This week’s news has undeniably been a setback when we thought that a corner had been turned in the fight against this virus. The promise of a vaccine and the chance to see loved ones again over Christmas—even for only a brief time—gave people real hope of respite.
It seems doubly cruel to have plans snatched away from people, even if they understand why. Most people do understand. They understand the need to make sacrifices to suppress this new strain, but in return they are demanding as much clarity from this Government as is conceivably possible.
The national tier 4 lockdown, scheduled for boxing day, will have come as an even greater shock to the people in tiers 1 and 2 who had no idea that they would face the most severe restrictions seen since March. They are asking whether the tier system has now been abandoned for good or whether we can expect a return to more localised restrictions and, if so, when?
Parents everywhere who are now scrambling to cancel Christmas plans and find ways to balance work and childcare well into the new year need clarity on exactly what is expected of them now that the return to schools and nurseries has been suspended until 18 January. Not only does that impact on their family life; it affects their ability to work and pay the bills.
People accept that there is much about this new strain of the virus that we do not yet know. However, they are growing weary of seeing supposedly time-limited firebreaks stretch into months. They will be rightly concerned to have heard the First Minister say that the 18 January return date is under review. Can the First Minister give parents at home an idea of how likely it is that children will return to classrooms from 18 January? Do they need to start preparing now for a long haul of blended learning at home?