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Health Matters: NHS Highland director of public health Dr Tim Allison on the positive habits developed through living with Covid-19 coronavirus

By Andrew Dixon

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Hand Washing with soap. Picture: Alasdair Allen.
Hand Washing with soap. Picture: Alasdair Allen.

At this time of year, we often look forward and think about what the future may hold.

We may try to predict what will happen during the next 12 months and perhaps what the world will look like at the end of December 2022.

When it comes to Covid there are some things that we can predict with a degree of certainty and other things which are far less clear.

Covid will continue to change and produce new variants, just like other viruses do. These variants can occur anywhere in the world. As long as most people in the world remain unvaccinated and without immunity, the chance of new threatening variants remains high.

New variants may spread more easily than previous types of Covid – like the Omicron variant does – and they also may have enough differences from the original Covid virus to make then more resistant to current medical treatments.

We don’t know when new variants will arise and what they will be like. But we can be pretty certain that the variants will come.

The current vaccination programme offers great protection against the existing Covid variants, and it is our best protection against the virus. It is important for us all to have a full course of the vaccine, including boosters, now and we may need additional vaccinations in the future.

Whether or not we get many new variants during the coming year, we can be sure that Covid will continue to be with us in some form at the end of 2022.

Some countries are still attempting to eliminate Covid, but this is becoming increasingly difficult with the arrival of more infectious variants. It is also harder to control the virus when there are more people who are infected yet do not have symptoms.

All countries may need to learn to live with Covid in the long term.

We will not experience life without Covid in 2022 and we need to get into habits that will keep us safer from infection both now and in years to come.

During the pandemic we have seen a decline in other diseases, notably influenza. One of the reasons for this is that the precautions taken for Covid also work against other diseases.

Good Covid habits have broader effects to improve our health.

At the moment the increasing number of cases and threat to health and social care services mean that we need to be especially cautious and reduce our social interactions. But even when these restrictions and advice are relaxed, we should keep our good Covid habits.

Good Covid habits are habits for life.

They include keeping up with offers of vaccination, ensuring fresh air and ventilation, washing our hands, just as we were told right from the start of the pandemic, and making sure we do not cough on other people.

These are some of the things that we should see ourselves doing at the end of 2022, whatever happens with Covid over the next year.

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

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