THE number of patients with coronavirus, as reported by the health boards in Scotland, has been showing a worrying trend recently. What makes it worse is that, for various reasons, figures for new cases lag several days behind the actual number of people being admitted to hospital or being infectious without symptoms, and we can expect further bad news in the next few days.

Last weekend’s picture shows a worsening in all health board areas, whereas more recently some boards have reported no increase or small increases and the worst-affected areas have tended to be located in the Central Belt with a few outliers.

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The overall good news is hard to find, but there is some in the detail. The number of deaths has fallen and care homes are much safer, both indicating a real improvement. Schools, colleges and universities are opening, an improvement yet to be evaluated. Working from home has been reported as welcome and successful.

There is evidence that air, at least at street level, is less polluted, despite no obvious improvement in the upper atmosphere. Parents are walking to school with their children, leaving the car at home. This is an added lever to support the desire for working from home and is a health benefit for child and parent alike. I am also regarding it as good news that the “scientists” are beginning to sound clearer and louder warnings. Last but not least is the reporting that the elderly and others with a healthy respect for this virus are still taking care and showing concern for the cavalier attitude shown by many in the younger age groups who feature so much in the news.

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There is of course the iceberg, ie the people already infected by the virus but not showing symptoms or signs – eg test results – of infection yet are nonetheless infectious. An unknown (and perhaps never knowable) number of people are infected but with symptoms too mild to report and who (in some cases taking a significant time to recover completely) will provide a reservoir for the next wave of the pandemic.

Approaching winter brings another risk for those with a sub-clinical infection and perhaps just coping by their own immunity. A common cold or the 2020 winter flu may provide the virus with a more vulnerable host. More time keeping warm indoors will add to everyone’s risk, especially the elderly, families, those with other difficulties, nurses, doctors and students in residential accommodation.

How will we know when the first wave can be described as “over” and we are at the beginning of the second? Will it turn out to be a seamless transition? Perhaps the epidemiologists have a definition, but it does not really matter. A return to where we were a few months ago is an unbearable prospect after what has already been suffered and what we have done as responsible citizens.

Many of the decisions taken to combat this pandemic have been taken too late or have led to a too early relaxation of the constraints on our freedom. The Scottish Government’s cautious approach, even now, to restrictions may yet prove to be insufficient to avert a second wave.

Call me Cassandra, but don’t kill the messenger.

Robert Mac Lachlan

THROUGH the long months since March, living under the threat of virus infection, a welcome constant for my family and myself, as for many others, has been the daily BBC health broadcasts by the Scottish Government and their excellent health advisers. These newscasts have been articulate and informative, whilst eschewing controversial politics. They have been especially valuable to older citizens and others such as the deaf and those without internet access.

The management of the epidemic to minimise infections and deaths has been about influencing human behaviour through communication, and the standard bearer for this has been the daily BBC broadcasts, which have been a key tool used by the government in the ongoing health campaign.

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We are now at a difficult stage in the campaign as easing of the lockdown rules has led to a new rapid growth in the infection rate. It is essential on a day-to-day basis that the population has direct access to changing rules, and to a comprehension of the underlying factors, and hence the daily BBC broadcasts are, if anything, more important now than for some time. These are perilous times and we are astonished at the decision, to remove the broadcasts. No adequate reason for this has been provided, and this could quickly become a PR disaster for the BBC.

It has been alleged that the BBC have given in to political pressure, but I am sure that this cannot be true. Our public broadcaster cannot have decided that politics is more important than public health. This egregious decision must be reversed. And the BBC should understand that admitting to a mistake is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Professor Alan Murdoch

DOUGLAS Ross is economical with the truth. He stated that no Tory MP has voted to lower standards for food – true – but they all voted against PROTECTING standards.

In the Commons on Monday he stated that “jobs and businesses have not been mentioned once” by the SNP. I don’t know where he was two hours earlier, when Ian Blackford spoke at length about businesses in Scotland.

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Drew Hendry also spoke about businesses – he represented the views of the National Farmers Union, the Trade Union Congress and the Scottish Council for Development.

So here we are again. All six Scottish Tories voted with the government to allow them to break the law – “only small clarifications”, says Ross, but Head of Legal in the UK resigns, all living ex-Prime Ministers are against it and worldwide the UK reputation for the rule of law is trashed.

Boris called his deal “oven ready”, the Tories stood on it in the General Election and yet now we find it is nothing more than a burnt offering.

Winifred McCartney