We did not start from a point of complete ignorance in March 2020. We did Pandemic planning already and diagnosis, testing, isolation, remote consulting and PPE use are all listed in our Practice Pandemic Plan, last updated after Swine Flu. Untested transfers to Care Homes were challenged because isolation in a building with confused, wandering clients would be impossible. PPE stocks had dwindled in what turned out to be a very expensive cost saving when prices soared.
We had the lessons from other countries but ignored them. Deaths in Italy mirrored ours, just two weeks earlier, yet we dithered over the immediate and drastic measures a pandemic needs. South Korea highlighted loss of smell as a unique symptom yet we took another eight weeks to accept that, or that a face covering could limit spread, something which your granny recognised when you had a cold.
We somehow did not realise that asymptomatic transmission was a feature yet every infection relies on that to survive and spread before detection. The WHO said “test, test,test” but we took three months to increase capacity, so Covid became one of the few infectious diseases for which we did not know who or how many people were infected. Those who highlighted these issues are now told they are wise with the benefit of hindsight. There shall be lessons to learn, though the cynic may say it is pointless, as with 100 years to the next pandemic they will simply be forgotten.
(Dr) John Locke, Kirkcudbright
Another round of "Wha's Like Us" backslapping from Leah Gunn Barrett supported by statistics drawn out of the ether (Letters, 14 October). According to her, Scotland has the lowest rate of infection in the UK. The last official figures published in September showed that in Scotland, one in 45 people was infected. In England, one in 80; in Wales, one in 60; in Northern Ireland, one in 75. Concerning death rates, how many times does she have to be reminded that per capita statistics are meaningless unless you factor in population density?
As for her theory about how much better we are being looked after here, I'd be interested to hear her take on recent revelations of Nicola Sturgeon's cover-up of the Nike Conference affair. A cover-up that apparently went against the advice of her Chief Medical Officer and her own Health Minister. Not to mention her denial to Parliament that a cover-up had taken place.
D Mason, Penicuik, Midlothian
Could I appeal to Nicola Sturgeon to reconsider her decision to not progress with the UK freeport model?
As a Northeast businessman, and provider of employment opportunities for local people, I find this decision very hard to understand in the present economic climate. Instead of collaboration for the benefit of all, we have the same old response of refusing to cooperate for the desires of a few. Putting politics, and ambition for independence, over against the well-being of our economy and employment benefits of the people seems to be the hallmark of our present government.
When will this change?
G Whitbourn, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire
According to a Scotsman article yesterday, just five minutes of Covid-related reading on social media will induce glumness. But do not despair, try a dose of Joyce McMillan first. After sampling five minutes of her weekly doom and gloom, even reading your own obituary would be cheerful.
Andrew Kemp, Rosyth
The joy of anger
The foisting of face-to-face interviews on chronically overworked doctors is a sign that Trumpian narcissism rules in the Tory party. Surgeries who refuse to give patients the face-to-face deal will be named and shamed. Many medics will quit because they are still burnt out by the pandemic as overnight they will be transformed from heroes (deserving of a regular polite clap) to villains. Result: a worsening situation for doctors and patients. A few millions spread thin to cost the change will help the Health Secretary play Pontius Pilate (my hands are washed). Now big government deserves no blame (not for incompetent pandemic management and not for the loss of EU medics caused by Brexit).
This is what happens when the press helps a political party to activate its base by using angry utterances. As every cognitive therapist and brain scientist knows, people can be led to use emotional reasoning in place of intelligent reasoning by propagandising. Anger is a fatal flaw once triggered. It is enjoyable, it prevents real reflection, it delimits the capacity for balanced thinking. Just as Romans enjoyed seeing gladiators dodging tigers, so bread and circuses can be revived by right wingers in search of cheap shots instead of real policies.
Labour has to develop a narrative which mobilises decent people against this. It must not focus all its energy on restoring a version of Blairism. Sadly, its failures to develop a narrative have time and again let the present Tories off the hook.
Andrew Vass, Edinburgh
Boris Johnstone's claim at the Tory Party conference that his government had got Brexit done seems somewhat at odds with the fact that Lord Frost is trying to re-negotiate the terms of a deal only months after an agreement was reached and signed by him. Perhaps he was revelling in the success of stopping immigration from Europe – which has caused monumental disruption to the farming, retail, distribution and care industries and is now affecting the ports and abattoirs just in time for Christmas.
It is surprising that an oven-ready deal needs altering and it must make other governments wary that as soon as the UK has done a deal they wish to change its terms. Six years of negotiation has seen 68 deals done, which would be impressive if 63 of them were not exactly the same as the previous EU terms.
Alastair Hunt, Longniddry, East Lothian
I nearly choked on my porridge yesterday morning as I read Gill Turner's “alternative take” on the SNP's catastrophes at Ferguson Marine and Prestwick Airport (Scotsman Letters). I am astonished that even Ms Turner could overlook all the facts and come up with such a fairy story. Maybe she should listen to Jim McColl, Scotland's leading entrepreneur and rescuer of the Ferguson Marine yard before the SNP nationalised it, when he described the SNP government's record as follows: “Everything they touch is a mess.”
I think I know who I believe.
Jim Houston, Edinburgh
I have recently received two reminders from Safer Scotland that I, and all other households in Scotland, are required to fit new state-of-the-art interlinked smoke and heat alarms before February 2002.
I consider it a gross impertinence of the Holyrood assembly to require me, a pensioner, at my own expense to install this equipment in the house that I own. The likely cost of this is going to be around £300. No distinction seems to be made concerning house size. I live in a small bungalow that is already fitted with an effective alarm. Why on earth do I need to now discard that and fit an “interlinked alarm system” in my house?
I am refusing to do so until such time as a Government jobsworth informs me as to why I need such a system in a house of 80 sq m.
Yet another example of the SNP obsession with centralisation and bureaucracy.
Derek Farmer, Anstruther
Taking a stand
If only there were more MSPs like John Mason willing to take a stand against abortion and attend pro-life vigils (your report, 14 October). The brutal and horrific act of abortion is the greatest crime against humanity in our so-called enlightened age and more politicians should take a stand. We say it is good to be anti-slavery; it is good to be anti-racism; and it is good to be anti-trafficking. I would add that it is also good to be anti-abortion.
The Back Off Scotland campaign continues to push the false narrative that pro-life vigils harass and intimidate vulnerable women. However, FOI requests to Police Scotland and various NHS boards have shown that there has never been one single case of harassment or intimidation reported. Back Off Scotland has also never produced any evidence of their claims.
Abortion is not healthcare. It doesn't make a baby healthier and it doesn't make a woman healthier. It just kills. Our society should offer compassion, love, and advocacy to women and their unborn children – not encourage abortion.
Martin Conroy, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire
Refugee immigration is a very contentious subject in the UK and we see large numbers of people from the Middle East travelling through half a dozen European countries, risking their lives crossing the Channel, and paying considerable sums of money to people smugglers, in order to gain entry to this country.
Can someone explain why they don't go the relatively short distance to nearby fellow Muslim Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar, which are very rich and largely empty? I thought that UN guidance stated that refugees should escape to the nearest safe peaceful country.
Bill McKenzie, Penicuik
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