THE fast-moving pace of the Covid-19 pandemic is being matched only by the speed of my crumbling confidence in the UK Government, but even more regrettably the Scottish Government, to manage this crisis in the best interest of all of the population.

On Thursday, when Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to restrict large gatherings, she spoke with authority about the challenges we would be facing. I felt reassured that we were as safe as possible in the Scottish Government’s hands. However, a few short days on and that feeling has dissipated.

Vague platitudes like remain calm and we are not going to ask over-70s to “self isolate” – just “reduce social contact”, which basically amounts to the same – are unhelpful.

READ MORE: Routine coronavirus tests to stop in Scotland, says Calderwood

The agreement to stick with the Johnson “novel” strategy of “let’s allow the infection to seed throughout the population over the next few weeks or so and then isolate and hope that it spreads at an acceptable rate that our weakened NHS can cope with and we develop herd immunity – and PS old folk get out of the way” is demoralising. Especially given the widespread scepticism of the rest of the world’s scientific community as to its success.

The fact that the NHS helpline is already struggling with only 13,000 calls, when call rates are only likely to increase, is dismaying, because call numbers like that seem entirely predictable.

READ MORE: Scotland does NOT plan to ask over-70s to self-isolate

While appreciating that there are some levers of control not available to the Scottish Government, this is make or break time.

Every government around the world will be judged by their electorate on the basis of their competence in response to this pandemic. The Scottish Government is no different, whether it is restrained by Westminster or not.

This is the time for clearly explained, pre-emptive, decisive action. It is surely the function of government to protect its population, not experiment on them. Johnson cannot deliver. Can Nicola?

Iona Easton

YESTERDAY morning I watched the performances by the two health secretaries, for Scotland and England, talking about the measures taken to handle the pandemic, and the difference between the two could not be more stark.

The first one was Matt Hancock on The Andrew Marr Show, who looked completely at sea when asked any challenging questions. The UK Government seem to be having covert meetings, picking and choosing which media to use and doing briefings overnight. They are still prevaricating about when they are going to ban mass gatherings in England. He is even thinking of asking ex-car manufacturers in the Midlands to build ventilators for ICUs as they haven’t got enough, and to commandeer empty hotels to be used as makeshift hospitals!

Then we have Jeane Freeman on Politics Scotland being interviewed by Gordon Brewer. She said Nicola Sturgeon could not wait any longer to see if England was going to have a ban on mass gatherings, so took it upon herself to impose the bans here. Jeane Freeman was honest, transparent and imparted the correct information on the pandemic so far. She also knew exactly what resources are available to her, including the number of intensive care beds.

We are indeed lucky in Scotland that we have an excellent leader and a very good health secretary who is doing an admirable job in very difficult circumstances.

Susan Rowberry

CORONAVIRUS: is it time to panic yet? As a teenage trainee press photographer in the 1960s, one of the first stories I helped cover was the typhoid epidemic in Aberdeen. At the earliest stages of the outbreak the source of the infection – a large tin of Fray Bentos corn beef – was unknown while daily the numbers of those affected grew.

500 people out of a population of 110,000 were infected and quarantined, with three deaths. Doubts were expressed as to the wisdom of any public gatherings, and pubs, clubs, cinemas and football matches were avoided. At a time when medicine was less sophisticated than it is now – it would be another 36 years before Aberdeen University would invent the MRI scanner – there was a real danger that the infection would escalate out of control.

Outside of Aberdeen there was mass panic stoked by lurid and inaccurate headlines of people allegedly dying in the streets. Aberdonians booking hotels outside of the city pretended they were from Fraserburgh or Peterhead.

In Aberdeen there was no panic or hysteria. The twice-daily briefings by the charismatic Dr Ian MacQueen, Medical Officer of Health for Aberdeen, gave reassurance and support as numbers rose. Eventually the city was given the all-clear, endorsed by a visit to the city by the Queen.

Typhoid is a bacteria, and unlike the coronavirus cannot be passed on through the respiratory system. However, tracking down the carriers before they infected others ultimately won the day. There will be a day when the coronavirus infections are over, at what cost we can only guess at. 10,000 suspected virus carriers suggested by the government is a nonsense – add at least another nought, if not two.

Mike Herd

VERY pleasing at this time of the year – with all the high winds and rain and more rain, through the turmoil of Brexit and now the worry of “the virus” – a wee ditty to make me laugh and put that smile back on my face. Opening the paper to read that Piers Morgan is hugely annoyed, knickers in a twist (tantrum-like) at turning on the TV to see our First Minister speaking on the coronavirus and the way forward for the country she represents. She spoke more sense in two sentences than the dithering PM did in the pantomime that followed (what’s new?).

Ken McCartney
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