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Health

Tiers and clowns

I live in Glasgow, which is currently in Level 3 coronavirus restrictions. I don’t think we’re likely to move to level 0, near-normality, this side of Spring. And that’s me being optimistic.

Until then, we have to live under restrictions. And those restrictions often seem contradictory or based on very dubious assumptions. I’m going to talk specifically about Scotland here, because the English approach is a horror story.

One of the most important restrictions is on socialising. Until the virus is effectively eradicated and Glasgow moves into Level 0, I can’t have anybody in my home unless they’re a tradesperson there to do work.

I live mostly alone (my children stay with me half the time) in a flat with a large, open plan, well-ventilated living area. I can’t invite one of my friends into my home to sit three metres away from me, but I can meet six people in a café and sit around a small table with them for a long period of time. That café may have another two dozen people in it, or it may be roughly the same size as and no better ventilated than my bathroom.

I can’t invite one of my friends into my home, but I can go to church with up to 50 other people. I might even sing some hymns, because while communal singing is advised against – singing is a significant disease transmission vector – it is not prohibited.

I can’t invite one of my friends into my home but I can go to a wedding reception or a wake with 20 other people.

So I can’t meet one person in a safe and extremely low risk way, but I can meet more people in a much higher risk environment amid many other people.

There are other restrictions too. When I pick up and drop off my children I must wear a face covering in the street outside their school, even though the risk of outdoor transmission by passing near another adult is zero, but I don’t need to wear a face mask in a café full of other people, an indoor environment where we know the transmission risk is particularly high. I can’t travel outside Glasgow, but I can if it’s for work – so I can travel from my high-risk area to have a business meeting in a café with six people in a low-risk area.

I understand the necessity for restrictions. But restrictions need to be evidence-based, consistent and clear. The current restrictions are unclear, inconsistent and ever shifting. I have to go online to check what we are and are not allowed to do because it appears to change every couple of days, so for example the school-mask thing was a late addition to this week’s restrictions.

I’m no fan of the anti-mask, anti-lockdown crowd who demand the freedom to kill your gran, or the clowns I saw on Instagram last night having a riotous gender reveal house party in Clydebank (such parties seem to bring out the idiots; I’ll no doubt come back to that later). These people are modern day Typhoid Marys. But to combat their bullshit, ignorance and sheer selfishness, governments need to persuade everybody else that the restrictions are not only necessary but proportionate; that other people, whether those people are Government advisors or their next door neighbours, are not getting an easier ride than they are.

And that’s not the feeling I’m getting from my social networks. There’s confusion, and anger, and resentment, and in some cases – such as my own – deep, deep despair at the prospect of being banned from seeing the people I care about for yet more months. And when people feel that way about public health messaging their attitude changes: instead of “what do I need to do to keep everyone else safe?”, it becomes “what can I do without getting caught?”