Weekly Poll – COVID-19 in Scotland (Week Beginning 27 June 2022)

Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 27 June 2022, we asked a question about COVID-19 in Scotland.

Please note that this is a snapshot of the views of our membership and does not reflect a policy stance of Disability Equality Scotland. If you plan to reference the findings featured in this report, please contact us in advance so that we are aware of this.

Results

Question. Are you concerned by the increase of COVID-19 cases in Scotland?

  • Yes 87% (286 respondents)
  • No 13% (42 respondents)

Comments

We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.

COVID-19 in Scotland

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimate that around 250,700 people in Scotland had COVID-19 for the week ending 17 June, amounting to 1 in 20 people. Separate data from Public Health Scotland also showed an increase in the number of hospital admissions, with a 15% increase in the week ending June 14, with 696 people in hospital in total.

Impact on Disabled People

The vast majority of respondents (87%) stated that they are concerned by the increase of COVID-19 cases in Scotland. This was of particular concern for disabled people who are at high clinical risk, some of whom were previously shielding. With all legal COVID restrictions lifted, some respondents stated that they did not feel safe to go out in public, which had led to increased anxiety and social isolation.

“I’m immunosuppressed and feel very vulnerable when I’m out. It means I’m becoming more and more isolated. This isn’t good for my wellbeing in general.”

“I am clinically vulnerable, but the Scottish Government seem to think that means I should stay at home for the rest of my life. I want other people to realise that their behaviours can risk my life and that is selfish.”

“As a disabled shielding person going out now is almost as terrifying as the middle of the pandemic. It feels like the world just doesn’t care about disabled people.”

“As a previous shielding list person, the rising figures make me very nervous to go out and about as people are no longer wearing masks. Even at a recent hospital appointment there were many attendees not wearing masks and staff did not ask them to comply with mask wearing.”

“Not just concerned – alarmed, scared, feeling abandoned as a more vulnerable person, angry on behalf of all of us who are more vulnerable and sad for everyone because everyone is vulnerable to Long COVID and other post-COVID sequelae.”

“I am a shielder and do not feel safe going out anymore.”

“I think that there are many people living with a range of different disabilities and long-term conditions who think they have been abandoned by government and the NHS as things like the shielding list have gone. Yet it is the people who were on this list who are still mostly at risk from the virus which is why they still have concerns.”

Impact on the NHS

Rising COVID cases has resulted in additional pressures on the NHS due to increased hospital admissions and staff absences.

“Putting the NHS under constant strain with continual waves will see it collapse under the weight of preventable illness. More needs to be done by the government. Structural investment needs to be made in hospitals, GPs, social work, schools and other public spaces. We need to invest in high quality PPE for healthcare workers who should all have access to FFP3 masks and eye protection.”

“I am clinically vulnerable to infection. However, what I’m most concerned about is NHS staff sickness. That affects all of us.”

“The NHS is at the point that one more event like COVID will push it to breaking point. The governments within the UK need to desperately and quickly reform the NHS so that it doesn’t struggle like it did before. Get on top of the rise in COVID now!”

One respondent praised NHS staff for the care they received when in hospital recovering from COVID.

“I had COVID in November 2021 and I was put in a coma. I also have underlying conditions including diabetes and other problems. When I came out the coma, I really struggled but the hospital doctors and nurses helped me so much I would not have survived without them. Thanks to everyone who helped me.”

Attitudes and Behaviours of the Public

Following the end of legal COVID restrictions, the Scottish Government launched the ‘COVID sense’ campaign, which advises the public to take the following measures:

  • get the vaccine when offered to ensure you are fully protected
  • stay at home if you’re unwell with symptoms or have a fever
  • open windows when socialising indoors
  • wear a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport
  • wash your hands to protect yourself

There was a perception that the public are not following the recommendations outlined in the ‘COVID sense’ campaign, with respondents calling for the return of some legal measures. However, Professor Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director of the Scottish Government recently stated that he did not believe restrictions would be reintroduced.

“Plenty of sick and disabled people are still at risk and they are expected to shield at home because able bodied people don’t want to wear masks or keep their distance. I was at the shops today and it was like COVID never happened. The public won’t voluntarily take measures, so the Scottish government has to do it.”

“It is of great concern by how complacent the vast majority of people now are, how they are blindly going about their “normal lives” doing exactly what, when and where they want, clearly of the opinion they are invincible now they are “fully vaccinated”. Their lives, attitudes and behaviours clearly go on as they did pre-pandemic.”

“My husband and son do the shopping, and they both continue to wear masks and wash their hands and we wipe down food items that we can, but they were extremely unhappy about the amount of people without masks and touching everything as if it’s business as usual. Also, a lot of people still coughing over everything rather than turn their heads away, but I think this is something that people are going to have to be vigilant in making sure they keep up with all the measures that we previously had.”

“I am concerned because everyone is acting as if the pandemic is over and it’s not. No testing is taking place and the GPs don’t seem to want to know if you are sick. I had COVID19 in May, plus I am triple vaccinated; however, I am still very afraid of contracting a more deadly variant.”

