WELCOME to the Second Wave – same as the first but with added gloom and confusion. Covid-19 is determined to make fools of us all, and not just politicians. Whether you are libertarian herd immunity believers, or authoritarian lockdown fans, coronavirus doesn’t care. It just keeps carrying on.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon gamely tried to explain the Scottish Government’s new five-tier, er, four-level plan for getting us through the winter. It’s one better than the English, of course, but it’s more complex and raises more questions.Especially the intermediate levels and local exceptions. Are we in a circuit breaker or an indefinite lockdown? What happens when all those students return home? If MSPs and councillors don’t understand it, I don’t know how the rest of us will.

The Conservative leader of Borders Council, Shona Haslam, has been asking, not unreasonably, what criteria are used to determine the level her region is allocated. And more importantly, how they move out of it again. Ms Sturgeon didn’t shed much light on this yesterday. Assessment seems to involve a combination of cases per 100,000, hospital admissions, intensive care beds and our old friend the “R” number. Perhaps someone will come up with a formula for Covid level transition – something like the Highers exams algorithm – which no one will understand and will make everyone even more angry. As they are in Wales where people are finding they can’t buy non-essential items, like underwear, in a supermarket.

We haven’t heard much about the R number since the summer, when the First Minister said it didn’t matter any more because cases were so low. Now it is between 1.2 and 1.6, which means that cases are increasing exponentially, but we don’t know where. All we do know is that Glasgow and Lanarkshire seem destined for the top of the Covid charts with an imminent allocation of level 4 restrictions wrecking hospitality. North Lanarkshire is particularly aggrieved since it has only recently fully recovered from the closure of Ravenscraig.

This top level is supposed to be neo-lockdown, but it isn’t really, since schools will remain open and people will not be ordered to remain in their homes, as they were in the spring, for all but an hour a day. That was in effect a form of imprisonment, of house arrest, and governments are understandably wary of repeating it. Though, who knows, that may be where we are heading.

The science is all over the place. Medical experts have become like economists; it’s the new dismal science. We are now told that the forthcoming vaccine may not work very well, and that immunity to Covid-19 may only be temporary. There are also surveys suggesting that long Covid can lead to a loss of intelligence. And no jokes, please, about Boris Johnson.

Messrs Leitch, Whitty and Vallance advocate lockdown even though they know all they can is delay the spread of the virus, and that the collateral damage in mental health and untreated cancer and heart cases is increasing. There’s a nagging suspicion that it may even be worse than the coronavirus in terms of excess deaths. But they can’t think of anything better to do.

Nor can the politicians. They don’t want to be accused of having delayed lockdown again can, as they were last time. Both Ms Sturgeon and Mr Johnson actually gave rather good reasons last March for not following Ireland into into immediate lockdown. That was until they started getting forecasts of hundreds of thousands of deaths from Professor Neil Ferguson.

No one is going to take the risk this time. The increase in cases, in Europe at least, is looking horribly similar to the first wave. President Macron has had to order a new clampdown after France recorded a record 52,000 cases. Spain has declared a state of emergency. Poland has announced a country-wide “red zone”.

Here in Scotland, it seems a very long time ago that Ms Sturgeon was forecasting the “elimination” of Covid-19. Yet it is only four months since those idiots in hazmat suits were gathering at the border trying to block English cars. Covid is no respecter of borders. Even hyper-lockdown New Zealand is playing whack-a-mole and opening compulsory quarantine hotels.

People on Twitter have been trying to revive the Covid culture war. The left is accusing lockdown sceptics of putting profit before people, while conservatives say the left are social fascists trampling on human rights. There is no right or left to a pandemic – it just is.

Even libertarian Sweden has introduced local lockdowns as cases keep rising. Hopes that it might have reached something close to herd immunity are fading. The Swedes are still determined not to panic, but they are gradually being dragged down the same lockdown road as the rest of us.

Germany, with its excellent local testing regime, was the undoubted champion of the First Wave, but it’s not doing so well in the second. Chancellor Angela Merkel is warning of tough times ahead. In Berlin, there are so many new cases that testing is reportedly being stopped in favour of quarantine – there are just too many to track and trace and the system is getting overwhelmed. All bad news, but hardly surprising. Everyone knew from the start that in coronavirus pandemics the second wave is often worse than the first.

There are reasons to be cheerful. The death rate so far in the second wave appears to be much lower than before. There are many new drugs and therapies around and the hospitals know much more about the disease. There will be a vaccine and if older people have to get it twice a year instead of once as with flu, that’s no great hardship

But as we knew from the start, the real casualties of Covid are the economy and people’s wellbeing. The psychological impact is immense – and not just on individuals. It is palpable in the streets and cafes where businesses are giving up and people face a dark Christmas. Neither the Scottish nor the UK government seems in command of events. Only the Chinese seem to have Covid under control.

And before the second wave is over it will soon be time to prepare for the third.

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