First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to re-think her “cautious” approach in dealing with the pandemic after the Scottish Conservative leader claimed recent restrictions had been “unnecessary”.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs last week that the projection of 50,000 new coronavirus infections per day by mid-January had not been met, with spread limited to around 30,000 per day after restrictions on hospitality and large events were put in place in December.
But Douglas Ross claimed the restrictions were not needed given the Omicron variant appears to be less severe than other strains.
At First Minister’s Questions, Mr Ross said: “The First Minister has tried to build a reputation for caution during this pandemic, but she was far too gung-ho in proposing extra restrictions last month.
“Will she now accept that her Government went too far?”
Ms Sturgeon said: “We’re taking a sensible approach through this, which is why infection levels – though dropping now thankfully in all parts of the UK – are lower in Scotland than they are in England right now.
“Over the festive period, the numbers of people in hospital proportionately were lower.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but I’m going to continue to take a cautious approach, because, frankly, the price of throwing caution to the wind is not paid by governments – the price of throwing caution to the wind is paid by people across the country in terms of ill health and sadly, in some cases, serious illness and death.
“That’s a price I don’t think I should impose on the people of Scotland.”
Mr Ross made the point that “serious illness and death” are not just caused by Covid, but also by restrictions being put in place which impact the mental health of the population.
The Tory leader claimed the First Minister had wanted to close down the economy “no matter the impact that would have on Scottish jobs and businesses”, but was stopped from doing so because of a lack of funding from Westminster.
In response, Ms Sturgeon said: “The pandemic is causing the serious impact on individuals and businesses across Scotland, the UK, Europe and the entire world.
“Much as we might all like to be able to do so – and believe me I would love to be able to do so – we can’t just magic it away, no country is able to do that.
“I have to say to Douglas Ross, he has stood in his position in this chamber at every key juncture in the management of this pandemic, since he has been back in this chamber, and he has opposed the decision this Government has taken.
“He has decided to take an entirely opportunistic approach to the handling of a global pandemic, and I think people will judge that and I don’t think they will judge it very kindly.
Mr Ross responded: “It is not opportunistic to trust the people of Scotland, to trust that they can learn to live with Covid rather than have to live with her Government’s restrictions which are having a massive impact on jobs, on businesses and communities across Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon announced this week that all remaining restrictions put in place last month during a spike caused by Omicron will be removed from Monday.