Readers' Letters: NHS still needs protection from Covid pandemic

On 22 January Scotland recorded a peak figure of 2,053 hospital beds occupied with Covid-19 cases.

Current guidelines that require face coverings in shops and on public transport are due to be reviewed by the First Minister on 4 April (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Current guidelines that require face coverings in shops and on public transport are due to be reviewed by the First Minister on 4 April (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

At that time this Covid-19 occupancy rate was regarded as a cause for serious concern and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was at pains to point out the need for continuing measures to combat the spread of the disease.

By comparison, concern that on 21 March the number of beds occupied with Covid cases had reached an all-time peak of 2,128 has been muted by the anodyne reassurance that the number of intensive care beds utilised for Covid-19 is considerably less than during the previous peak.

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The 2,128 beds currently occupied with Covid cases represents nearly 17 per cent (one sixth) of all the acute beds in Scotland. But in practice the reduction in the availability of beds for non-Covid care will be much greater than 17 per cent because of the need to isolate Covid care and the amount of staff illness which will inevitably result amongst those caring for patients who are infectious.

The net result of this is that even so-called urgent investigations and procedures will be subject to last minute postponements and delay. Put simply, we are failing in the one prime objective which has been paramount throughout the pandemic; we are failing to protect the NHS.

Despite the attempt that is made to demonstrate that Scotland has responded better to the pandemic than our neighbours in England, the truth is that we are also allowing the debate on whether and when to lift the few remaining restrictions to be framed in terms of “getting back our freedoms”. There is a passing nod to the so called “clinically vulnerable”, but nothing is offered in practice to alleviate the risk that people in this “category” must endure.

And now to the official list of those deemed to be “clinically vulnerable” we also must add all those of us who must necessarily err on the side of caution because they have had urgent investigations or procedures seriously delayed.

Each person in an expanded category of “vulnerable” can make a choice not to go to a pub or a nightclub or a restaurant. But often such a choice is not available in respect of other locations.

So, Scottish Government, if despite the record hospital utilisation figures and the threat of future peaks, you really must proceed with lifting restrictions, please give consideration to keeping mask restrictions in those places where the so called “vulnerable” cannot exercise choice – public transport, shops and the workplace.

Because only by doing this will you demonstrate that the differences in policy between Scotland and England do not amount to little more than a series of small cosmetic delays.

James Urquhart, Edinburgh

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Less twee, more IT

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The Scottish Government’s “Export Plan for Scotland’s Technology Sector” was slipped quietly out the door this week. It’s another impenetrable vortex of waffle. Written in Civil Service speak by a gaggle of subsidised agencies, it lacks any grounding in the world of business.

The plan segments the Scottish technology marketplace but fails to identify which sectors are growing/shrinking both domestically and internationally. Equally, there is no comparative analysis, benchmarking Scotland against other countries/regions.

Consequently, the authors have no real feel for the Scottish technology market. The result is a blunderbuss approach of unfocused initiatives. Why was the private sector shunned in the formulation of the strategy?

It’s a tough task trying to export technology, especially when there is no home customer base to build on. Encouraging an indigenous Scottish software industry is the first foundational step. However, the local market doesn’t welcome new entrants.

Try selling into the Scottish Government and you are met with a wall of procurement “professionals”, all busy administering their own pet framework agreements. With a checklist of restrictive business practices, they suck the lifeblood out of enterprising local companies. Despite the fintech hype, accessing the business-2-business commercial technology market here isn’t any easier.

The Scottish Government could make a difference by restricting departmental IT budgets, encouraging instead the development of new Scottish software products. Despite the billions being wasted, much of what the government develops itself is bespoke and is never commercialised. For example, it’s Craneware who are blazing a trail in the export of health management systems… not the NHS.

Hopeless foreign hubs and the tired Global Scot initiative are poor substitutes for a thriving local marketplace. An aspiring trading nation has no need for business thinking that is grounded in the 1980s. Less twee and much more local IT should form the basis of the new Scottish technology export strategy.