“People think that because rules have been relaxed that COVID has come to an end. Ignorance and disinformation have increased number of patients with COVID, most often to new variants. The Scottish Government is quite correct to approve legislation which allows further personal restrictions, should the pandemic return in worrying numbers.”

Inclusive Communication

One respondent stated that it has been challenging to find information about the ‘COVID sense’ campaign in accessible formats.

“I’m personally finding it very hard to find accessible information about COVID sense. At the start there was an effort to make sure information was in an accessible format (Easy Read and BSL etc.). Unfortunately, this seems to have fallen by the wayside which is worrying since disabled people are more vulnerable to COVID.”

Face Coverings

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said it would be “sensible” for people to wear face coverings indoors, but there is currently no legal requirement to do so. Some respondents stated that they continue to wear face coverings in certain public spaces. However, it was recognised that the majority of people no longer wear face coverings.

“I have just got COVID for the first time after dodging it for two years. Amazing, as I work in a busy community pharmacy and have been patient facing for all of this torturous time. We were open when the GPs closed their doors. Now our patients couldn’t care less about wearing masks even though we wear them all day every day at work. Without laws no one cares less about others. I feel so ill and so tired.”

“My family and I continue to wear masks at ALL times when outdoors around other people, in shops, on streets, public transport, etc. as so many of our friends and quite frankly, we are very much the odd ones out and very much a public spectacle, receiving much ignorant glaring as if we are from a different planet and derogatory, discriminatory comments clearly assuming because we are wearing masks that we are infectious and so should be at home. There is NO concept that wearing masks to protect ourselves from the ignorant, inconsiderate hoards might actually be a personal choice! When challenged, “why are you still wearing a mask”, giving the retort “because you are not” is met with ignorant silence or “What”.

“Unfortunately, very few people are wearing masks now, even in places where they are asked to, e.g., in my local council library where there are respectful notices asking people to wear masks to protect the staff as well as themselves. I only see older people and some shoppers with disabilities wearing a mask in shops. If only we were generally kinder to each other, and tried to look after one another by mask wearing, especially as rates of infection are so high and increasing at the moment.”

“While the restrictions that were put in place have gone, COVID is still very much an issue and is likely to be for some time to come. Which is why I am still using a mask when out and about and will continue to do so for at least the next year or until there are no more cases of COVID.”

“When I go to the supermarket I am now often the only person with a face mask 😷 and people give me strange looks.”

“I wish that everyone had to wear a mask on public transport and also in indoor public spaces like supermarkets. After all, we have to wear masks in any healthcare setting – GP surgery, hospital etc.”

“I’m on 24/7 oxygen therapy, and I am currently moving to a bottom flat for my health. I struggle to breathe when out shopping, but I have no choice just now. I can’t wear a face mask because of my condition, and I am weary of others who don’t wear them in shops when I am in.”

“I recently caught COVID and it has wiped me out. I am trying to be very careful still but so many other people are not bothering. I feel that masks at least should be made compulsory again.”

Additional Safety Measures

In addition to face coverings, respondents reflected on the safety measures that they felt should be reintroduced, including easier access to testing and mandatory self-isolation.

“It should be mandatory to test if COVID is suspected and to isolate and register your infection if you do have it.”

“My family are in Social Housing where we are expected to allow access to our home at any point so long as we are given 24 hour notice. No one seems to bother to test anymore, so we have no idea whether workmen or staff have COVID or are carrying it. We all have health conditions that render us highly vulnerable to COVID.”

“So many people seem to be taking for granted that they will be fine no matter how many times they get COVID and treat the virus like nothing but a cold or flu. They don’t seem to realise there are so many out there still getting very ill and dying. Restrictions need to be put in place again. Some measures should be brought back in, especially on the wearing of masks and staying off work etc for far longer than 5 days , e.g. 10 days. For those who are able to test, many are positive for far longer than 5 days.”

“With testing sites closed and yet another variant being active in the community local to where I live…who is monitoring this apparent spike. Whilst I accept we could not go on with all restrictions forever and most of the restrictions were common sense anyway, the complete removal of them all is folly. I know people now who are COVID positive and yet continue to work in public facing jobs using public transport. I believe these people are in the minority but they are a risk to the vulnerable in our community.”

“This is still a global pandemic; it has not yet been classified as an endemic illness like flu. Was it too early to remove easy access to LFT’s and let everyone make their own minds up about issues like mask wearing or going to work whilst COVID positive….Yes.”

“Most supermarkets have removed the antibacterial cleaner for the trolleys, but I still use my hand sanitiser before touching the handle and hope it will be enough to protect me. We should be keeping the COVID helpline and also the vulnerable group listing.”

Conclusion

The majority of respondents (87%) are concerned by the recent increase in the number of COVID cases in Scotland. Respondents believed that members of the public are not following ‘COVID Sense’ guidance. Specific comments were shared on face coverings, where it was recognised that the majority of people do not wear them anymore. As a result, people who are at high clinical risk do not feel safe to go out in public, leading to social isolation. Respondents also discussed bringing back additional safety measures, such as easier access to testing and mandatory self-isolation.