by the Prime Minister, stating that the UK government was trying to sacrifice Northern jobs for Southern ones. There is the growing sentiment that Scottish autonomy over lockdowns and safety measures would have resulted in a better response to Covid-19, or at the very least allowed Scotland to handle the pandemic on its own terms.
The pandemic has brought out several rifts in not only the British economy, but also the British state. Scotland has arguably handled its cases with far better efficiency than its political foil, England. There is the point to consider that the NHS (and therefore support from the UK government) has played a vital role in Scotland's relative stability, but the stark contrast with England and the controversial, haphazard policies of 10 Downing Street (especially in the wake of Brexit and a sweeping victory for the Scottish National Party in the last general election) brings up both political and economic questions that the UK must grapple with.