IN the global coronavirus pandemic, thank goodness for leaders like Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern to show the way, in contrast to the daft and dangerous like Presidents Trump and Bolsanaro. While the heads of government in Scotland, Germany and New Zealand are clearly doing their best to listen to the experts, balance competing demands, apply good judgement and have a grown-up conversation with the public, unfortunately the United States and Brazil’s leaders are in a parallel universe. With decision-makers literally making life and death choices, the contrast is stark between the empathetic, informed and rational, and the weird, wacky and reckless.

This week we reached an important point in the global campaign against Covid-19, with the first signs of what might come next after the first stage of lockdown and social distancing. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon published a plan for the way forward, which has already been downloaded more than a quarter of a million times. Based on four key values of “kindness, compassion, openness and transparency”, the First Minister said that said she wants to “treat people like grown-ups” and be “frank with you every step of the way”.

Support for her came from surprising sources. Former Tory chancellor George Osborne tweeted: “Sturgeon’s approach is right: an open discussion about the hard trade-offs we face living with the virus for the foreseeable future. UK ministers refusing to discuss the lockdown in public while briefing ideas to ease it in private can’t last. Time to treat the public like adults.”

Writing in the New Statesman, Chris Deerin said that the Scottish Government publication is “a remarkable document, and I recommend reading it in full. Its clarity, transparency and humanity are of a piece with how Nicola Sturgeon and her expert advisers such as national clinical director Jason Leitch have approached this pandemic, and suggest an unexpectedly beneficial consequence of these difficult times: a resetting of the relationship between the elected and their electors, between the governors and the governed, to something more like equivalence. This is something Cabinet ministers in Westminster could learn from”.

In Germany, Angela Merkel addressed the Bundestag remotely this week saying that coronavirus is “the biggest challenge since World War Two, for the life and health of our people”. The chancellor told parliamentarians and the public that “we’ll have to live with this virus for a long time”. Merkel, who is a scientist by profession, was widely praised for her recent frank and easily understandable explanation of the virus transmission rate and its impact on public health.

The National: Angela Merkel

READ MORE: The First Minister has completely outshone the Tories during this crisis

New Zealand is seen by many as having combatted Covid-19 most effectively in the world.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “We have done what very few countries have been able to do. We have stopped a wave of devastation. Our transmission rate, the number of cases each person with the virus passes it onto, is now 0.48, less than half a person each. Overseas the average is 2.5 people. We have amongst the lowest number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the world.”

What Sturgeon, Merkel and Ardern have been able to do is communicate empathetically with the public and also be frank about the scale and complexity of the challenge. This stands in stark contrast to the increasingly bizarre, erratic and dangerous leadership coming from the White House. This week President Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant might be a cure, as might ultraviolet light. Scientists and manufacturers of cleaning products have subsequently warned publicly never to inject or ingest disinfectant. Earlier he encouraged demonstrations in the US against the lockdown, promoting an agenda risking a second spike of viral infections and deaths, which have already reached more than 50,000 in the United States.

In Brazil, the Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro attended an anti-lockdown demonstration this week in a country which has the highest number of confirmed cases in Latin America. Last week, the Brazilian president sacked his health minister who backed the lockdown measures. Bolsanaro believes that the economic damage from the lockdown outweighs the need for strict public health rules. With more than 13 million people living in densely packed favelas, it is impossible for many to follow social-distancing rules or isolate themselves if they have Covid-19 symptoms.

With leaders from two of the world’s largest countries ignoring scientific advice, common sense and international best practice, even more responsibility falls on other decision-makers to show how to deal properly with the pandemic.

Thank goodness that in Nicola Sturgeon, Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern and others, there are leaders who are doing everything they can to find the best way through the coronavirus challenge. We should wish them well.