It has been a long and difficult period since the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Scotland. The pandemic continues and the virus remains very much with us. The current resurgence of cases across much of Europe indicates the ongoing threat that the virus poses. Continued collective effort and commitment, particularly in sticking to the rules and guidance in place, will be imperative as we confront the challenging winter ahead.
Since the first restrictions were imposed in March 2020, as a nation we have shown collective endeavour and resilience but we have suffered greatly, in many different ways. As a government – as in all countries - we have faced decisions that none of us would ever have wanted to take. These have been some of the most difficult decisions we have faced, because every option seemed to cause harm of one kind or another. Often these decisions were unpopular but necessary. The government I lead has always tried to do what was right to tackle this crisis. And while we may not always have got everything right, particularly when faced with the uncertainties of this pandemic, we always tried to reduce the harms of this virus.
Over the course of the pandemic, we will all have changed behaviours – perhaps through different ways of working or socialising, for example. Some of these changes will be worth holding on to as we seek to emerge from this crisis to a brighter future. Our COVID Recovery Strategy has set out our vision for recovery and the actions we will take to create a better, fairer and greener Scotland that will guide us through the period ahead.
Even as our thoughts turn to the future, the hard work is not yet done. More is still required from the government and our partners across the public sector, from businesses and other organisations, and from individuals and families. Though we all wish it were now over, we need to stay the course for a little longer.
We expect this winter to be difficult and, in particular, we are preparing for a more challenging influenza season. We have learned over the course of the pandemic that effective, early intervention – often earlier than might seem obvious at first sight – is needed to prevent harm and reduce the need for stronger intervention later. Consequently we will be ready to respond with proportionate measures should that become appropriate. We also need to recognise that COVID-19 will remain with us in the long term, though in time it will cease to be a public health emergency.
This update to our COVID-19: Strategic Framework sets out what we're doing in many different ways to help keep us safe and alleviate the broader harms of the crisis. It is one of a series of publications over the course of the pandemic in Scotland, to explain what we are doing and why, consistent with our principle of transparency. And we are determined to learn lessons to make sure Scotland is prepared for a future pandemic: we are making preparations for our public inquiry in Scotland to be established by the end of this year so that the inquiry can begin its work in 2022.
But before then, with the foreseeable pressures of winter ahead, and the real risk of increasing COVID-19 cases, we must all continue to play our part in keeping this virus under control. We can do this in particular by taking up offers for vaccination and by sticking to the rules and guidelines that remain in place to keep ourselves and others safe, such as wearing face coverings in public indoor settings, cleaning our hands and surfaces often, meeting outside and trying to keep our distance from others, working from home if we can, using the COVID Status, Protect Scotland and Check-in Scotland apps, testing regularly even if we do not have symptoms, and by self-isolating and getting tested if we do have symptoms.
I cannot thank you enough for all your continuing efforts and sacrifices in tackling this pandemic.
Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP
First Minister of Scotland