Covid: Suspending vaccine patents would be an act of self-preservation - Readers' Letters

Just a couple of weeks ago the World Trade Organisation was to be holding a summit in Geneva, one of the main issues for discussion being whether the wealthy countries, including the UK, would finally drop their opposition to suspending Covid patents, so that manufacturing could be ramped up, and vaccines and treatments distributed more fairly across the world.

A woman is vaccinated in an ambulance converted to facilitate Covid vaccinations in South Africa
A woman is vaccinated in an ambulance converted to facilitate Covid vaccinations in South Africa

Unfortunately the summit was cancelled at the last minute, ironically because it was too late: the genie was already out of the bottle, the new Omicron variant was already spreading across the world.

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And now it is reported that, in Scotland, cases of the new variant have risen from nine cases a week ago, to 99 on Tuesday, which, if it were to continue to spread at that rate, would have about 120,000 cases in Scotland by Christmas.

And, in the unvaccinated south, there will already be another variant brewing, ready to sweep across the world early in the new year.

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If not for humanitarian reasons, then just as a matter of self-preservation, the rich countries need to get their act together, and enable all our neighbours on this increasingly small planet to get vaccinated, before we collectively brew a virus which cant be tamed.

We can’t go on like this.

Les Mackay, Dundee

No time to lose

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Alastair Stewart (Scotsman, 7 December) is correct that recent “mixed messages” from our national governments leave many wondering if leaders have a coherent strategy to “buy time” while the Omicron variant multiplies. With the highest number of cases of the variant in Europe, the UK missed the opportunity to halt its importation by dropping PCR tests at borders in the summer when boosting the economy was prioritised above implementing the lessons of the Delta variant.

It’s clear, however, that the booster vaccine has cut hospitalisations and deaths to their lowest rates for about three months. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines with their higher efficacy rates have reduced certified Covid deaths to under 100 a week in Scotland. If the Scottish Government had been allowed to move quicker it could have ensured that the 10,000-plus-a-day vaccine capacity over the summer had been used to provide vulnerable groups a booster closer to the three-month target now in place following the second dose. This could have saved up to 500 lives during the autumn when Covid certified deaths were running on average about 150 a week.

The government must ensure that everyone eligible has the opportunity of a booster by the end of January as promised. This will be crucial if we are to control the Omicron variant that scientists consider could replace Delta as the most prevalent variant within about a month.

Vaccines on their own, however, will not be enough and Covid fatigue in distancing, testing, mask wearing and home working are all helping to ensure Omicron and Delta cases are soaring. Governments must act now to ensure we are not locked down in January. As Alastair Stewart argues, treating January as an afterthought is not an option.

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Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Flow chart

After extensive online searches, I have finally established the procedure for producing proof of a negative Covid test in order to gain entry to certain events. As far as I can tell, the procedure seems to be as follows:

1. Obtain Lateral Flow Test Kit from your local pharmacy.

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2. Do not use Lateral Flow Test Kit.

3. Report a negative Lateral Flow Test result online to the NHS.

4. Download or print said negative test result.

Dave Mackay, Edinburgh

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Auld Grey Toun

It’s an ill wind … and if D Jamieson (Letters, 7 December) considers Edinburgh no longer merits its capital status could I suggest Dunfermline as a suitable replacement? It was our capital for 400 years, the abbey is the final resting place of many kings and queens, including Robert the Bruce, whose victory over the dastardly English gave rise to our national dirge,..sorry, anthem.

I was born in the town and share my birthplace with another notable Andrew, Mr Carnegie no less, whose gifts include the beautiful Pittencrief Park, Carnegie Hall, and the first of the many public libraries that are his enduring legacy.

As well as the imposing abbey, the town once boasted a royal palace, and Charles I was born within its now ruined walls in 1600. The poor chap had his head chopped off 49 years later but that was Westminster’s fault; it always is.

