FOR those looking for an antidote to any trace of Scottish exceptionalism, then dial up the World Health Organisation (WHO) Covid-19 subnational infection map.

This week seven out of the top 10 European areas are in Scotland. True Scotland submits its information by health board area, while Wales and Northern Ireland for example submit by one table for the whole health service. However, the grim reading is inarguable. Scotland is Europe’s Covid capital and this is not on the basis of some deranged Daily Express headline. These are the WHO statistics.

The source of this disaster lies in two fatal errors by the Scottish Government and its omnipresent team of medical advisers – or Jason Leitch as he is sometimes called. Of these two blunders one was a decision and the other a non-decision.

The first was to open up the “night-time economy” to a largely unvaccinated section of the population. Exposing young adults to the virtually perfect night club conditions for cross-infection of a dangerous contagion was foolish, irresponsible and deadly. In terms of incompetence it was on a scale with the beginnings of the pandemic when one week the public were being assured that it was OK to attend a concert, and the very next week we were in lock down.

READ MORE: Contact tracers in Scots capital paid thousands less than those elsewhere

The time for considering vaccination certificates was before restrictions were lifted, not one month afterwards. Meekly following Boris Johnson’s lead into “Freedom Day” is proving expensive in terms of human suffering.

The second deadly sin was allowing secondary schools to re-open with no plan at all for vaccination. It is patently obvious that ministers are itching to offer vaccinations to teenagers but have been in thrall to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

This advice when it eventually came was a classic committee cop out: “The assessment by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is that the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms. However, the margin of benefit is considered too small to support universal vaccination of healthy 12 to 15-year-olds at this time.

It is not within the JCVI’s remit to consider the wider societal impacts of vaccination, including educational benefits. The Government may wish to seek further views on the wider societal and educational impacts from the chief medical officers of the four UK nations”.

Either these vaccines are safe or unsafe. Many health authorities across the world have already sanctioned their use for teenage schoolchildren. The truth is that the JCVI is both completely unsuited to responding to a crisis and are sitting firmly on the fence to protect their own backs.

In addition, they did not even have the courtesy to fence-sit in time for the Scottish schools returning. Our country has thus for the last few weeks provided a testing ground for the impact of schools on community infection. One glance at the soaraway Scottish figures explains the English Health Secretary’s enthusiasm to proceed with a vaccination programme in their secondary schools. Even in educational terms, the attempt to introduce “normality” for schoolchildren has been a failure. School after school and class after class have been disrupted by the spread of infection.

What is now to be done?

Firstly, we have put all eggs in the basket of vaccination. So we must complete it. The information flowing out of the medical studies is clear enough. The elderly need to have a booster jag, secondary school kids should be offered vaccination and the drive to persuade young adults to save themselves needs to consist of more than vaccination passports.

Secondly, sort out the basic requirements of test and protect. I know from a friend’s personal experience that it was virtually impossible to be PCR tested in Glasgow two weeks ago. We are now 18 months into the pandemic – more than enough time to sort out the basics of public health disease control.

​READ MORE: NHS is facing the worst crisis in its history, Humza Yousaf warns

Finally, stop treating the public for fools. It is patently obvious that the infection is out of control. Stop pretending that the link between Covid and serious illness has been broken. It hasn’t. What has happened is that the vaccinated are much less likely to end up in hospital with Covid, perhaps only 10% as likely. However if we end up with ten times as many cases then we end with the same number of hospital patients.

And then there is long Covid, with upwards of 50,000 cases already identified in Scotland. In economic terms, this long-term debilitation of a substantial section of the workforce could be even more damaging that the initial acute infection/illness

Thus Covid, like the poor, may well be ever with us.