THE much bigger issue that those making the key policy decisions on the coronavirus crisis need to answer is not just about personal behaviour but about policy. There was a legitimate choice to be made about when it was best to go into lock down and how strict it should be. But, knowing what had happened in China, there was no legitimate reason for not deciding in February to stockpile proper supplies of protective equipment for front-line staff and not creating a major expansion of capacity in testing.

I think the public thought this was so obvious that it would have been happening. But Scotland and England both failed to take these decisions at the right time. In doing so they failed the NHS staff, the carers, the pharmacists, the police and all those on the front line. Catherine Calderwood's description of testing as a "distraction" was a bigger error than her holiday home visits but she was certainly not the only one making these decisions and the same was done in England.

We can recognise and respect the pressure that those making the strategic decisions are working under, but this should not stop us from asking critical questions and should certainly not stop journalists from probing. Never take for granted that people at the top know what is best.

Isobel Lindsay, Biggar.

PERHAPS the real conclusion we should draw from Dr Catherine Calderwood’s decision to visit her second home is that she believed that doing so actually proved no real risk to her family or others, provided they observed social distancing once they got there?

But of course she could not possibly be allowed to say so, and that in offering her official advice she was bowing to the general pressure to react to Covid-19 as if it were the Black Death and not something slightly worse than seasonal flu, which statistically it is.

Does the not-travelling rule make sense if it is by car? Why should not people be able to access open spaces provided they behave responsibly? Have the risk-averse lunatics finally taken over the asylum? It certainly seems that way.

Meanwhile our economy is falling apart, our children are not being educated, and the mental health of us all may be severely challenged.

If Dr Calderwood made a mistake, it wasn’t going to her Fife holiday home, it was not actually having the courage to match her pronunciations with her actions and not her actions with her pronunciations.

Michael Collie, Dunfermline.

JILL Stephenson’s questioning of the value of the Scottish Government (Letters, April 7) ignores that Health being managed in Scotland goes back a long way before the present situation, or indeed devolution. Perhaps she might remember the Scottish Home and Health Department. Likewise, the Scottish NHS has historically been separate from the NHS in England since its establishment in 1948. In passing, Professor Hugh Pennington, who she claims has been excluded due to his pro-Union views, is a bacteriologist. Covid-9, being a coronavirus, is a virus, so requiring the skills of a virologist. The clue is in the name.

But more than these organisational issues, it is arguable that in Scotland the problem of Covid-19 is different from the problem manifested in England. For one thing we have fewer areas with a high population density, which are a substantial opportunity for the virus to be passed on to others.

Moreover, while I acknowledge problems and shortcomings (my daughter in law is a carer and our son is understandably worried), the fact remains that the death rate in Scotland of those confirmed to have the virus – at the time of writing, 222 of 3961 (5.6 per cent) compared to 4897 of 42990 cases (11.3 per cent). This data is of course suspect – it’s likely the base number of cases is much higher due to cases never being reported – but it does suggest the officials Ms Stephenson is so contemptuous of are doing something right.

Peter A Russell (Letters, April 7) in similar mode suggests that because the First Minister did not know the whereabouts of the Chief Medical Officer – Dr Calderwood – and presumably every other senior official – must mean that she has “lost operational control”. Surely the prime need is for her to be accessible at any time her advice is necessary, which can be achieved by mobile phone without having to inform others of one’s whereabouts.

As others have said in their letters this morning (April 7), I agree that Dr Calderwood had to resign. Once might be explained as an error (or aberration) of judgement, but twice looks like carelessness.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

WHEN Jill Stephenson suggests that most of us prefer to get our information from decision makers in London I suspect that she is well out of touch. I don’t want to hear from the CMO and Health Secretary for England.

The Scottish Government’s briefing is about what is actually happening, in some detail. At the most recent briefing I learned about extra funding for community pharmacies, Scottish statistics relating to health and social care, progress with the NHS Louisa Jordan Hospital, how the Care Inspectorate operates and the respective responsibilities in the partnership between the Scottish Government, local authorities and the care homes sector. I also heard the answers to a score or more journalists’ detailed questions, all relating to the response in Scotland.

