Its been an exhausting two years for all of us since the Covid 19 pandemic hit us. And just when it felt like we were seeing some light at the end of the tunnel of public health measures and restrictions on our lives, along has come a new variant to upset the apple cart once more. We’re all of us struggling to find the reserves of energy to cope with what can feel like a crisis without an end in sight, and some people are still being hit harder than others – whether because of economic or social vulnerability.

At SCSN, we have just taken the disappointing decision to postpone our staff Christmas dinner, and instead will be holding another virtual Christmas party. Its not ideal, but on balance we feel it is the best way of keeping ourselves and each other safe.

We believe in evidence-based policy and practice in everything we do. We also believe that when communities come together in a spirit of solidarity we can overcome the greatest of challenges. Therefore, we strongly support the Public Health Scotland and NHS guidance around Covid 19 and the Omicron variant.

The science is clear. Wearing masks in public places reduces the risk of transmission of Covid. Getting vaccinated, and crucially taking the booster vaccination when you are offered it, reduces the risk of serious illness, death and onward transmission of the virus. Taking regular lateral flow tests is another protective measure we can all take to keep ourselves and others safe. Self-isolating if you’ve been a contact of someone with Covid is also really important.

None of these measures is perfect or reduces risk to zero. But taken together they can vastly reduce the risk of serious illness, death and serious ongoing disruption to our lives. The same is true of public health approaches to any issue. Rarely is one intervention enough on its own, but when a range of measures are taken – risks to our health can be substantially reduced.

Taking the example of HIV, condoms are not a fail-safe way of preventing HIV transmission. But used alongside regular sexual health testing, knowing your status and being on effective treatment, and use of preventative medications such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, and campaigns to reduce stigma associated with HIV, we’re getting very close to being able to eliminate HIV transmission in Scotland and in the UK. This looks like being one of the great successes of public health policy in the United Kingdom.

Few of us would think twice about using personal protective equipment (PPE), in this case condoms, to protect our sexual health. So, it would surely be odd to object to using masks to prevent Covid 19 infection and transmission.

Communities most affected by viruses like HIV would be absolutely jubilant if a vaccine was discovered that could prevent infection and would rush en masse to be vaccinated. In the case of Covid 19, we’re incredibly lucky that scientists have managed to do this in such a short space of time – building on research on previous coronaviruses over the past few decades.

We know there are good reasons why some people don’t trust some of the people or organisations in positions of power, like governments, political leaders and even big pharma. Some communities have been desperately let down by these people and organisations. You didn’t deserve to be. Its so disappointing when leaders, politicians or corporations are found to have let us down and broken our trust. We feel that disappointment too. It undermines the good, honest and hardworking people who are trying to protect our health and wellbeing.

It can be a good idea never to take anything at face value and do your research. But there are such things as credible sources of information and sources that have no credibility. Scientific research must meet stringent rules such as being peer reviewed, using double blind randomised controlled trials and declaring conflicts of interest. These are good ways of checking whether a source of evidence is a credible one or one that should be treated with suspicion.

Videos created by Youtube users with no professional qualifications or expertise are not credible sources of information, however much they may chime with our feelings or disappointments in politicians, governments or big corporations – and however valid some of those feelings are.

So, we strongly urge everyone in Scotland to take the advice of scientists and public health professionals and wear masks, get your vaccines, take regular lateral flow tests and self-isolate when required.

Sadly, people have been abused for trying to enforce mask wearing; people abused for wearing masks; and others assaulted for not wearing masks. At SCSN, we believe in kindness and compassion.

Let’s all work together again to channel the early spirit of the pandemic and protect ourselves, protect the people we love and work with, rather than against, the people who are doing their very best to get us through this crisis – the wonderful doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, care home staff and other key workers who once again will be asked to go the extra mile for us all.

We wish you a safe festive season with those you love.

The SCSN staff team and board