The way forward
Whilst we have updated our Strategic Framework in light of the changed context, our aim remains to suppress the virus to the lowest possible level and keep it there, while we strive to return to a more normal life for as many people as possible. We also hold firm to the same principles that have guided us throughout this crisis.
We appreciate that everyone in Scotland wants to know when things will feel more normal again and what “the new normal” will look like. Given the uncertainty that surrounds the virus, no-one can be fully confident about the answers at this stage. But looking to the future, we hope and expect that the vaccination programme will significantly reduce both the morbidity and mortality associated with COVID. New treatments are also emerging and will continue to be developed that may further reduce the direct harm of COVID.
In the full course of time, these positive developments should mean that COVID no longer poses a serious threat to public health in Scotland. However it is likely that it will still remain a public health concern: as a society we are likely to have to live with COVID as a permanent feature. And although we may have to keep some public health measures in place, and be vigilant to the risk of future outbreaks, we can look forward to the general lifting of restrictions.
So there is much to look forward to, but this positive future is still some way off. In the meantime, we undertake to review the restrictions periodically to take account of developments. This will also allow us to ensure that the configuration of restrictions continues to mitigate the four harms of the epidemic as much as possible, and to take account of particular equalities considerations.
As we learn more about the virus and the impact of the vaccination programme, and monitor changes in the virus and the national and international context, we will continue to engage with partners and key stakeholders on the way forward, taking into account key milestones and activities such as May’s Scottish election, summer sporting events, students returning in September and the COP26 climate summit.
In line with WHO criteria for transitioning out of restrictions, we will ensure that communities have a voice, are informed, engaged and participate in the transition process. We will also continue to build links with international partners and influence the UK Government’s decisions that apply to the people of Scotland through the Four Nations approach.
But that isn’t the end. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on all aspects of our society and lives. Everyone in Scotland has felt the impacts of the virus, but those who were already facing disadvantage have in many ways faced particular challenges. The immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis has also been shaped by remarkable partnerships across communities, volunteers, national and local government, businesses and a wide range of third sector organisations. There has been significant work undertaken to support people and communities which was delivered at pace and challenged traditional ways of working, cultures and mindsets.
The actions outlined in this updated Framework in response to the crisis are an important step in addressing the breadth of harm caused by the virus and building a resilient and fair society, health and social care system. But we must take this opportunity to build back an economy and society that is fairer and stronger for everyone, no matter their circumstances. In order to do so, we will put people at the heart of our recovery.