Letter of the Day – Testing times

Despite Allan Sutherland’s confidence in the current national testing strategy for Covid-19 due to the persuasive presentation skills of Professor Jason Leitch (Letters, 31 March), I am more persuaded by those public health and infectious diseases experts who argue for a comprehensive testing and surveillance approach.

Would widespread coronavirus testing keep public panic at bay? (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Social anthropologist Dr Alice Street says Social Science research has backed this up as the best way not only to contain the pandemic but to allay public panic caused by changing messages from Government and ensuing lack of trust (Perspective, 31 March). Professor Devi Sridhar, chair of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University, has also advocated more testing.

Since we have missed the boat on this, we must cooperate fully with the current strategy, while urging government to roll out more testing and tracing and isolation of known contacts of positive cases.

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Donald M MacDonald

Blackford Avenue, Edinburgh

Blame neo-liberals

So one quarter of medics are sick. The government’s scientific advisers were right to say getting the NHS up to speed so that we cope with the peak will be a close-run thing.

Back in 2016 the government decided to ignore the outcome studies of a pandemic because they preferred neo-liberalism and austerity to real planning. As a result doctors and nurses are ill prepared. The incredible bravery of medics, retail workers, delivery drivers, social care workers, construction workers, farmers, refuse collectors and NHS volunteers must never be forgotten.

The way to honour these people will be to avoid ideological bias in future so we choose our political leaders with real awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of different parties. We need to be realistic about risks – such as risks to food supplies, which we have now woken up to, and risks to the environment, which we are only becoming more aware of. As Boris Johnson has just discovered, “there is such a thing as society”.

Andrew Vass

Corbiehill Place, Edinburgh

Figure it out

About 15 per cent of those diagnosed with coronavirus end up in hospital with unpleasant symptoms including breathing problems and pneumonia. Around 5 per cent need intensive care. But the majority who get the virus suffer nothing more than a cough and don’t know they are infected. The “official” death rate is around 2 per cent but experts believe the true mortality rate is less than 1 per cent because only the severe cases are picked up. Seasonal flu kills around 0.1 per cent so this time around Covid-19 is more lethal but still much less dangerous than SARS, which killed 10 per cent.

In China the death rate for over-80s is 15 per cent and patients in their seventies, 5 per cent, but around 80 per cent of those infected are 30- 70. Those of any age with “other conditions” (diabetes, cancer, heart or kidney problems, high blood pressure, etc) will suffer serious complications if infected. At present medics can do little to tackle the virus, but the symptoms (fever and respiratory problems) can be treated with antibiotics etc. The problem is, so many victims were going to die anyway, but vaccines should be ready if coronavirus becomes endemic and returns next winter.

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

A kinder cut

Scotland’s 32 councils will increase council tax by an average of 4.5 per cent from 1 April 2020. This at a time when families are struggling to cope with the extra expense incurred due to the coronavirus. Most wage earners have experienced a cut in their income of 20 per cent, which would have been more had the UK government not guaranteed to pay 80 per cent. Most of those working in local government are getting their full salary.

It would be a welcome gesture from those earning over £50,000 to take a reduction of 20 per cent. That would make the council tax increases more palatable. The Scottish government could show an example by reducing MSPs salaries and expenses by 20 per cent since, after all, MSPs were responsible for the cuts in council funding over the last decade.

Clark Cross

Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Egg on his face?

Henry McLeish (Perspective, 31 March) runs through various events in the US, as well as various Trump utterances. One he misses is Donald’s amazing prediction on the virus, ie that it will be mostly over by Easter; there again, Trump did not say which Easter he referred to. 2021 perhaps?

William Ballantine

Dean Road,

Bo’ness, West Lothian

We will go solo

Coronavirus will change UK politics and delay a second independence referendum for a couple of years but Robert IG Scott (Letters, 31 March) is living in a fantasy world if he thinks the rationale for self government will disappear – the latest reputable opinion poll taken last week, after the Alex Salmond trial, put SNP support for the next Holyrood elections at 50 per cent, pointing towards a win of 70 seats out of 129, with support for independence at 49 per cent.

