Hope is in sight as vaccination milestone comes into view - Angus Robertson

Despite growing concerns about the South African strain of coronavirus, combating the pandemic in Scotland is going from strength to strength.
Scotland is nearing the one million vaccinated figureScotland is nearing the one million vaccinated figure
Scotland is nearing the one million vaccinated figure

This week the major milestone one million vaccinations will be reached and 99.6 per cent of care home residents have already their jags. As somebody with parents in their 80s, I’m delighted that they have both received their injections, joining the more than 85 per cent of their age-group who have been vaccinated.

The ongoing dangers from Covid-19 remain with 928 new cases confirmed at yesterday’s briefing by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with 121 of those recorded in the Lothians. Scottish hospitals are treating 1,672 people with coronavirus and 108 people remain in intensive care. Experts say that nevertheless, the key trends are heading in the right direction.

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The good news comes as worries grow about the highly infectious South African variant of Covid-19 and the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine against it. According to one study the jab offers "minimal protection” against mild disease from the South Africa strain, and the government in Pretoria has halted the roll-out of the vaccine there. So-far there have only been five confirmed and one suspected case of the South African variant in Scotland, all of which are related to inbound travel and none to community transmission. Surge testing is underway in parts of England to identify whether there is more widespread transmission of the strain, meanwhile north of the border expanded coronavirus testing centres are being expanded in rural Scotland. So far 1,602,405 people in Scotland have been tested for coronavirus.

Here the dominant Covid-19 strain originated in Kent and decision-makers say the public should have confidence that vaccines being used in the UK appear to be working well. Experts are agreed that there is good efficacy against severe disease, hospitalisation and death. There is also widespread agreement that vaccines can and will be updated to deal with mutations.

With all of this progress to report is it too much to hope that the Westminster government will stop their recent coronavirus propaganda forays to Scotland? Seeking to make partisan political interventions during a pandemic is as transparent as it is pathetic. It was bad enough sending Prime Minister Boris Johnson to get his photo taken on a day-trip north at a vaccine production site which had just experienced an outbreak of the virus. That was closely followed by Michael Gove suggesting on the radio that not enough people had been vaccinated here in care homes, without admitting the lower figure by his government in England. Despite repeated questioning he couldn’t or wouldn’t be straight about the situation down south. All of this looks and sounds unseemly.

No wonder First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government are significantly more trusted than Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the UK Government.

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Scotland’s impressive Health Secretary Jeanne Freeman has, like Nicola Sturgeon, been working tirelessly since the outbreak of the pandemic. Interviewed at the weekend with a sign saying “She persisted” in the background she was optimistic about the Scottish vaccination programme including all adults: "Our ambition is to get through all those 4.5m adults, 18 and over, in the summer.”

As the light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel comes ever closer with more and more vaccinations we still have to be careful. Hope is in sight.