New Covid wave means more Long Covid in the pipeline​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ - Alex Cole-Hamilton

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Alex Cole-Hamilton called for national book of remembrance on CovidLeader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Alex Cole-Hamilton called for national book of remembrance on Covid
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Alex Cole-Hamilton called for national book of remembrance on Covid
​A couple of weeks ago I wrote in this column about my visit to a Lothian sewage works, (and the lie down in a darkened room that subsequently followed). There were many fascinating aspects to its operation, but one I didn’t mention is its role in Covid surveillance.

Since the start of the pandemic, scientists have been able to measure the prevalence of the virus in our communities simply by dipping a bucket into the untreated sewage that comes into the plant and measuring the viral content of the wastewater we produce. Gross, yet highly effective.

What’s worrying is that this kind of surveillance, undertaken in Scotland last month, detected the highest level of Covid-19 this year. The newly named Pirola Covid variant is largely to blame for this and one of the reasons that the vaccine update for vulnerable people has been brought forward.

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I understand that we’re learning to live around Covid and its new variants. The vaccines mean that symptoms are less severe, far fewer people are being hospitalised and mercifully fewer still are dying of it. But while they have reduced the existential threat that the virus first presented, they do nothing to prevent what covid can become.

Nearly 200,000 of our fellow Scots are currently battling the devastating long-term effects of Covid infection. It’s a condition we now know as Long Covid. Many caught it in the first wave- at a time when we didn’t routinely test for Covid. They have had to fight exhaustively, in every sense, first to be believed and then have their condition recognised by clinicians and employers.

Lives and livelihoods have been shattered by what will come to be regarded as the biggest mass disabling event since the First World War and the response from SNP/Green ministers has been almost non-existent. In terms of what these people need, we are absolutely nowhere.

A year ago, I stood outside the Scottish Parliament in the cold, on a damp autumn day with a group of Long Covid patients, several of them children. They had notified the Scottish Government well in advance and hoped to get just five minutes of Nicola Sturgeon’s time. She didn’t show.

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To be fair, the then Health Secretary, one Humza Yousaf no less, did come out to meet them. He was more than willing to listen to their stories, crouch beside them and pose for photos. He told them in compassionate tones that he would “do everything within his power” to help relieve their suffering.

Fast forward 12 months. He has all of the power now and yet the words Long Covid have barely left his lips. They just didn’t feature in the pages of his Programme for Government speech.

To date, the Scottish Government have only committed £10m towards Long Covid. That’s half what they allocated towards an independence referendum that didn’t happen and a tiny fraction of what’s been allocated to sufferers in other parts of the UK.

It just isn’t on the Scottish Government’s radar, but it should be. The sewage works of Scotland will tell you that Covid certainly isn’t going away, in fact its surging. That means that a new wave of Long Covid sufferers is in the pipeline too.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh Western

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