A SUNDAY shift on The Herald’s Politics Watch tends to begin the same way, with an early trip to buy the papers. Usually it is just myself, a couple of other larks, and the woman who keeps an eye on the self-checkout area. All quiet on the supermarket front.

Yesterday I arrived to a car park that was Christmas Eve busy. People were waiting for the 8am opening, and once inside they were dashing round the aisles as if auditioning for Supermarket Sweep. First it was loo rolls that had been the object of panic buying. From loo rolls it spread to rice, and now it was tinned tomatoes. At this rate there will soon be a run on corn plasters, fuelled by rumours there is actual corn in them.

Strange days. Andrew Marr was feeling it too. Across radio and television agreement had broken out: the public were in need of reassurance, and by Jiminy they were going to get it from the nation’s broadcasters. Well, sort of.

“Good morning,” said Marr. So far, so conventional.

Hold on, there was more. “Almost all the big political arguments we have had on this show over the past few years seem frankly unimportant compared to what is happening now.

“Lots of people are scared. Clearly we are going to get through this but we won’t be the same afterwards. Not quite. This is going to change how we behave on the street and to one another, certainly for the rest of this year and maybe for years to come.”

READ MORE: Fresh restrictions announced abroad

Crikey. If this was his attempt at a reassuring bedside manner one can only hope he is not planning a late career move from journalism to medicine.

Having begun in a doom laden way he then performed a “reverse ferret”, as we say in the newspaper game, and promised a calm hour of viewing. “No hyperbole. No panic. It’s a morning for close and patient attention to the facts.”

It certainly was. But whose facts were the ones worth listening to? As soon became obvious, opinions varied from minister to minister and from country to country.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock reported for duty first on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, then later on Marr. He had a shopping list of points to get through, with the same topics later covered on Sunday Politics Scotland in an interview with Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s Health Secretary.

There were some subtle but important differences between the two health ministers when it came to the policy of asking people over 70 and those with underlying conditions, to self-isolate, perhaps for up to four months.

READ MORE: Scotland not planning to isolate over-70s

Mr Hancock gave the impression that this meant not going out, but Ms Freeman said: “It is not isolation. It is asking them to reduce their social contact. We don’t want people who are elderly stuck in their homes alone, not contacting anyone with their families not able to be in touch with them and to help them.”

More differences emerged between London and Edinburgh on the best way to keep the public informed. “It is not how we would do it,” said Ms Freeman of Downing Street’s overnight briefings and unattributed sources. “It is not the way to ensure that the public are understanding what we are trying to do and are working with us to do that.”

Those in search of clarity found it in Marr’s interviews with Kang Kyung-wha, South Korea’s Foreign Minister, and Raffaele Trombetta, Italy’s ambassador to the UK.

With the trend in South Korea beginning to stabilise, there were obvious lessons to be learned in how the country had handled the virus. Testing was vital in containing the outbreak, said Ms Kyung-wha, with 268,000 people so far screened (compared to 40,279 tested in the UK).

But as emerged in Sophy Ridge’s interview with self-isolating SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron, there has been confusion about testing, too. Dr Cameron called NHS 111 last week to be told her symptoms were not concerning enough to test. When her condition deteriorated she spoke to a doctor who referred her for a test. The next day, however, she was told the strategy had changed and there was no testing for people in her circumstances.

READ MORE: Iain Macwhirter on the crisis

“On the one hand you do want to have a test, you want to know a diagnosis,” said Dr Cameron. “But I think perhaps it may be that they have to keep the tests for people who are much more vulnerable. You don’t want to take a test off someone else who is more critical than yourself.”

If there was one point on which Edinburgh and London were united it was in defending the policy of proceeding step by step, and not, as in other countries, going immediately for a shutdown of schools, restaurants, and other public places. Ridge secured a commitment from Mr Hancock that the scientific guidance on which the UK governments were relying would be published in the coming days. Perhaps by then clarity will have taken hold. Or maybe not.

Back on Sunday Politics Scotland, Gordon Brewer closed the show by asking his journalist guests whether they were reassured. Ruth Wishart said she was. How so? “I got my wine in yesterday.”