Covid Omicron crisis: Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson's governments need to get their act together – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Whether I've got a constituency event, a trip into the office or just a coffee with a friend, I've got into the habit of taking a quick swab and waiting for the little red line on my lateral flow test that says I'm safe to go about my day.

Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 4:55 am
Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf need to do better on Covid (Picture: Fraser Bremner/pool/Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf need to do better on Covid (Picture: Fraser Bremner/pool/Getty Images)

It's become second nature for me and when you meet and interact with as many people as I do, it's the least I can do to keep others safe.

For months, packs of tests have been easy to get hold of – any pharmacy can sort you out and if you don't want to go that far then they can be ordered online to arrive the next day. It's been an underrated success story of the pandemic but perhaps not one that has been as widely advertised as it should be.

Now we have two governments insisting that everyone’s Christmas plans should hinge around a daily negative LFT and predictably demand for the tests has gone through the roof.

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At the time of writing, the government web portal through which people can order test kits was still sending users away while stocks had been cleaned out of pharmacists the country over.

If you are telling people that they need to take these tests in order to socialise safely, you also need to make sure that the tests are readily available or it's a recipe for panic, hoarding and confusion.

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Regardless of the severity of the disease it inflicts, the projections for the Omicron wave that is about to hit us are eye-watering. Yet there will be millions of revellers, who might have dutifully taken an LFT if one had been available to them who will now venture out with nothing more than fingers crossed that they’re negative. That makes the Omicron surge inevitable.

In truth the LFT shortage is just the latest in a series of missteps by those who govern us and at the worst possible time. The revelations in the Mirror about a rash of rule-breaking Downing Street parties will have undermined public confidence and adherence to any new restrictions that may follow. But it isn’t just Number 10 that’s undermining our public health response. The SNP/Green government is completely at sea too.

Last Friday the First Minister plunged the hospitality sector into chaos and uncertainty, by suggesting people might want to think about cancelling their office Christmas parties.

Issuing blood-curdling warnings but not changing the rules or providing financial support has meant that restaurants and bars are being left with a raft of cancelled bookings but without access to business-interruption insurance or government compensation.

Then there was the suggestion by the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, that the government was seriously considering closing the schools again, only to see his boss walk that back on Monday, insisting that Scottish schools would stay open. The mess has left parents scratching their heads about whether they will have a child-care problem to deal with.

I am fully supportive of efforts to keep us safe and ensure that this Christmas is a little less dark than the last but I would hate to see the hard work of NHS staff and vaccinators undone by the incompetency of ministers.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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