By Guy Stenhouse

Is it only me who thinks we have succumbed to collective hysteria about Covid-19?

We will all die at some point, it is frequently unpleasant and always sad. Covid-19 is clearly a virus which can be lethal especially to those who are elderly, have other health problems or are well overweight. In this respect it is no different to many other diseases, cancer and diabetes being obvious examples.

The UK Office for National Statistics provided some data last week (England and Wales only) which shows the significant number of deaths of those at older ages with Covid-19. What is, however, remarkable about their statistics is how low the absolute numbers of Covid-19 deaths are at younger ages. Of those aged between 15 and 44 less than 500 people had died . In the 20 years between the ages of 45 and 64, roughly 3,000 people had died - on average 150 per year group and in the 10 years between 65 and 74 roughly 5,000 had died - on average 500 per year group. In Scotland the data is presented slightly differently but in the 17 weeks up to 26 April for those aged between 15 and 44 the number of deaths was 17.

The data in both these analyses is up to late April and the figures will have changed but the message is clear - and it is not the one we are getting from the UK or Scottish Governments. The actual picture is that if you are aged less than about 50 something and are in decent health, reasonably fit and a normal weight Covid-19 has not proved to be a particularly lethal disease at all.

For comparison , in Scotland in 2018 784 suicides were registered and sadly the great majority of those who died were under 50.

We visit the cake shop, we continue to smoke, we love alcohol and have a worrying interest in drugs. The effects of these increase as we age but for those who died between the ages of 15 and 45, the 3 biggest avoidable risk factors were drug and alcohol abuse, bad diet and obesity.

For the younger part of our population the emergency is not Covid-19 but other factors. For this group we would achieve far more in terms of the number of years of healthy life they live if we concentrated effort and cash on their real killers and let them get on with life as far as Covid-19 is concerned. The same is not true of older age groups and of course there will be tragic individual cases but so there are for cancer. Whipped on by the media we are making illogical choices for the health of a large section of the population.

Nicola Sturgeon tells us that she is giving us the tough news that we will broadly have to stay in lockdown for a lengthy period. This is not true, what she is saying is that there is something nasty outside and we should all stay at home and watch TV while the Government pays our wages. Stay inside and we will look after you - that’s not a tough message.

The tough message we should be told by our politicians, who are supposed to be leaders as well as managers, is both difficult and very different. What they need to say is that Covid-19 is a nasty disease but one which is much less bad for younger healthy people than a lot of other risks and things we do.

They need to tell us that we must look after genuinely vulnerable groups but that the country cannot afford to have its most productive citizens forced to stay at home. We need to trust our citizens’ common sense, adopt some sensible workable procedures - just like they have managed to do in Sweden - and allow those of us who sensibly can and want to , to get on with work and get on with life , now.

If we don’t get our economy growing again we won’t be able to afford the doctors, nurses, drugs and equipment which the health service needs to tackle avoidable deaths from cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Those we have entrusted with political power need to show courage and leadership - an over-concentration on tackling Covid-19 is doing significant harm to not just our nation’s wealth but our long-term health.

It is time for most of us to come out and get on with it.

Guy Stenhouse is a Scottish financial sector veteran who wrote formerly as Pinstripe.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.