PERHAPS if it hadn't been for 10 years of George Osborne and his successors’ austerity measures, we would have started this crisis with more hospitals, more intensive care beds. More doctors and nurses, fewer unfilled staff vacancies, fewer people having left the NHS due to the pressures of trying to do a demanding job 24/7 when there simply aren’t enough people to fill the rota.

The idea from James Watson (Letters, March 27), that austerity was somehow an “investment”, is completely backwards. An investment would have increased our capacity to do something, austerity did the opposite, needlessly squeezing public spending and destroying countless jobs in the supply chain, leading to a decade of economic stagnation.

It is vital to realise that when the Government grasped the scale of the crisis, £330 billion was made available. This was not money saved up for a rainy day, it was money simply created to allow the Government to redirect the economy to a different path. If we need another billion pounds or another trillion, it can also be made. When the economy returns to running at full capacity, we can choose to pay for it through some combination of lower spending and higher taxes and higher inflation. But not until then. And the Tory Government could have taken the same decision to abandon austerity at any point since the global financial crisis to drive the UK economy, but it chose spending cuts over protecting people.

Alan Ritchie, Glasgow G41.

I WISH I shared Rebecca McQuillan’s optimism ("The unfairness will have to end when this crisis is over", The Herald, March 27).

Nothing will change when we get through this crisis in terms of the relationship between the haves and have-nots.

This crisis will make nary a dent on the fortunes of Messrs Ashley, Martin and Branson.

However, when shops open their doors again, pubs start selling beer once more and people resume flying, those who have been laid off viciously and unceremoniously by the respective owners will seek to return to diminished businesses.

If there was any justice Sports Direct shops and Wetherspoons pubs would remain as deserted as they are today but the people who would really suffer would not be their billionaire owners (Tim, you're just half a billionaire but I’ll include you anyway. I know your ego couldn’t handle anything less). The people who would suffer are the ex-employees competing for a reduced number of jobs.

Who do you think will retain the upper hand; the fat cats sitting on their piles of cash dangling the carrot of a limited number of low-paid jobs, or the employees who desperately need to recover from the debt they have unwillingly fallen into and whose Government aid has run out because we were all in it together but now we are back to “normal”?

The billionaires will still be billionaires but the poor will end up poorer.

William Thomson, Denny.

WHILST we rightly focus on the physical health of the population, the stock market rocks back and forth with many investors losing money and some individuals making a lot of money by gambling on shares rising or falling.

The lasting impact will be on the value of our major companies, normally profitable, making them targets for takeover by foreign companies at knockdown values. We have already seen Scottish companies taken over by Chinese and Korean businesses and production then being moved abroad. Witness for example the transfer of a majority of production of green technology to other countries and the failure of the Scottish Government to achieve its employment targets on renewable energy.

We have a Westminster Government which believes in the free market and happily sees business sold off. The time has come to offer the same protection to business as the population at large. Stop all trading on the stock market till the crisis is over and ban the sale of UK companies to foreign companies and governments for the next two or three years in order to offer longer term protection to the working population.

Bill Eadie, Giffnock.

THURSDAY night’s meaningless gesture of standing on your doorstep clapping NHS workers was frankly akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. I did not take part.

Don’t get me wrong. As a cancer survivor I thank every single day for the fabulous treatment I received 10 years ago at the hands of our wonderful consultants, GPs, nurses, porters and auxiliaries. I agree with John NE Rankin (Letters, March 27). If we really want to support our NHS staff, lets pay them all a decent living wage, fund the NHS properly. We can do it. All we have to do is cancel Trident.

What would you rather do; have the capability to bomb a third world country or care for your elderly relative or loved one in a properly funded hospital or care home? Don’t stand on your doorstep clapping, campaign to ensure we have plenty of protective equipment for all our health care professionals – including care home workers. Value their contribution to our lives.

Make sure they don’t have to work 12-hour shifts. I am in my seventies, you don’t need to tell me what is valuable in life – health is the single most important thing we have.

Anyone that thinks it’s better to fund Trident is frankly off their heads.

