14 Chief Medical Officer for Scotland Annual Report 2020 -2021 CONCLUSION The COVID-19 pandemic will have very significant and potentially long-lasting health impacts, arising from both the direct and indirect effects of contracting the illness and the interventions put in place to control spread of the virus. It is also clear from emerging evidence that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are large and unequal. The negative effects of the pandemic are borne disproportionately by people who already have fewer resources and poorer health. Action is needed, now more than ever, to address the health inequalities that exist in our society. Recovery and renewal of our public services, in the wake of the pandemic, could provide us with an opportunity to have a renewed focus on supporting our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. Successfully reducing the health inequalities that exist in Scotland cannot be achieved by our health and care system alone. Addressing the wide range of issues identified in this chapter will require a significant whole system response. I will explore this further in the chapter on reducing health inequalities, where I set out some of the work that is being led by the Scottish Government, Health Boards and Local Authorities to reduce health inequalities. This is work which will undoubtedly help inform our long-term approach to making Scotland a fairer place to live.