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DR TIM ALLISON: Don't ditch all Covid good hygiene habits as pandemic eases

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Aleksandra Czech-Seklecka, Inverness with medical equipment for Ukraine.
Aleksandra Czech-Seklecka, Inverness with medical equipment for Ukraine.

Covid has been replaced in the headlines, but not for the reasons we would want.

With war in Ukraine on the news and Covid rules and regulations going away, we may not be prompted to think much about Covid.

Even if we do consider the virus, there will soon be fewer opportunities to be tested for it. This may seem odd when the rate of infection remains so high and people continue to become ill, yet the current wave of the pandemic will pass eventually, and we will be able to get back to normal.

What is normal though? For centuries it was normal to face war, disrupted food supplies, cold and continual waves of infectious diseases.

We would never want that to be normal for us, but we can’t be complacent when we see what is happening in today’s Europe.

As I have written many times before, Covid has not gone, and it will take many months or even years really to see the back of the disease. Even when it has largely disappeared though, there will be other diseases and other threats to our health.

The centuries-old human diseases such as influenza have no more gone away than has armed conflict.

Yet the good news is that we know what to do and the more we take the right action the better we will be than our forebears.

Washing hands well was a key message at the start of the pandemic and perhaps it has fallen out of use a bit since other measures are needed as well for Covid. However, hand washing is one of the most important things we can do to keep many diseases at bay.

Likewise, avoiding coughing or sneezing on people and disposing of tissues is not an exciting message – but it works to control viruses and is good manners anyway. If we are ill, we may not want to stay at home, but it is the right thing to do to keep us well and to keep others well too. These things are not high tech – but they work.

Another thing that works and started as old tech is vaccination. Vaccination has been around for hundreds of years but with developing knowledge and skill it has been able to control or even help eradicate diseases that were once devastating.

We can continue to take advantage of vaccination to protect us effectively against Covid, flu and other diseases.

What has been normal in the past does not need to be normal in the future. That should be true for war and famine globally and is certainly true for infections when we know what works and what to do.

  • Dr Tim Allison is NHS Highland’s director of public health and policy.

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