Maree Todd MSP: “Stay Safe” This Christmas

I was delighted to see the Covid-19 vaccine arrive in Orkney last week. It is heartening that frontline NHS and care workers are being prioritised, no matter where they live.

However, as much as we celebrate the vaccine, the message as we head for Christmas remains to stay safe.

The recent death of Andrew Slorance, head of response and communications – responsible for responding to and planning for major emergencies in the Scottish Government’s resilience division – brought this message home incredibly strongly.

Andrew, who was much loved and respected throughout government, died of complications linked to Covid-19 after having treatment for cancer. It makes his plea in a social media post written shortly before going into hospital for a donor Stem Cell Transplant in October all the more poignant.

Andrew knew when he went for his operation that the drugs he was going to be given would kill off his immune system, and any bug could be deadly.

And yet, apart from the cancer that was his underlying condition, he was an otherwise fit and healthy 49-year-old father of five.

He had cycled 300 miles raising funds for Cancer Research UK. This isn’t the image of the vulnerable person with underlying health problems that so many seem happy to sacrifice just so that the fit and healthy can get back to a ‘normal life’.

Andrew asked at the time – and now he is no longer with us the question seems all the more urgent: “How did some of us get like this? When did we lose all sense of compassion and develop an attitude that as those dying of Covid were predominantly old, infirm, with other health challenges, that this was somehow OK? Really?”

This tragic case reminds us all to keep taking this thing seriously and keep doing all we can to try to suppress the virus.

The more we keep following the rules, even if you think they are a bit questionable or “are only meant for other folk”, the more chance we have of controlling and reducing this latest wave of the outbreak.

As Andrew said: “It’s hard. I get it. Nobody wants to be placed under restrictions. To not see their families. To be stuck at home. But in my view it’s all for the greater good.”

It really is heartbreaking, a mere two months later, to read this personal plea to be ready to follow the guidance – whatever guidance that may be – over Christmas and New Year.

Andrew concluded: “Ignoring it for one day, no matter how tempting, might just mean life or death to someone vulnerable in your family, amongst your friends, or to a stranger like me.

“I’d like to reach my 50th birthday in mid-January safely and in as good health as possible. I’m anticipating that any celebrations will have to be low key.

“But I’d rather low key, than not at all.

“Stay safe.”

I can only agree – stay safe as you enjoy this festive season folks.

This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd. All Highlands and Islands Regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their personal views.

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