UK government fudging picture on Covid-19

Jenny Harries (Picture: Getty Images)Jenny Harries (Picture: Getty Images)
Jenny Harries (Picture: Getty Images)
When Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for ­England, stated at the UK ­government’s coronavirus briefing on Sunday that ­“different countries may be experiencing slightly different rates” (of deaths due to ­Covid-19) she was guilty of grossly misrepresenting ­comparative UK death rates.

The only ‘international chart’ exhibited at this briefing was seemingly a crude attempt to hide numbers of UK deaths in ‘hospitals only’ among numbers for ­countries in Europe which sustained the earliest impact of the ­pandemic, Italy, Spain and France (which includes deaths in the ­community, such as those in care homes, in its figures).

There are many countries around the world, from our near neighbours Ireland, ­Norway and Denmark, to Poland and Greece, as well as ­Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand, that appear to have much ­lower Covid-19-related death rates than the UK.

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If Dr Harries and the UK Government were truly being transparent on a fundamental aspect of the current health catastrophe, this chart would include a clearly visible best estimate of all deaths where Covid-19 was the cause, or ­suspected to be a factor, so that the general public could ­better assess for themselves the UK figures in comparison with other countries.

Across Europe the estimates of deaths in care homes appear to range from 25-75 per cent. While such estimates may not be directly comparable from country to country, a resultant calculation that total deaths in the UK may be around 50 per cent higher than the numbers of deaths in hospitals only, does not appear unrealistic.

This would increase estimated total deaths to last Sunday in the UK to more than 24,000, already beyond what the Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, Patrick ­Vallance, reckoned would be a “good” outcome near the start of the pandemic. When Dr Harries also declared on Sunday that the UK was an “international exemplar in preparedness” for a pandemic, one must start to question the professional objectivity, if not the political independence, of ‘expert advice’ provided, and on which, at this time, many lives across the UK depend.

Stan Grodynski

Gosford Road, Longniddry

Sew simple idea?

It is a sad state of affairs that our dedicated nurses, doctors and carers are desperately short of PPE while we wait for consignments from Turkey.

Why can sewing and alterations shops that are closed in Britain due to the lockdown not start sewing gowns and the government pay them a rate for doing so?

That would provide an income for struggling businesses and PPE quickly.

Gordon Kennedy

Simpson Square, Perth

Sense needed

The management of coronavirus consists of scientific advice and government decision-making. These are valued and respected. However, this could be broadened by the introduction of common sense.

Common sense reflects a broad consensus on what is right and good in any circumstance but it also has an intellectual history in Scotland. Thomas Reid (1710-1796) was a Church of Scotland minister and academic. He is the founder of the Scottish School of Common Sense. Reid succeeded Adam Smith as Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University. He sought to counter the extreme scepticism of David Hume and others.

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His argument, simply put, was that common sense beliefs govern our lives and thoughts. Applying common sense to the lockdown results in questions.

Why are parks and gardens in cities and towns not yet open? Why are individuals not allowed to sit and read in parks or sunbathe while respecting the two-metre distance rule? Why is some commerce, manufacturing and construction not allowed while managing self-distancing rules? Why were the schools shut? Why were young people deprived of their life-affirming examinations? Was this a political failure of nerve showing the weakness of government? It has led to an increase in stress, physical and mental health issues and spousal abuse. Why was IVF treatment ­cruelly stopped?

There were 12,212 abortions in Scotland in 2017. Around 1,000 people have died of coronavirus in Scotland as of 20 April. Yet the country has ground to a halt, the population is under house arrest, the economy has been trashed and people are being impoverished. The reasons given are understandable but they require the balance of ­common sense.

(Rev) Dr Robert Anderson

Old Auchans View, Dundonald

Better than Boris

Contrary to Brian Monteith’s view (Perspective, 20 April), Scotland would have fared much better if ­Nicola ­Sturgeon had diverged to a greater extent from Boris Johnson’s inertia.

Johnson skipped five important Cobra meetings and, thanks to its anti-EU ideology, the UK government missed eight Covid-19 conference calls or meetings between EU heads of state or health ministers between February to March.

Initially the UK government strategy was to put the ­economy first, whereby the elderly were deemed dispensable through its herd immunity proposals. There is still no testing at airports, whereas Denmark closed its borders to foreign travellers on 14 March, which gives a lie to claims that countries are not independent in Europe.

Scotland’s much better performing NHS was more equipped to deal with the pandemic as England’s health service was going down a ­privatisation route. Scotland has better PPE provision as we have had central procurement and delivery for years, whereas in England the norm was competing local trusts ­procuring separately, so they had to set up a new system.

The level of UK deaths compared to Ireland, Denmark or Norway, where more decisive action was taken, is no advert for the UK’s broad shoulders.

Mary Thomas

Watson Crescent, Edinburgh

Work together

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I can see that Nicola Sturgeon’s latest game is to pretend she is independently going to ease or end the lockdown, regardless of Westminster. Trouble is, if she ends or eases it first, that will look like being at odds with science and medicine. At best, she’d be saying Holyrood medics are better than ­Westminster medics.

If,on the other hand, she lags behind Westminster with her lockdown, the prospective Scottish unemployed and business leaders will brand her a clueless virtue signaller, indifferent to economic catastrophe. Better, methinks, to co-ordinate with Westminster. Better, also, to have one health service in the UK, not three.

Crawford Mackie

Keith Row, Edinburgh

Slow down

Given Covid-19, it is utter ­madness driven by misplaced ideology that sees the UK Government pushing blindly towards ending the Brexit transition period at the end of this year.

The impact on the Scottish economy of Covid-19 will be devastating, and combined with the growing likelihood of a no-deal, or at best a hard Brexit deal, this course of action seems utterly nonsensical and highly irresponsible.

Under the terms of the ­Withdrawal Agreement, the transition period may be extended by mutual agreement, by up to two years, if the UK requests an extension before 30 June this year. All attention should be focused on dealing with the pandemic and an extension sought, ­protecting jobs, wellbeing and the economy.

Alex Orr

Marchmont Road, Edinburgh

New ways to pay

Given the pressure on ­public finances that will follow the current crisis, we need to be thinking of different ways of getting additional funding to the NHS. Let’s collectively agree that the NHS will always be free at the point of service for all, but maybe it’s time to dispense with the politics of how additional non-state funding should be viewed.

There are many people out there, I believe, who can afford it, and who would gladly make voluntary contributions, say £10 for a GP appointment, with perhaps simple guidelines for other treatments. These amounts could be paid by card from home, allowing for privacy of payment, avoiding the need for cash transactions, and potentially allocating amounts to di