Be careful not to be too cautious – Letters

Covid statistics say risk going outside, says a reader
Is it safe to get out and enjoy the summer without worrying too much? (Picture: istock)Is it safe to get out and enjoy the summer without worrying too much? (Picture: istock)
Is it safe to get out and enjoy the summer without worrying too much? (Picture: istock)

As a statistician, I have a lot of difficulty understanding the rationale for many things relating to the lockdown, but the hardest to comprehend so far has been the respective governments’ policies regarding schools.

A ray of light has now been shone by Northern Ireland with their reduction to one metre distancing in August, but the policy in the other three countries is incomprehensible to me.

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There are the oft-touted reasons for getting schools back to normal – lack of social interaction for the children, difficulties in making sure the children do home studies, preventing parents getting back to work, the length of time it will take pupils to catch up etc – which in themselves make an overwhelming case for schools to open. And at least England has tried a limited opening for primary schools. However, even they have permitted only a very limited return to the classrooms, so I’ve had to wonder what is stopping a much fuller return.

The only thing I can come up with is that the governments are seriously worried about the health of children, teachers and parents. And yet, the mortality statistics could not be clearer that schoolchildren and healthy adults will be fine. Despite all that is said on the media and at the daily press briefings, Covid-19 is an innocuous disease for healthy young and middle-aged people. Indeed, based on ONS stats released last week, there have been no deaths under 15 in Scotland and only two in England and Wales –about 1 in 10,000,000. Further, fewer than 600 people under 45 have died in the whole UK, including all vulnerable people, all ethnicities etc – fewer than 1 in 50,000. How safe do things have to be before healthy people can be told it is safe for their children to go back to school and for them to go back to university, work, pubs, on holidays etc? (Of course, vulnerable children, parents or grandparents should be careful and continue to follow the guidelines on shielding.)

It is also worth noting that children not only do not die of Covid-19, the vast majority show very few symptoms. Further, about one quarter of the UK is made up of under-19s, and if many of them caught the virus, it would actually help the older population, as we would be on the way to achieving the much maligned (and misunderstood) “herd immunity”. Until we have a vaccine, every infection we avoid in the under-19s is likely to occur instead in more vulnerable groups – such as the over-75s, whose chances of dying if infected by coronavirus are much higher.

I apologise if this sounds callous – I am merely trying to put the number of deaths in perspective, so that the horrible physical, psychological, financial and economic consequences of lockdown can be properly assessed by a nation, many of whose citizens are unnecessarily afraid of going within two metres of others.

Andy Scott, Newhalls Road, South Queensferry

Toilet break

The reopening of Edinburgh Zoo is a great relief to many. What would be an even bigger relief, literally, would be the reopening of public toilets. Currently there are no public loos open in Scotland and no availability in shops, pubs, theatres... it’s the best way ever to ensure that people over-70 remain shielding indoors, while being unfair to, well, everyone. People of all ages need the loo, from folk with health conditions to parents with small children. It’s no wonder people are going in bushes.

I really don’t see why it’s so difficult to put safety plans in place and employ attendants to police them during the Covid-19 crisis. Why is getting competitive sport back, and McDonald’s open, more important than meeting basic human needs? Oh yes, money – there’s no profit to be made in ensuring people can get their recommended daily exercise without worrying about being caught short, or that elderly people get something back for the cash they’ve put into the system.

A couple of years ago I moved from Edinburgh, where you’re hard-pressed to find an open, useable public toilet at the best of times, to East Lothian, where beautifully tended loos are common. Let’s hope that after Covid-19 all East Lothian toilets reopen, and that Edinburgh City Council takes a lesson from this difficult period – councillors, even your beloved tourists and students need to pee!

Surely, it’s a basic human right to have the opportunity to go to a public toilet when out and and about. Let’s give the public loos the respect they deserve.

