DESPITE much of the country being blanketed with heavy snow, there are signs of hope that we are starting to see a way out of the pandemic that has shaped our lives for so many months.

Reaching the milestone of a million people vaccinated in Scotland was the kind of positive headline we’ve been waiting for, and it was encouraging to see the roll-out pick up pace. There is no room for complacency, though, and still so much to do to secure a better future.

In fact, stories of older people made to queue in the freezing cold in Fife this week after appointments at many sites were overbooked was a reminder of just how much our hopes pin on a successful roll-out of the vaccines.

We’ve heard how the weather also impacted on vaccines elsewhere, but it’s clear the appetite for people to be vaccinated remains high, and that is encouraging.

It is vital doctors are given the supply to meet demand, and we’ve seen GPs raise concerns about inconsistencies in supply.

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Impatience with the speed of the roll-out is understandable. We all want the coronavirus experience to be over as quickly as possible, but there also needs to be an acceptance that it is not going to happen overnight.

The virus itself will stay around for some time, and there are many aspects of life which may not return to the way they were before.

Last April I urged the Scottish Government to follow the example of New Zealand, a country that locked down early and stuck to a rigorous test and trace regime from the beginning. The UK is only now introducing the kind of virus protection at its borders that was put in place in New Zealand from the start. Now we look at their busy music festivals and full theatres with more than a little envy.

New Zealand has lost only 25 people to the virus, while Scotland recorded twice as many on Wednesday alone.

So our hope, as we build ourselves out of the pandemic, must be underpinned by what we have learned. We know Covid testing must be widespread to identify cases and people must be supported to self-isolate both financially and practically.

The Scottish Greens brought a proposal to have universal support for self-isolation to Parliament last week. Support that could adapt according to a person’s circumstances, whether that be an inability to take time off work due to insecure employment or a lack of physical space to self-isolate, through the use of hotel rooms.

Unfortunately, our proposals were voted down by the SNP and Tories, who said they objected to a universal approach. The universal approach that we rightly welcome for Scotland’s baby box, is absolutely essential in any robust public health response, especially when self-isolation is such a vital part of slowing the spread of the virus and low levels of compliance will continue to hamper our efforts.

One of our best tools in the coming months is going to be patience. We’re fast approaching a year since Scotland recorded its first case, and the national effort to contain it must go on for a bit longer. We’ve seen a lot of pressure on governments to set a date for the return of one thing or another, but this is extremely unhelpful. I’m as concerned about this narrative as I was about the talk of a “truce” over Christmas.

You simply cannot negotiate with a virus, or predict its spread across the country. To pretend otherwise in calls for a return to business as usual is irresponsible.

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In fact, there are many other lessons we have learned during this pandemic which could stand us in good stead. We’ve seen how poorly the UK’s social security system serves the vulnerable. We’ve seen the impact of insecure jobs and living arrangements.

But we’ve learned good things too. For example, so many employers have woken up to the ease with which people can work remotely, which could reduce the number of unnecessary journeys and open up opportunities for those with poor access to mobility. More people than ever have taken to our green spaces to appreciate cleaner air. We’ve seen Scotland’s worst pollution hotspots record legal levels of traffic fumes for the first time.

Most importantly of all, we’ve seen that governments can respond to an emergency with urgent action. As we emerge from the pandemic with new hope, we now need to transfer that hope, that urgency and that shift in priorities into tackling the climate emergency.

And with only nine years left until the climate science tells us global warming will become irreversible, we don’t have a lot of time. As with Covid-19, the time is now to follow the science and secure our future.