SURELY full lockdown is due very soon in the UK. On Monday afternoon I travelled to the bank to pay in some essential funds. That afternoon, central Edinburgh felt like it does on a Sunday at 10am. One cafe venue I am familiar with had about five people therein, when usually it would have round 100 patrons. Luckily, I could then drive to my house by the coast to prepare for some form of isolation and to support my ageing parents, who live nearby.

Yesterday (March 18) I drove along the main street of the small town where I will reside for many weeks to come. I was truly shocked to see that nothing appeared to have changed. There was a bustle about the place, cafes and bars were obviously busy, and I could discern little to no change in behaviour. Many of those going about their daily business where clearly in the at-risk category. This appeared to be like a time bomb, where small towns feel safe and isolated as a whole.

Covid-19 is Big Data in action. And every person is a data point, as is every location, and every instance of the virus. The more those data points interact, the more the virus will spread. Eventually this will be exponential. Wouldn't it be ironic that whilst we were starting to complain about and rail against big data ruling our lives and behaviours, that ignoring epidemiological big data now could signal our demise?

Kenneth Reid, Edinburgh EH4.

CHINA reports that it has no new cases of the coronavirus. Our politicians should take note, but there is a figure which will haunt them. If China had acted just one week earlier to control it, then its cases would have been reduced by 66 per cent. The measures which it introduced of quarantine, limiting travel, testing and isolation of cases were very successful. Taiwan and Singapore have also shown that decisive immediate action is effective. But the muddled, delayed response here has left us exposed.

Public spaces are still open, and we watch as other countries lock down but we do not. We were encouraged to believe that everything was in hand and that it could even be beneficial for the virus to spread. We are now being told how serious this is and of the great dangers we face, but it is time for action to match those words.

Professor Greg Philo, Glasgow University.

AMANDA Darling (Letters, March 18) hits the mark with every point.

Scientific advice is always welcome but does it take account of the small percentage of our population who grab the essentials from supermarkets at the expense of the the vulnerable and more sensible and who still frequent bars and restaurants despite the advice? It is inevitable that a lockdown will emerge in the next few days and the delay will be put down to scientific guidelines, but apparently at the moment the choices of a free and liberal society are more important.

Malcolm Rankin, Seamill.

DOUG Clark (Letters, March 19) refers to “new data” over policy changes, but the coronavirus has been known about since January. The Chinese policy of suppression followed shortly after, and seems to have been successful. Most of the world has followed suit.

The UK policy of mitigation was always going to be a disaster, given the huge number of people who needed to be infected to give herd immunity (itself a disputed scientific outcome). It was only when Professor Ferguson and his immunology team at Imperial Collage pointed out how high the resultant death toll would be, that the policy changed. Professor Ferguson informed the White House team more than a week ago about their conclusions. It would be interesting to know when the UK authorities knew. Even now, the UK response is far too slow and wary in comparison with other countries. We may well end up with a high death toll we did not have to incur.

GR Weir, Ochiltree.

THE decision by Borders Council to close a number of public toilets because of the theft of toilet rolls ("Public loos shut after theft of toilet rolls", The Herald, March 18) encapsulates the stupidity and unintended consequences of Government responses to the corona crisis at all levels. The chain of events started with the advice that vulnerable people should stay at home because of the coronavirus. This quite predictably resulted in panic buying, not just by the vulnerable but everyone who believes they might be next. In this context, believing you might be confined to your home for three months, its quite rational to buy up all the toilet roll you can find.

Deprived of bog roll and soap, its hardly surprising that some people have now resorted to raiding public conveniences for supplies.

But for Borders Council to address this problem by closing down those toilets, completely undermines the ability of the public to wash their hands, the single most important measure people can take to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Instead of this stupidity, our public authorities should be ensuring that all public toilets are kept open at all times and up the frequency they are cleaned, so that people can use them without fear. I've yet to hear the announcement.

The Victorians understood the importance of sanitation and cleanliness to public health and as part of that understanding they built public toilets all over the country. Since the 2008 crash, the Scottish Government has allowed our public authorities to close many of these toilets to make savings – as several of your readers have highlighted in these pages – ignoring all the lessons of the past. Coronavirus should prompt a massive rethink. We need to put the public back into public health and not expect people to manage this crisis, and other crises that are sure to follow, in the privacy of their own homes – or in the case of the homeless, on the streets.

Nick Kempe, Glasgow G41.

THE governments in Westminster and in Holyrood are doing their utmost to protect the country from the current pandemic. Much is being put in place to protect individuals and business, but an interesting point was made by SNP MP Dave Doogan in the Commons when he asked the Economic Secretary to the Treasury if the loans being put in place for businesses to allow them to pay employees is not in fact welfare which should be put in place by the Department of Work and Pensions. Businesses will struggle to survive, so should not be expected to take on loans to afford their employees some form of income. In the circumstances employees incomes should be met by the Government through the DWP.

Catriona C Clark, Falkirk.

CLEARLY many key workers will need childcare. But there are others in regular jobs who cannot work from home, but who are well, and able to go to work; and who will be prevented from doing so for lack of childcare. They will create an additional financial burden for the Government, or, worse, send their children to vulnerable grandparents.

Instead of having debates about who are key workers, why not start off by offering childcare in school to all who can demonstrate a reasonable need for it, and see where that gets us? Many teachers will be available, whilst many parents will not use this service. So it is quite possible supply will cope with demand.

Scott Macintosh, Killearn.

SURELY now is the time for the BBC Scotland television channel to quickly make its mark as a valuable resource to transmit teaching modules related to the Scottish school syllabus, give pupil and student reassurance, promote public helplines and so on. The Open University operated thus in its early days with timed overnight transmissions that students could record. Our needs are now far more fundamental and much of the daytime schedule could surely be available.

I expect that I am not the only one who becomes irritated when Scottish transmission on the main channels is interrupted to move to Westminster. We are aware that different coronavirus restrictions and solutions will apply across the country, and that advice is changing rapidly. There is a need to give a regular direct voice to the Scottish Government and Chief Medical Officer. While much has been available on websites, these are a far less accessible medium for most, so let’s complement the already excellent and relevant productions like The Nine and Debate Night to provide a bespoke Scottish offering.

John C Hutchison, Fort William.

THE isolating effect of the coronavirus will have unprecedented negative effects on our society and economy in the weeks and months ahead. Key to mitigating losses will be our ability to adapt, both in terms of working practices but also in how we view ourselves in relation to each other.

Many rarely-seen souls in our society have struggled or coped with isolation as their norm. They include the elderly, the socially alienated (for whatever reason) and those with troubles and illnesses that make social interaction impossible or unbearable.

This virus is a cruel leveller. However, we can use it to find new ways of working and, most importantly, to develop greater empathy, understanding and love for those to whom isolation has been their norm. We may face challenges in how much we can reach out to others right now, but let us hope that we take lessons from this and recreate communities throughout Scotland and beyond where our care for each other is the defining feature. By so doing, we will all lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives.

Wing Commander Allan RM Steele, Giffnock.

WITHOUT diminishing the effects of the dreaded virus in the least and the real problems caused to many, perhaps those seen leaving supermarkets with multi-packs of toilet rolls might pause and look at some of the pictures from Africa and Asia during the latest locust crisis or from Syria with grieving parents looking at rubble covering lost loved ones.

Could supermarkets be encouraged to accept donations at the till towards food banks and put essentials into bags before hitting the shelves? Those of us who would like to contribute find it increasingly hard to get access to tins and toilet rolls to donate.

James Watson, Dunbar.

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