“All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.” 

This motto has never felt more relevant than now as we try to come out of a global pandemic. I have been observing interesting patterns of approaches to the easing of restrictions by different people and if I am honest, it has caught me by surprise.

In Scotland, we are fortunate to have a hugely diverse population with people from all walks of life. With such a mixed community, we will come across people we will connect with and there will always be people we won’t understand. This is normal and it is ok to not share things in common with everyone. However, when the pandemic hit us, something shifted; for the first time all of us had one thing in common – to get through it.

When I reflect back to the earlier stages of the pandemic where we entered lockdown for the first time, my most vivid memory is of togetherness. We all felt alone in our own little spaces, couped up and scared, but we sought comfort in knowing we were fighting the same battle. When we were allowed to go out for daily exercise, seeing others was like an elixir. No matter who you were, this dark time affected us all. As a healthcare worker, the clap for carers will forever remain a cherished moment as my whole street would come out at 8pm and cheer. Simply hearing them gave hope, we were in this together.

The year has brought a significant amount of upheaval and change not just to our lifestyles but also to our behaviours. From learning about a new virus to discovering vaccines at rapid speed, we are making progress but there is still much work ahead. Unfortunately, this is not over yet.

I understand that people are feeling fed up and tired of it all. I feel it too. Especially in Glasgow where it feels like we have been in one long lockdown, the fatigue has set in. As restrictions have started to ease, the approach amongst the community has been divisive. I am seeing patients who are anxious and fearful of leaving their homes, who have been shielding or have chronic health problems and do not feel safe. They are remaining cautious with a “watch and wait” attitude. There are others who are so excited to meet loved ones, they have effortlessly moved back into the “new normal.” There are people who have been very keen and speedy in getting their vaccines and then there are others who have been hesitant and unsure. There is no right or wrong way to navigate this time other than following what feels right to you. However, what I have started to see is that we are becoming divided as a result of our differences and this is worrying.

We are still in the thick of a pandemic. We have not eradicated COVID, in fact we are dealing with potentially a bigger threat – variants. The whole population has not yet been vaccinated and currently the younger cohorts pose a risk of high rates of transmission whilst awaiting their vaccines; It is important we keep this in mind.

I have been hearing of people flouting the rules and denying COVID to be real. As a tired nation, we are all craving holidays but sadly the world is increasingly closing down for us. We have to understand though that this is not a conspiracy. The science and data tracking is telling us that there are hot spots which we must avoid if we want to keep variants out. Collectively we should take heed of this advice but instead, some are not. Last week when it was announced that Portugal was becoming amber, people saw this as an opportunity to have a quick holiday. They returned in time to avoid the quarantine and testing periods. Whilst this may be seen as a personal choice, it has the potential to introduce variants to the country. You have no guarantee for who you are meeting when travelling abroad and, if in a high risk area, you are potentially contributing to spread. Personally feel that we need to stop outward travel as soon as a country is identified as amber or red, allowing only inward travel of residents with test and tracking because, as a doctor, I am worried about the speed of mingling, mass gatherings and international travel in a situation that is not fully controlled yet.

The medics and the scientists are rarely popular. We don’t say what people want to hear but for those of us who can identify patterns and more importantly have worked through a gruelling time, we do not want another lockdown or winter where there is more devastation to human lives.

We have a beautiful country, we have vaccines and we currently have an acceptable situation. In order to keep it this way, we need to work together, continue to all do our bit and look out for each other. If we start to look after our own needs only, the freedom we have now will be short lived. So let’s enjoy staycations, lets continue to follow the rules and attend for your vaccine when invited. I hope soon this will pass soon, but until then, lets stand united.