Scottish Daily Mail


Scotland is nearing the end of Covid-19 pandemic, say experts, with the virus becoming ‘seasonal illness’ like the flu

- By Rachel Watson Deputy Scottish Political Editor

‘It will be with us for years to come’ ‘Heading towards a new normality’

SCOTLAND is at the ‘beginning of the end’ of the pandemic, with Covid set to become a seasonal illness, according to experts.

Leading academic Dr Christine

Tait-Burkard said the virus appears to be entering the ‘endemic’ stage, which will see it ease off before returning in the winter months.

Her comments came as former Vaccines Taskforce chief Dr Clive Dix argued Covid should be treated like flu, and Dr Jillian Evans, of NHS Grampian’s health intelligen­ce unit, said there would ‘be nobody left to infect very soon’ due to Omicron’s rapid spread.

The variant has led to a rise in Covid infections in Scotland, with cases peaking at more than 20,000 in one day last week.

Although highly transmissi­ble, it is not causing as serious illness as other forms of Covid-19, with fewer people being hospitalis­ed.

Dr Tait-Burkard, a research fellow at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, told BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show: ‘I think we are definitely at the beginning of this being an endemic disease, so a disease that is with us but a bit more locally at one time.

‘So what we would look at is the flu for instance. This is probably the version of the virus that is going to come back in the winter months, but we have built up baseline immunity in the population to help with it, we have got drugs to treat people who end up in hospital and there’s a lot more develto opment in the pipeline to support that. ‘In terms of the pandemic we are at the beginning of the end, but we are at the beginning of an endemic disease that will be with us for years to come.’ There is growing optimism that Omicron will not overwhelm NHS hospitals, despite the dire prediction­s of some government scientific advisers last month. Top statistici­an Professor David Spiegelhal­ter said the milder nature of Omicron, coupled with the effectiven­ess of boosters, meant ‘we’re certainly not going to see a big rise in intensive care admissions and deaths’. Dr Dix said it was time to move towards a ‘new normality’ where politician­s stop being ‘fixated’ with case numbers. He argued that Covid should be treated like flu. ‘It is pointless keeping giving more and more vaccines to people who are not going to get very ill,’ he told The Observer. ‘We should just let them get ill and deal with that.’

Last week, Miss Sturgeon signalled she will seek to alter the way ministers have dealt with the pandemic so far, with a move to personal responsibi­lity rather than legally enforceabl­e restrictio­ns.

Dr Evans said: ‘We do live with influenza, for example, and I think it is a good parallel because people understand when it’s flu season.

‘Will we get to that situation where it’s Covid season? And is it OK for us to accept that we might have had bad years of Covid where you might see a high level of excess mortality, or more deaths, than you would normally expect? Is that a reasonable price pay? It seems inevitable we will get to that point.’

Yesterday, 7,561 new Covid cases were reported in Scotland – the first day this year with fewer than 10,000. There were 1,382 people in hospital with the virus.

The First Minister is due to update Holyrood tomorrow on whether current restrictio­ns will be extended beyond the expected end date of January 17. The rules include the closure of night clubs, a ban on large mass gatherings and curbs on hospitalit­y venues.

The most recent Office for National Statistics report found that one in 20 people in Scotland currently has Covid. Dr Evans said ‘we’re living with really heightened risk at the moment’, and urged Miss Sturgeon to consider keeping restrictio­ns in place for the rest of the month.

Meanwhile, England’s Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said the UK could lead the world in learning to live with Covid by treating future outbreaks like flu.

Comment – Page 16

 ?? ?? Dr Jillian Evans: ‘Nobody will be left to infect’
Dr Jillian Evans: ‘Nobody will be left to infect’

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