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Health Matters: Respect is crucial in life – especially during a pandemic

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Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.
Dr Tim Allison, director of public health for NHS Highland.

Dr Tim Allison says respect has practical implications when it comes to tacling Covid-19.

I have been reflecting on a few things this week. I spent a couple of days visiting family in London. Inverness Airport was crowded, and it was hard to keep a distance from people, writes Dr Tim Allison.

In London, I marvelled at the life-size herd of elephants sculptured from plants in Green Park and St James’s Park.

This was also the place where England’s chief medical officer was harassed – a sad state of affairs for someone working hard to protect the public’s health.

I saw people in London preparing to protest against Covid restrictions and countless people with face coverings either missing their nose or under their chin in areas where face coverings were compulsory.

Closer to home, I heard about a cyclist verbally abused by a motorist who was waiting with a phone ready to film their reaction.

Finally, and back with Covid again, I read a scientific paper that suggests diseases like Covid were present in East Asia 25,000 years ago.

What connects all these reflections is the theme of respect. It is similar to the theme of kindness that I have written about previously and, like kindness, respect is essential both for our wellbeing and for our ability to tackle Covid.

Covid restrictions have caused great difficulties for many with separation of family and friends and losses for businesses, but unless we respect the restrictions and guidelines and abide by them, the pandemic will last longer and cause further problems.

We may disagree with people, but it is vital that we respect others.

The right to protest should be respected, but it is totally unacceptable for people who are working tirelessly to combat the pandemic to be harassed.

Abuse in public is also unacceptable. I have been shouted at a few times over the years when cycling and knocked off my bike a couple of times, but not deliberately. Other cyclists I know have fared much worse.

For the sake of both public health and common decency we deserve better and must respect each other on the road.

So, what about Covid 25,000 years ago? Viruses similar to Covid seem to have been around in the world for thousands of years. They must have caused epidemics and pandemics countless times and over centuries each type of virus becomes weaker and is replaced by another.

Covid-19 is a terrible virus. We should respect the natural world including respecting the fact that diseases keep arising and need to be dealt with properly. Respecting the natural world and respecting each other go hand in hand to face the continuing pandemic.

Dr Tim Allison is director of public health for NHS Highland.

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