We must all do our coronavirus duty – leader comment

Panic-buying will only create problems at a time when politicians and officials have enough to do fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland was still in the containment phase of dealing with the coronavirus outbreak (Picture: Jane Barlow/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

As the number of Covid-19 coronavirus cases neared 100,000 worldwide, the World Health Organization urged all nations to give the “highest priority” to efforts to contain the disease, while in the US, health officials warned of its “pandemic potential”.

If it was not already, the seriousness of the situation is now crystal clear.

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And, in such circumstances, it is extremely important that we all pull together and act sensibly. Each and every one of us needs to make ourselves aware of the official advice and to follow it. We have a duty to do this.

No politician should attempt to score petty party political points, government ministers and officials must be honest and straight with the public, and no one should become so fearful that they work themselves up into a state of panic.

We must instead be calm, resolute and kind.

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However, there have been some alarming reports of precisely the wrong kind of reaction to what is now a significant crisis, such as the panic-buying of various goods, including staple foods and toilet paper, and utterly shocking accounts of sanitising gel being stolen from a hospital in Northampton.

Such behaviour needs to stop or it risks making our situation worse. If it does not stop, politicians must take whatever action is required to make it stop.

Nicola Sturgeon stressed that Scotland was still in the first phase of dealing with the virus – containment – but “we may not be able to contain the virus indefinitely”.

However, she added that “every day we manage that and every week that we manage that, taking a future peak out of the winter period and into spring and summer, then we help to reduce the impact”.

This is the task that she, as First Minister, the NHS and government officials are working hard to achieve, working alongside their UK colleagues. If we the public give them other problems to solve, we will damage their ability to fight the virus. So, stop panic-buying and stop pretending you have a PhD in infectious diseases and know more than the experts.

In the event that the disease continues to spread, the authorities will move to the “delay” phase, in which schools may be closed, events involving large crowds are cancelled, and people are encouraged to work from home if possible.

If this happens, we should comply with requests made by officials. This is our duty and we must do it. And those who do not should be ashamed of themselves.