Think local epidemics, not pandemic – Letters

Expert was ignored on Covid-19, says a reader
Did the governments get it wrong on coronavirus? (Picture: Alamy)Did the governments get it wrong on coronavirus? (Picture: Alamy)
Did the governments get it wrong on coronavirus? (Picture: Alamy)

“Devi Sridhar posted: ‘If you’re wondering why more public health people didn’t speak out publicly in early March... fear of losing grant income is a key factor’ ” (Brian Wilson, Perspective, 4 July.) I would suggest it is more that they were simply not listened to by the powers that be. Take Allyson Pollock, Clinical Professor of Public Health and director of the Newcastle University Centre for Excellence in Regulatory Science. She argued from the start that Covid-19 should be seen as a series of local epidemics, not one single large pandemic, and that as such what was needed was the hands-on expertise of local authority public health officials – think Tracy Daszkiewicz, Wiltshire director of public health, who did so much to control fallout from the Salisbury poisonings.

Local public health officers are used to dealing with outbreaks of food poisonings, STDs, measles etc, and have the expertise and local knowledge to track down and minimise the spread of infections.

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Allyson Pollock took her message to a number of media outlets but was roundly ignored. Instead both Westminster and Holyrood chose to go down the centralised “we’re in control, set up a press conference” route with disastrous consequences.

The truth that this was a series of local epidemics was subsequently confirmed when scientists established that there had been more than 1,000 cases of the infection being brought into the UK and then spread far and wide. There had not been a single entry point from which it had mushroomed. Moreover, its local nature is confirmed by the current outbreak in Dumfries and Galloway, in contrast with Orkney, suggesting that if it had had proper testing capacity, lockdown there could have ended weeks ago.

Professor Sridhar has sounded like the only voice because others have been ignored. If you’re not one of the experts favoured by the Government it doesn’t matter how much you speak truth to power, you will not be heard except by little people like me.

Judith Gillespie, Findhorn Place, Edinburgh

I have a copy of a detailed street map of Edinburgh which was used by Dr Harvey Littlejohn and others in 1891 to help track and trace the source of typhoid outbreaks in the city. Each new case was plotted on the map, and proved invaluable in successfully tracing the sources of the outbreaks.

With the current Covid track and trace system, it appears postcode information is not necessarily recorded. If this is the case can someone please explain why? The successful systems used by medical professionals in Edinburgh and other cities more than 100 years ago seems to have been forgotten.

David Redpath, Grafton Court, Kelso

Visor advisory?

Keen to go along with the ‘instruction’ to wear face masks and social distance and help reboot the economy, I have been drawing up a list of places to which I might venture. Top of the definite No list are the premises that have decided face visors are good. A waiter or waitress handing over my pint or a hairdresser cutting my hair with such a visor is, to my mind, simply exhaling droplets carefully focused downwards onto my head or drink!

James Watson, Randolph Crescent, Dunbar, East Lothian

The Italian job

An acquaintance of mine has been stuck in Milan on business since early March due to the lockdown there, along with the quarantine travel restrictions imposed here, which are now thankfully lifted, for those in England at least.

The Italian government started the social side of easement of their lockdown on 3 June, with the resumption of opening of bars, cafés and restaurants. The similar opening of pubs et al in England on 4 July prompted me to have a look at the Covid-19 statistics for Italy during the month that they have had their premises opened up.

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Worldometers show that from 3 June until 4 July there has been a total of 8,000 new Covid-19 cases, more or less staying flat around an average of 260 cases per day. I was surprised that there was no sudden or apparent spike in cases around 18 June or any time thereafter, which is 14 days after their major relaxation date of 3 June.

From the perspective of my Milan friend, people have been using pubs etc, but most importantly, using common sense, as well by social distancing and following hygiene rules and masking up when visiting the rest room.

It certainly bodes well for the future if we can follow suit.

Archie Burleigh, Meigle, Skelmorlie, North Ayrshire

Border all this

By the time Nicola Sturgeon agrees to destinations which require no quarantine on return, the English people will have snapped up all the bargains. Also parents, having such a short window before children return to school, will find it difficult to negotiate time off work. What happened to treating the population “like adults”.