Independence is the normal state of affairs for countries. If Scotland was in the same position as Denmark, Norway or Ireland it would cope very well with Covid-19 and its aftermath by co-operating with other nations.

You just need to compare Scotland’s standard of living with the other small nations in northern Europe to see how badly we have fared under Westminster rule.

With self-government, we would be governed by the party the majority in Scotland vote for and not be taken out of the EU against our wishes. The bulk of exports from Canada go to the United States but I am certain most Canadians don’t want to be ruled by Donald Trump in Washington with a Secretary of State for Canada.

Fraser Grant

Warrender Park Road, Edinburgh

Anyone can whistle

Robert IG Scott is apparently a fan of Ruth Davidson and the “largely unelected” Conservatives in Holyrood.

However, the latest Panelbase poll, taken between March 24 and 26, indicates that the SNP are on course to win 70 seats in the next Holyrood election, right on the ball, Mr Scott is sure that the SNP will “probably self-destruct”.

There goes that eerie sound of whistling in the dark once more.

Gill Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

Renewed interest

In Inside Environment (Perspective, 31 March) Dr Richard Dixon makes no mention of the the lack of climate action by Japan. Indeed, if that country follows the lead set by Germany and proceeds with the construction of 22 coal stations, based on the claim that renewable energy is too expensive, then COP26 can be regarded as a lost cause.

What the renewable sector fails to admit is that the electricity costs are 400 per cent higher than those of gas. If the industry claim that “wind turbine output is cheaper than that of fossil fuels” then why does Friends of the Earth not campaign to achieve a reduction in the generation price of renewables to 1.5p/unit (note that generation costs are only 40 per cent of the electricity price) ?

There is also no mention of the £1 million a day subsidy paid by those in fuel poverty over January and February in Constraint Payments and the lack of action by MSPs to eliminate such costs. It should be noted that a four-fold increase in capacity to charge electric vehicles, plus a further three-fold increase to replace gas, will mean Constraint Payment costs running to billions of pounds. This results from the drive by the First Minister to make Scotland the “Saudia Arabia of the Renewable World” whilst forgetting that, without a similar expansion of the English interconnector, there would be thousands of wind turbines sitting idle over the summer when there is minimal heating demand,

Ian Moir

Castle Douglas, Queen Street

Praise for plastic

After the pandemic the Government will have to make hard choices to recover the economy from recession and reduce the deficit. Superfluous expenditure will have to be cut. HS2 should be scrapped, and constructing a third runway at Heathrow postponed.

Decarbonising the economy, which a previous Chancellor has said will cost over £1 trillion, should most certainly be abandoned. During the pandemic the carbon economy saved us from disaster. The NHS could not function without all sorts of plastics whose feedstock is oil. The diesel engine powers all ambulances, back-up generators in hospitals and the trucks which keep supermarkets stocked. A complete rethink of priorities is required.

William Loneskie

Justice Park, Oxton

Lauder, Scottish Borders

On yer bike!

Manufacturing and keeping a bicycle in service uses much less of the world’s scarce resources than even the smallest car. However, we could economise far more, if we switched from bicycles to unicycles.

A unicycle with only one wheel does not need a large frame or handlebars, so it requires fewer than half the resources needed to make a bicycle.

It takes up so little space that you can store it on a coat hook. Much better than cluttering up a small flat with one or two large bicycles.

Instead of young people spending a small fortune learning to drive a car, riding a unicycle could become a core skill in the Curriculum for Excellence.

With people travelling by unicycle, we could save lives by implementing lower speed limits, which could then be enforced by police officers on high-performance bicycles.

Also, a unicycle has no greater footprint than a pedestrian. So if we allow unicyclists on the pavement, there is no need to worry about repairing potholes in the roads. Think of the savings!

Forward-thinking environmentalists are working on an even more economical mode of transport, the non-o-cycle, in which the unicycle wheel is eliminated and the traveller simply uses their feet.

George Inglis

Ansonhill, Crossgates, Fife

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