Covid: Brutal truth is this virus is here to stay and we need to learn to live, and die, with it – John McLellan

If ever a signal was needed that we’re far from a return to normality, it was Tuesday’s announcement that the Military Tattoo has been cancelled for a second year.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 4:55 am

Spectators will be in Murrayfield for the Lions vs Japan match next month, but the cost of installing the Esplanade stands and the reduced capacity to comply with social-distancing rules made it unviable. It knocks a hole in the Edinburgh economy worth between £77m and £100m.

Sadly, the announcement came just as Festivals Edinburgh circulated a briefing on the component organisations’ preparations for the return of the city’s cultural life, which had to be hastily updated to include the cancellation announcement.

What’s left doesn’t get close to what we expect in August and Festivals Edinburgh director Julia Amour is honest enough to accept the “re-emergence of a confident and joyful spirit” will come next year, but her warning is clear.

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“With only a small fraction of our cultural community able to present live work this summer, the resilience and survival of the creative landscape that makes up the festivals is still the most urgent priority,” she said.

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While the Tattoo is in a different situation because the arena has to be built, one-metre distancing could make events at existing venues viable and as the vaccine programme advances ─ over 1.6-million Scots have had two doses ─ and hospital admissions remain low, surely more can be done to boost the city’s offer for visitors and locals alike.

The purposes of lockdown were to save lives and protect the NHS, and with the spread of the new Indian variant resulting in tighter restrictions for Glasgow the focus is still on the number of cases, even though the impact on mortality and the health services is lower than last year.

The number of serious cases of Covid-19 has fallen significantly as a result of the vaccination programme (Picture: Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest Public Health Scotland figures showed only ten new hospital admissions and only one going to intensive care ─ clearly extremely worrying for the family involved, but significantly better than May last year. Then, the number of recorded positive cases was roughly equal at just over 200, but the hospital admissions rate was nearly four times higher and the seven-day average death rate was around 25 compared to 0.3 now. The vaccine is doing its job.

To base restrictions on the number of positive cases threatens to extend controls infinitely, with all the economic damage that entails, when the brutal truth is the virus is here to stay and, if we don’t accept this, normality will never return.

At the start of the pandemic there was understandable scepticism that Covid-19 was pretty much like the flu until the death toll started to rise, but a combination of the vaccine programme and the summer trough means the pattern of infection bears some similarities. Despite the flu vaccine programme, we know that just under 1,000 people will die of respiratory infections every winter, but pantos aren’t banned.

The logistics of putting on quality shows are such that rising confidence in the suppression of illness has come too late for this year’s Festival season, but there must be clarity that this year’s mass cancellations will be the last.

The new normal means accepting that Covid-19 in all its guises is just one more thing which will get us in the end. Life must go on.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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