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Calum Miller, Director of Millersoft, Prestonpans, East Lothian

Flaccid UN

What is the United Nations for? Am I the only spectator of the dreadful tyranny being played out by Russia against Ukraine wondering when the United Nations might realise that it has an active role to play?

I read with interest David Gracie's statement on Monday’s letters page that Russia has no veto in the Security Council, being a party to the war. Surely that must trigger the process to allow other members to take up the case?

Never before have we seen on our television screens the daily horror being inflicted on a civilised people as it happens in real time. Nato may well be right to dread the possible expansion of the war, as threatened by Vladimir Putin. However, the lesson is there for all to see. The people of the Sudetenland in 1938 were indeed German speaking, just as many Ukrainians have Russian as their first language today.

Hitler used the reluctance of western nations to involve themselves, to march on to his next conquest – Putin may do likewise.

The United Nations should and must shoulder the responsibility. Otherwise we are left wondering, “What is the United Nations for?” How much of Ukraine must be laid waste?

Alison Fullarton, Lumsdaine, Eyemouth

Far right risk

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Does anyone remember, or care to remember, all those documentaries made after the Maidan revolution about the sinister ultra nationalist far right militias sporting Nazi insignia on the streets of the Ukraine? Whilst they are surely unrepresentative of 99 per cent of Ukrainians, despite Putin’s absurd claims, this conflict might well strengthen them.

The notorious Azov brigade was incorporated into the National Guard of Ukraine in 2014 in reward for its role in recapturing Mariupol from pro-Russian separatists despite its involvement in some atrocities. Apparently they are again the main defenders of that city .

It seems some militias have been greasing bullets with pig fat in anticipation of confronting Muslim Chechnyan soldiers fighting with the Russians.

I suppose in all wars we tend to turn a blind eye to the defects of our allies in the fight for the greater cause. I imagine it would have been frowned upon to have mentioned Stalin’s excesses against his own citizens in the Second World War for fear of bolstering Nazi propaganda.

However, the reluctance now to even mention these far right militias to avoid giving succour to Putin’s propaganda machine may be a cause for regret if Ukrainian military dependence on their undoubted ferocity and combat skills confers more power and influence on them that they may then exploit in any post-conflict peace, with dangers for the tolerant, liberal democratic outcome we, and most Ukrainians, are hoping for.

John Scarlett, Gorebridge, Midlothian

Refugees neglect

Brian Monteith misrepresents Brexit. Neither does he accurately represent what is happening in Ukraine or the UK response (Perspective, 21 March).

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Brexit campaigners supported an anti-immigration and anti-refugee stance of taking back control of the borders, even though the UK had control already. The Nationality and Borders Bill is before Parliament as a result. If not amended it will allow Home Secretary Priti Patel to ignore the Geneva Convention signed by the UK in 1951 according to UNCHR. She will be able to send people fleeing for their lives, including children, to offshore detention indefinitely.

This can apply to anyone, for example, Ukrainians who spontaneously arrive who will be criminalised. The Australian example of offshore detention in Nauru shows serious abuses and cruelty. It is also exorbitantly expensive.

The Human Rights Act protects the ordinary person from government excesses and is under threat after Brexit. It enshrines key human rights for us all, such as the right to life and freedom from the degrading and cruel treatment likely in an offshore detention centre. We already see the effect of lack of European Union workers rights in the P&O sackings as P&O did not sack their workers in the EU.

Ukraine is being invaded by Russia, which worked to support Brexit and divide the EU. Russia is forcibly destroying cities and the culture in Ukraine, even deporting Ukrainians to Russia in a terrifying and sinister move. A quarter of the population is displaced and yet the UK is taking itself out of the Geneva Convention with an inadequate visa approach to refugee safety stumbling along

Pol Yates, Edinburgh

Bungle?

I was chatting to a friend about the current trend for games such as Wordle. He mentioned the geographical one, Globle. I have just tried it but it seems that Scotland is an invalid country.

I wonder if Nicola Sturgeon has tried this game.

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Derek Sharp, Edinburgh

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