Steven Robertson, Somerset Fields, Musselburgh

Chinese burned

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Zeke Miller writes that former Donald Trump adviser John Bolton accuses President Trump in his new book of “being driven by political calculations when making national security decisions”, as well as seeking help from Chinese for re-election (“Trump help plea to China over re-election”, World News, 19 June) .

Bolton must be entirely naive if he somehow believes that there’s a president, prime minister, first minister or other politician who isn’t, at least in some measure, led by political calculations. And, if in this case, the American farmers and public benefited, what’s Bolton’s problem?

Second, if President Trump was seeking China’s help in getting re-elected, then from the beginning of his presidency Trump has gone about it entirely in the wrong way. From the start Trump challenged China regarding the trade imbalance, imposing tariffs that upset them.

Immediately he blocked flights from China regarding the coronavirus and he has demanded that the Chinese government (and World Health Organisation) be investigated regarding their response to the virus.

President Trump has also upset the Chinese government by standing by Taiwan, sending US aircraft carriers into Asia to stand against Chinese military expansionism and just recently he has signed a bill to allow sanctions against China for their treatment of the Uighurs.

John Bolton is just another bitter adviser who didn’t get his way with President Trump. No doubt he has some juicy bits of gossip that will drive the Trump haters to buy his book but on the points Zeke Miller notes, they’re total nonsense.

Steve Aiken, Goslawdales, Selkirk

Hope is for all

Re: James Watson’s letter bemoaning the use of the rainbow by the LGBTQ movement. Gilbert Baker, an artist and drag queen, first used the rainbow flag as a symbol of LGBTQ social movements in 1978. It has been used to depict pride, defiance and also hope for acceptance, respect and equal rights for these marginalised groups ever since.

Some people in the LGBTQ community have been concerned that “straight” people were starting to use rainbows outwith this context. They’ve recently been used as a symbol of encouragement and support for healthcare workers who continue to do their important work during the current pandemic.

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In fact, the rainbow has been a symbol of hope in many cultures throughout history, and the Bible is just one of many ancient books which refer to rainbows in this context. In Genesis, God says that a rainbow is “ a sign of the covenant between me and the earth”. We now know that rainbows are formed when light shines through rain water, but knowing this doesn’t make them less beautiful.

I have no religious affiliations but, like Wordsworth, my heart still lifts up when I see a rainbow in the sky.

Carolyn Taylor, Wellbank, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Ireland owned

A friend who grew up in one of the Soviet-occupied Baltic states mentioned by Kenny MacAskill (Perspective, 18 June) found his comparison of the UK with the USSR frankly hilarious. And yet again, the right honourable gentleman smugly uses Ireland as justification for his independence dreams but with zero supporting evidence. The facts currently are that Irish politicians have squabbled for three months now over a three-way coalition deal in the face of Covid and an ongoing economic situation compounded by surrendering control of currency and interest rates to Brussels. Gone are the days when Eire was a net recipient of generous EU aid and structural funds. The Celtic Tiger was a mirage frolicking on the shifting sands of unsustainable debt and questionable financial practices. Imagine the volcanic outrage from Mr MacAskill’s party if Boris made most of us actually pay for GP appointments and hospital treatment, children’s schoolbooks and iPads! Yet these are the realities of life in the 26 counties, realities that Kenny MacAskill won’t be anxious to broadcast.

Following separation from the UK, Eire endured the highest emigration rate in western Europe and we had one of the lowest standards of living until the 1970s; 16 per cent of the population was forced to emigrate between 1950 and 1960. Irrelevant ancient history? Mr MacAskill’s party are more than happy to weaponise the past when it suits them. No doubt many of them consider long-term poverty a price worth paying, for as the columnist concludes seductively, “The opportunities of independence far outweigh the risks of staying.”

Martin O’Gorman, Littlejohn Road, Edinburgh

A song for today

Sad to hear about the death of Vera Lynn; her great wartime song was We’ll Meet Again – somewhat apt for our own time!

William Ballantine, Dean Road Bo’ness, West Lothian

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