MINISTERS in Edinburgh should have demanded the UK Government closed Scotland’s national and international borders after World Health Organisation warnings about the coronavirus pandemic, two leading health experts have said.

In a critical essay Professor Allyson Pollock and Dr Louisa Harding-Edgar say it was among the measures which should have been implemented to stop the spread of the virus.

“When the epidemic was spreading too fast in some areas in Britain for contact tracing capacity, then the next step should have been to keep disease out of areas which had no cases and to stop all mass gatherings,” they say in an article in the Scottish Left Review, also found on the Scottish Centre of European Relations website.

“The Scottish Government could have imposed a cordon sanitaire combined with social distancing around those parts of the country that had no cases, including the Western Isles and Orkney and parts of the Highlands.”

They add: “It is incomprehensible Scotland did not argue for introducing travel restrictions internationally and nationally.”

Overall the duo take issue with both the UK and Scottish governments over what they believe was the slowness in the responses.

They say the Scottish Government should have continued with the strategy – recommended by the WHO – to test, trace and isolate people infected with the virus, rather than agreeing with a UK Government decision to stop.

“There is no doubt the Westminster Government’s delay in implementing public health measures to prevent Covid-19 has cost thousands of lives and enormous hardship for the many millions of people plunged into unemployment and debt,” they say.

“Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the British Covid crisis is the Scottish Government has allowed its strategy and the operations to be directed by Westminster, which has taken a London-centric approach to the epidemic and with respect to the lockdown.”

Pollock, co-director of Newcastle University’s Centre for Regulatory Science, and Harding-Edgar, a GP and academic fellow at Glasgow University, add: “Why did Scotland, where cases were far less numerous than in England, agree to the Cobra decision on March 12 to abandon contact tracing?”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has sought to inform the public with the best scientific advice possible, but the science will never be exact and we are in uncharted territory so we also need to make careful judgements and be prepared to adapt and change course as we go.”