If there is one thing that comes out of this dreadful situation we are all facing, it is that we must get our priorities right.

Sheila Duffy, Glasgow G12.

THE Covid-19 pandemic is a viral disease which due to its scale has caught a lot of health systems on the hop. One of the inconvenient truths emerging about the disease is the number of very valuable health care workers who have become seriously infected with the disease whilst trying to aid their patients.

This brings me to ponder the future method of providing health care for this type of epidemic given its sheer scale. We must therefore keep those presenting with new diseases away from our general hospitals.

Would it not be possible to start designing and constructing large-scale isolation and treatment and control units with one huge central floor area ward to accommodate the very ill? All support systems would be bolt-on external units. They could be built and left in readiness.

Specifically, all attendant medical staff would work in the ward by using self-contained non-cumbersome support suits with additional plug-in ports for remote air supply if they were required to stay on station for an extended period. Upon leaving the area all would go through a dry or wet cleaning room before disrobing. All equipment should be reusable after drying and sterilisation.

The North Sea designers for saturation diving, I feel sure, could provide valuable input to the methodology to support current medical standards and the extreme sports clothing designers likewise.

Hopefully we will get through this crisis relatively unscathed, but let's be prepared the next time.

Archie Burleigh, Skelmorlie.

THERE are media reports on a daily basis of the statistics relating to the incidence of coronavirus in a number of countries. These relate mainly to those countries with a well-developed healthcare system: China, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and, now, the United States.

It is recognised that even in those countries where some testing can be conducted, there will be varying degrees of under-reporting.

There is less reported information from other countries such as Greece, many in Latin American, Turkey, Scandinavia and the Balkans.

Turkey, Italy and Greece have the additional problem of providing shelter to large numbers of refugees.

As far as Africa is concerned, only South Africa has recently figured in the news.

In many countries there is a huge disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots", with the latter greatly outnumbering the former. The possible spread of the virus among those with little access to healthcare must be a terrifying prospect. Intensive care units, protective clothing, ventilators? No chance. Social distancing in the crowded cities of India would seem impossible.

Many aid agencies must be greatly concerned about the likelihood of financial support becoming much reduced as individual contributors and governments struggle to support those in need closer to home. Most charity shops are now closed.

Fortunately, there have been examples of kindness and neighbourliness extended to those in need of assistance. As the outbreak continues, there is a risk of this support wearing thin and there will be a need to remind ourselves that "our neighbour" extends beyond those in our immediate vicinity.

Malcolm Allan, Bishopbriggs.

LAST Friday I decided to avail myself of the generous offer, by Sainsbury's, of the 8-9am shopping hour for older people. So off I went to our store in Kelso wondering what would be happening.

I have to say that I was greatly impressed by the organisation of the event, where staff conducted it all with friendliness and tact. I must also congratulate the older folks, queueing and then shopping, for their good manners and conduct. The staff replenishing the shelves were, as ever, friendly and helpful, and what efficiency as ever. This 8-9am hour will now be when my weekly shop takes place on either Monday, Wednesday or Friday each week.

Thank you to all at Sainsbury's and I must also include members of staff at other places in this douce Borders town of Kelso who are managing things so efficiently. Indeed thanks to all who are involved in keeping our communities running as well as possible.

I shed tears and smiled a lot last night as I clapped outside my house at 8pm, for my two nieces, and all the others in the medical profession, who are in the front-line battle against our common enemy. I heard other clapping coming out of the misty night and felt comforted.

Thelma Edwards, Kelso.

FOR the many families living in homes with no gardens, often on upper levels with no balcony, the impact of only being able to leave their homes for exercise once a day may have a significant adverse impact on children's physical and emotional health and development.

With playparks shut and the advice being to exercise near your home, should we be mindful of some discretion for families living in confined spaces without gardens?

This crisis highlights the disparities in our society and as ever, the disadvantaged will pay the highest price.

Diana Turbett, Isle of Arran.

Read more: It is right that Scotland should take its own coronavirus approach