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However, I just remembered, we also voted the wrong way in 2014. Glasgow or Dundee perhaps?

Andrew Kemp, Rosyth, Fife

Can this plan

Jim Fox, of the Food and Drink Federation, says that the delayed Scottish Government's deposit return scheme should be further delayed until September 2023 (Scotsman, 8 December).

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Scottish local authorities already have excellent recycling facilities. Why should people, especially the elderly, be inconvenienced with trips to the refund stations?

It is the idiots who throw their bottles, cans and litter away and a 20p deposit will not change their habits. A takeaway costs at least £8 so getting 20p back means nothing to them. Detection and Draconian fines are the answer, not more stupid regulations which will adversely affect those already recycling.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow, West Lothan

Land and labour

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I broadly agree with Mr Digney of Buchlyvie’s proposal that Scotland should adopt a land value tax regime (Letters 8 December).

However, I disagree with the term “tax”, preferring instead the concept of “user fees” for state property (which land and natural resources ultimately are). User fees imply a market-based quid pro quo, whereas taxation is arbitrary and destructive.

As Mr Digney puts it: "There is no excuse for the Scottish Government failing to act. Our current tax system penalises work and enterprise while allowing the unearned revenue from land values to line private and corporate pockets". Amen to that.

I'd go a tad further and assert that if we assume there are only two primary factors of production, land and labour, then the trousering of land rent is necessarily at the expense of people's work, and discourages from working those who, like me, can opt to enjoy the leisure preference.

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George Morton, Rosyth, Fife

If the hat fits...

Has the media gone mad? The world is going to hell in a handcart; Russia could soon be invading Ukraine and China is arming itself on the east coast of Africa.

And what are the UK newspaper and TV headlines blaring out? Oh yes, whether people in Downing street were wearing a paper hat instead of a bowler last year.

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Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

Trading places

It is not necessary to rehearse once again the controversy over the Melville Monument in St Andrew Square before expressing some concern about Heritage Environment Scotland's latest venture into genealogy. The University of Glasgow's contract to look into historic ownership of HES’s current Properties In Care should be welcomed on grounds of academic discovery (Scotsman, 8 December).

No doubt the discovery of links between ownership and the slave trade will be welcomed by those determined to show Scotland's association with the barbarity, exploitation and squalor that the trade involved. No doubt, too, the researchers will be balanced enough to show that the owners of the properties were involved in a variety of causes, perhaps even the quality of architecture throughout the country. They will hopefully be balanced enough, too, to show that the British Empire, though it had much to apologise for, was a force for good in many instances.

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The project should be judged on the information it actually finds in the very broadest sense. It would be wrong to see it as an opportunity to link prominent public figures with the promotion of slavery.

The point needs to be made that many buildings may have been financed by profits from slavery. That does not mean to say they were erected to celebrate the awfulness. Who knows what might have been in the minds of civic leaders and merchants when these buildings were constructed? Who knows, indeed, what was in the minds of the people involved in their design and construction?

It would be wrong if the University of Glasgow project was seen as just another chance to promote the view that Scotland and its merchants have a lot to answer for in terms of upholding and encouraging the disgrace of slave trading over the centuries.

Bob Taylor, Glenrothes, Fife

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Blair’s mistake

May I reply to your correspondent S Beck (Letters, 7 December)? I agree entirely that devolution has been a disaster for Scotland, not only for the demise of the Labour Party in this country, but also for being the generator of a level of political hate and division in Scotland previously unknown in my lifetime. The decision to implement devolution must rank with his decision to back the US in Iraq.

In defence of Mr Blair, may I say that every indication was that he was lukewarm to the idea of devolution, at best. I think Blair and the Labour leaders since can be summed up very easily. Rather than holding rallies and marches for a minimum wage, or peace in Ireland, or better funding for the NHS, in best Jeremy Corbyn style, Blair made his party electable to huge swathes of the country and got into power and made the changes happen.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

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