Readers' Letters: Time is running out to avoid NHS meltdown

With new Covid hospitalisations running in excess of 100 per day and public health experts warning of a “perfect storm” is it too late for the Scottish Government to change strategy to avoid a hospital meltdown this winter?

The NHS is under severe strain as winter approaches

Scotland is already officially the Covid leader in Europe with 11 of the 20 highest regions for case rates, including the top five. It is questionable whether yet another lockdown or vaccine passports can work in time.

The vaccine has saved hundreds of lives but the evidence is it’s not the panacea the Government claims with over 66 per cent of deaths having had one dose and 54 per cent two according to a British Medical Journal report on the delta variant covering February to August in England.

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The issue the Government needs to face is the young giving the virus to over-45s such as parents and especially grandparents who are more likely to die or have serious illness. Since the pandemic began official data shows that around 16 per cent of the 16-25 age group have tested positive against between three and eight per cent in the vulnerable over-65 age groups.

A good start would be to vaccinate the 12-15-year-olds and implement mandatory social distancing and mask wearing in secondary and tertiary education and workplaces. This should be augmented with tightening restrictions on incoming international travel such as universal mandatory testing.

The most important measure of all is an overhaul of test and protect with properly enforced and supported quarantine similar to successful countries that get on top of outbreaks quickly.

Without a change in strategy hospitals will be overwhelmed and the NHS will grind to a halt this winter, leaving us all extremely vulnerable because of an abject failure to control the virus. It may be already too late but to stop trying would be unforgivable.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

Showing the way

All Los Angeles public school children aged 12 and over must be fully vaccinated by January to enter campus – sooner for those involved in extracurricular activities. The city schools will have America’s most sweeping and aggressive safety measures in response to the pandemic.

The second-largest school system in the US is already testing all students and employees for infection every week, requiring masks indoors and ordering employees to get vaccinated. The highly contagious Delta variant has overcome the fears of all but the most extreme anti-vaxers.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife

Covid passport

Why does Nicola Sturgeon always have to complicate the most simplest of matters?

The introduction of a Covid passport (Scotsman, 10 September) as proof of having had the vaccine is typical of her incompetence. This, she says, is to encourage those who are reticent at taking the jab more likely to succumb to the needle.

The easier answer is to tell everyone that if you refuse to be vaccinated and then fall ill with the virus and need medical treatment you will be required to pay the NHS for that treatment. Simple and effective.

Stan Hogarth, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire

Missing principles

The Scottish Government has managed to force through an ill thought out and likely unenforceable Bill introducing vaccination “passports” with the support of the Scottish Greens.

If one needed another example of our politicians acting without principle here we have it. It was only in July that Patrick Harvie said of vaccination “passports” that “they would deepen discrimination against those who have not yet been vaccinated” and they “would deepen inequality”. Lorna Slater commented that she was not “over keen” on them.

Fast forward to September and the two Green co-leaders roll over and get their tummies tickled and are rewarded with two irrelevant junior ministerial roles at the behest of Nicola Sturgeon. It is little wonder that the public holds our politicians in such poor regard.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

No whining here

I’m glad Andrew HN Gray enjoyed his recent break in Cheshire (Letters, 8 September), but he should bear in mind that citizens always show their best, friendly, side to visitors, no matter where they live. They’re unlikely to jump out from behind their beautifully maintained hedgerows to moan about local issues.

All is not rosy in Cheshire East. Angry residents are holding a meeting next week to look at arranging a peaceful protest against the neglect of Middlewich by local councillors.

Their complaints include roads full of holes, due to the high volume of traffic, and too many large vehicles. No doubt visitors who stay in accommodation in rural areas are not exposed to these problems, but see only the beauty of the countryside.

I’m sure there’s a lot of whining going on behind closed doors. The kind of negative comments that tourists are not exposed to in any town or city. Who wants to show their city’s negative side to visitors?

Scots are well known for their friendliness towards visitors, so Mr Gray needn’t worry about the prospect of a horde of rampant Nationalists sweeping across the country, striking terror into the hearts of tourists seeking a welcome break in our much-admired country.

Carolyn Taylor, Dundee

Tidal energy

Steuart Campbell’s swipe at the supposed unreliability of tidal power (Letters, 9 September) makes no sense whatsoever.

Does he not understand that the turning of the tide is not only totally "reliable” but also very short-lived? As such, it’s predictability can be factored into energy-producing programmes with absolute certainty and minimal impact.

More to the point, he must surely realise that the tides and their diurnal turnings vary throughout the country, which in theory can provide a constant energy source on a nationwide basis.

No single "power station” in isolation can ever be expected to supply instant energy on tap and on demand at all times; instead, energy needs to be harvested when it is most available and stored for when it is most needed.

This is particularly true of nuclear power stations, which Steuart Campbell seems keen to promote, which cannot be turned on and off, or up and down, at the flick of a switch or the quick turn of a dial. To suggest that tidal energy is "doubly unreliable” because tides turn and do so at varying times is mischievous bunkum.

Andy Davey, Peebles, Scottish Borders

Poll questions

There have been two opinion polls published this week on independence. The first for Sky News ahead of the SNP conference gives the pro-independence movement 51 per cent support. The other by Scotland in Union gives those wanting to stay in the UK at 57 per cent.

The polls have obviously been conducted at more or less the same time, they have been asking about the same central question, but the difference is eight per cent, enough to win or lose a vote for either side.

The difference – and the only difference – is the actual question, with Yes/No or Remain/ Leave as the options.

The Electoral Commission said in 2016 before Brexit that Yes/ No gave too much advantage to the Yes side, and Remain/ Leave was more accurate and fairer. Here we see the perfect example of that in action. Any future independence referendum should not be conducted on the same basis as before.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross

No cunning plan

So, when Nicola Sturgeon makes her closing speech at the SNP conference, will the seemingly relentlessly patient party activists cheer her loudly when, as usual, she insists there'll be another separation referendum very soon and that independence is around the corner?

Or will they realise Sturgeon doesn't have a cunning plan? That she's a busted flush? That she's nowhere near delivering the SNP's primary objective, as per its constitution, of independence? Will the hardcore party faithful eventually grasp (as apparently Sturgeon did long ago, whatever she publicly proclaims) that Westminster is serious in insisting the SNP respects democracy and abides by the will of the people so clearly expressed in the “once in a generation” 2014 referendum?

Martin Redfern, Melrose, Scottish Borders

No opposition

There are very few if any similarities in the present Westminster parliament and the assembly at Holyrood. Certainly not in size or stature or importance.

But one similarity does stick out like a sore thumb. There is a despairing lack of any credible, united and coherent opposition in both places.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Satanic bishop

I enjoyed the delicious story of Spanish Bishop Xavier Novell who was told by the Pope to undergo an exorcism after he began a relationship with author of satanic-themed erotic fiction Silvia Caballol.

Having previously himself wallowed in exorcism and similar Catholic excesses such as so-called LGBT conversion therapy, Novell has resigned due no longer to being able to submit to his vows of celibacy.

Church colleagues told Spanish media that he had been possessed by demons, saying this was “not a problem of celibacy but rather of infestation”.

I’m going with the satanic possession explanation myself. The notion that someone would voluntarily quit the rigours of Catholicism simply for a regular lifestyle with a healthy sexuality seems way too far-fetched.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh

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