Had I listened to the briefing from London I would have heard none of that.

John C Hutchison, Fort William.

DOUG Maughan (Letters, April 7) makes a particularly neat analogy, from an airline pilot's perspective, on what should happen to a pilot who acts as if the rules don't apply to them. In mitigation however, what does he think should be the actions of a wartime commander who needs a particularly skilled pilot to carry out a particularly difficult mission? Should they not overlook a stupid indiscretion, at least in the short term?

We are at war in a very real sense with Covid-19, and that was the situation the First Minister found herself in. At least before the further information came to light her initial decision was correct.

John Jamieson, Ayr.

WHETHER she jumped or was pushed, Catherine Calderwood had to go as Chief Medical Officer, considering that she not only broke the rules which she expected the rest of us to blindly follow, she apparently tried to hide her misdemeanour and continue "business as usual" (perhaps continuing to break her own rules).

As for Andy Maciver’s argument ("First Minister was right to try and keep Calderwood", The Herald, April 7) that the First Minister’s initial attempt to keep Dr Calderwood in post in this instance was not a failure of leadership because “good people are hard to find”, he is misguided in overlooking the fact that no-one is irreplaceable (there will always be others just as competent to step up-to the plate).

On the other hand, if Dr Calderwood had unknowingly made some kind of omission, then I would probably find myself entirely agreeing with Mr Maciver (with the caveat that I would then expect that she at least offer her resignation); however, this was not one of those moments. It was the case of someone in high office who blatantly broke the rules (compounded by the fact that she expected everyone else to follow them) and then tried to cover this up.

She had to go.

Philip Adams, Crosslee.

THE most gifted coronavirus communicator in Scotland and indeed the UK is Professor Jason Leitch.

Why is he not being used?

Rev Dr Robert Anderson, Dundonald.

AS Dr Calderwood shows that even leading medics can have feet of clay, it's essential the general public is aware that the UK's response to the coronavirus outbreak is not based on agreed scientific opinion, but on which group of modellers in a long-running turf war had the ear of the Government.

At first a Swedish policy was followed, supported by Oxford University, resisting full lockdown and keeping open schools, businesses and so on. But Imperial College then released highly controversial figures suggesting half a million British deaths, which spread panic in media and political circles.

The enormous collateral damage done by lockdown to our economy and all other health areas is clear and we must return to normal. So we need to realise the effectiveness of school closure on the spread of Covid-19 was always in doubt and demands for continuing lockdown are ideological.

Dr John Cameron, St Andrews.

YES, Yvonne Dalziel you have missed something when you question the behaviour of elderly folk with underlying health issues “still going out shopping” (Letters, April 7). The answer is likely to be “because we have no choice”. Presumably they are not classed as being seriously vulnerable, have no relatives sufficiently close at hand, nor do they find it remotely possible to get a slot for home delivery from one of the major supermarkets.

I came across a request from one of the latter which asked their customers not to request home deliveries if it cannot be fully justified. By acting on this request they would make life a lot safer for those Ms Dalziel questions.

John Milne, Uddingston.

ON September 24, 1940, because the people of Malta had bravely put up with unbelievable privations and bombing during the early part of the Second World War, each person on that island was honoured with The George Medal by King George VI. This civilian award is the equivalent of the Victoria Cross for military bravery.

May I respectfully suggest that the bravery and fortitude of every member of our National Health Service in these dark days of the coronavirus is commemorated and marked in the annals of our nation by the issuing of a new Queen Elizabeth George Cross Medal.

Once the current epidemic is over, surely that would be a fitting finale to the devotion to duty that we are currently seeing from all personnel in our National Health Service.

Archibald A Lawrie, Kingskettle, Fife.

SINCE we are seemingly accepting of loss of freedoms in the interests of public health and the burden on our health services, would this not be a good time to revisit the freedom to smoke yourself to ill health and costly health care and ban tobacco completely?

John Dunlop, Ayr.

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