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BlueEnvelopeSo I know I'm not going to make it to this appointment. But we've been waiting for our BLUE ENVELOPE.

In Scotland, the Royal Mail has been prioritizing the delivery of blue envelopes from the NHS: notification of your appointment for the COVID vaccine. We returned home to Canada when our government advised us to return last spring, but we remain legal residents of the UK for a few more years. I registered with the local "surgery" (medical clinic) when I arrived in Dunkeld, and so I knew that I'd be getting my blue envelope soon.

I know that governments around the world are managing on the fly with little or no lived experience in how to manage a pandemic. But we've been consistently impressed with Scotland's approach, managed through the Scottish government of Nicola Sturgeon. The lockdown in the UK was early and harsh; when we drove back to Heathrow for our getaway in the first week of April last year, we were one of only a handful of vehicles on the M series highways. Overhead signs flashed messaging: "Protect the NHS; stay home". Their healthcare system is held in such high regard that the messaging was actually highly effective. For several weeks at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a weekly "Clap for Carers" to recognize and honour the role of frontline workers in the pandemic. The restrictions in Scotland seemed typically harsher and more stringent than in England, and we watched to see what would happen in our region every Tuesday, when an announcement would come from the First Minister (Sturgeon).

She came under fire in early 2021 for Scotland's slow start to vaccinations, but she defended the pace by pointing out there was more difficulty and logistical challenge to administering doses to the most vulnerable, but they were sticking to their strategy of most vulnerable first, in spite of the pressure to play a numbers game.

As she predicted, the pace picked up markedly last month as the vaccine schedule began to target the general population, and average Scots waited for their blue envelope.

It's been an interesting time ( a little more interesting than we'd bargained for ) to be connected to Scotland and the NHS system.

While I can't use it, I'm very proud to have my blue envelope. My wait will be longer here in Ontario, the logistics more uncertain, the messaging more muddled, and the basic notion of the common weal under fire from several directions.

I hope there is some thoughtful reflection when this is over, and some longer-term learning and strategies to help us do better the next time. But at the bottom of much of the success or failure here is the foundation of our own understanding of who we are as a people: a collection of individuals looking out for themselves, or a society that believes that we're actually in this together. Would the "Protect the NHS" messaging have worked in Trump's America? Would it have worked in Canada? I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure.

Kimberley Love


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