Elizabeth Hands, Armadale,West Lothian

Let us pray

It is good to learn that churches may now open for private prayer, but any ongoing ban on collective worship clearly constitutes state interference in matters spiritual. The government has a plain duty to maintain public health and so may forbid close physical contact, solo or collective singing, and risky forms of speech. It has no futher right to prohibit collective prayer and praise, provided social distancing is observed. Public worship may be conducted without close contact, or even in silence, as is the custom of Society of Friends.

John Coutts, Ladysneuk Road, Stirling

Ignore idiots

I disagree with Brian Monteith when he asks what has become of Scotland when racists gather at the border with England (Perspective, 6 July). Those gathered by the roadside shouting abuse at motorists are not doing so because of the colour of their skin. They are doing this because of where they are coming from. If they met them in the streets, they would be shouting abuse because of the accents they have. This is not racial hatred. This is nationalist hatred, and if we are to call it out at all, we need to call it out for what it is and make the distinction between the two.

I say “if we call it out”, because by far the best way to deal with idiots like this is to completely ignore them, and not give them any publicity at all. Everyone who sees this as the big news story of the day is simply giving them encouragement, and we know that this will only lead to further episodes in the future.

In these strange times in which we live, the prospect of English people bringing a deadly virus here is the kind of scenario that many Scottish nationalists dream of, and that is what we are seeing here. It is our centuries-old hatred that is coming to the surface. The question is, do we encourage it and cultivate it or do we ignore or ridicule such people? It does not help that Scottish Government advisers suggest naively that the border can be closed, or that anyone who disagrees with the government here is ‘anti- Scottish’. That is giving people all the encouragement they need.

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As long as they are not obstructing the traffic or causing a danger to anyone, just ignore them, whatever the temptation to do otherwise.

Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Strangely silent

On Saturday Scottish independence supporters clad in hazmat suits brandishing an SNP banner staged a protest at the border with England near Berwick. Their express intention was to deter vehicles from entering Scotland. Drivers were verbally abused and their registration plates recorded.

Although not widely reported in the mainstream media, this protest was shared on social media, where leading SNP figures such as Humza Yousaf, Paul Wheelhouse, Pete Wishart and Joanne Cherry condemned it as racist and wholly unacceptable. One SNP MP, Angus MacNeil, endorsed it.

Despite numerous invitations, the First Minister remained resolutely silent about the Berwick protest. This was all the more surprising since she takes to Twitter to comment on everything under the sun if it gives her an opportunity to badmouth unionists, Tories or the UK government. Indeed, Nicola Sturgeon did manage to find the time on Saturday evening to tweet about a walk she took and a film she watched.

The reason for the First Minister’s silence is that she needs to keep the radical wing of the independence movement on board because they are useful to the cause. The protestors will not be alone in reading her silence as an endorsement of their racist and potentially violent tactics.

Nicola Sturgeon politicised the issue of Covid and the border with England with her dog-whistling remarks which led directly to Saturday’s ugly and destructive scenes in Berwick. Her refusal to condemn them immediately means they won’t be the last or the worst.

Linda Holt, (Independent councillor for East Neuk & Landward), Pittenweem, Anstruther

Maldives are safe

Carolyn Taylor accuses Clark Cross of being selective in his choice of past climate predictions (Letters 6 July).

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The warning in 1988 that the Maldives would sink into the ocean never materialised into reality so as she said, in 2018 the former president of the Maldives appealed to the world to keep global warming under control.

What Ms Taylor is being selective about was that the plea was also for the west to provide lots and lots of money. Ms Taylor may like to ask why, if the Maldives are sinking, it is building yet more aircraft runways and yet more hotels to accommodate yet more tourists.

Ms Taylor repeated the mantra that extreme weather events are still growing. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has, once again, stated that there is little basis for claiming that drought, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes have increased, much less increased due to greenhouse gases.

Sally Mannison, Ladhope Drive, Galashiels

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