“IF you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it. When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind”.

These words from pre-eminent Glasgow physicist Lord Kelvin, along with the exhortation from the World Health Organisation to “test, test, test, then test some more” should be ringing in the ears of the Westminster and Holyrood governments. Testing is certainly not a “distraction". In the absence of a vaccine, extensive testing and contact tracing represents the only way out of lockdown, but the record of our governments on this matter is lamentable, and way behind countries like Germany, South Korea and New Zealand.

Michael Gove blamed a lack of reagents – only to be swiftly slapped down by the Chemical Industries Association. The Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Sir Paul Nurse, currently director of the Francis Crick Institute, criticised the policy of carrying out all the tests centrally in public health labs. In his view there is expertise and equipment in university and research institutes labs which could be exploited. Whatever the solution, it needs to be found and found quickly. Holyrood can go its own way on this matter – we have a strong life sciences sector. We don't need to follow Westminster’s lead.

Dr Graham Kemp, St Andrews.

AS the country sadly looks like it is heading towards the unenviable position of highest deaths in Europe, I look at our “leadership” in despair.

Everyone, apart from those in Westminster, could see what was coming from what had happened elsewhere in Europe a few weeks earlier. We have a fantastic advantage in being an island nation, so did we take advantage of it? No.

New Zealand, also an island nation (admittedly smaller), where my son is currently training has, it would appear, a far more decisive leadership than we do. About the same time as we started our lockdown it was enforcing a 14-day isolation for anyone coming in and then moved to virtually stopping flights. Did we stop flights or enforce any restrictions on entry? Not that I am aware of. New Zealand at the time of writing has had only four deaths.

Why do we seem to be unable, many weeks into a crisis we knew was coming, to get front line staff the PPE they need, yet industries which could adapt and supply it are apparently not being contacted by Westminster?

Why have several European countries been able to test people at substantially higher rates than us when our frontline staff are crying out for tests?

Hopefully when the crisis is over some sort of independent inquest into handling of crisis will take place to see where we went wrong, why we went wrong and put processes in place to ensure we are ready when perish the thought it happens again.

Douglas Jardine, Bishopbriggs.

IN response to Marianne Taylor’s diatribe against the UK Health and Home Secretaries ("Ministers should stop their insults and tell us the truth", The Herald, April 13), may I suggest she considers these points?

Anent the UK-wide shortages and/or uneven distribution of test kits, ventilators, masks, and other personal protective clothing or equipment, it is not “the Government”, whether Scottish or UK, that should be the prime target of blame.

Surely within days of China’s admission of the facts 11 weeks ago on January 23 (following its denials and clampdowns after the first infections in December or even November, from some reports) it was up to the top management in the NHS and public health authorities throughout the UK to instruct their procurement departments to order up these items immediately in anticipation of a near-worst case scenario?

Did they do so, and if not, why not? Our health services are not run directly by the Departments of Health; and reports say that Public Health England employs more than 120 staff on more than £100,000 per annum.

Sir Simon Steven, CEO of NHS England, has been almost invisible since the outbreak, appearing only once at No. 10’s afternoon press conferences, but was not even asked that question.

We have confusing messages from the scientists and medics (and therefore both governments as they are following their advice) on the effects of flights still arriving into the UK with no controls or quarantine requirements, and even on the efficacy of testing at all; and only now do we seem to be issuing instructions on the correct use of PPE.

The NHS and Public Health England wanted to restrict testing to their own facilities, rather than as in Germany to include academic and private laboratories. The unwise words “herd” immunity and “social” distancing are still used instead of something like “group immunity” and “physical distancing”.

John Birkett, St Andrews.

MUCH as it to be welcomed that care workers are to be paid a long-overdue wage rise to some kind of decent level ("Social care workers to get living wage pay rise, reveals Freeman", The Herald, April 13), should this be an immediate priority?

Surely protecting them from more pressing threats, via appropriate protective clothing, is rather more important? We need to protect existing staff now, not to make care work a more attractive career option for when things get back to normal, whenever that is.

Alistair Richardson, Stirling.

BORIS Johnson's tribute to the staff at St Thomas's Hospital who saved his life was heartfelt.

However, it was striking that the two nurses who kept 24-hour watch on him were a New Zealander and a Portuguese.

I hope his and his Government's gratitude to these foreign NHS workers continues up to and beyond the Brexit negotiations.

Sam Craig, Glasgow G11.

RESPONSES to the current virus outbreak have shown unprecedented levels of sharing of medical and scientific resources across the nations of the world arising from a globally accepted risk to human life. Would it be too much to hope that, when the virus threat has been successfully overcome, the spirit of global co-operation might survive and be directed at ridding our planet of a far worse threat presented by the vast arsenals of nuclear weapons which will otherwise lead, sooner or later, to inevitable destruction of human life on a scale unlikely to be achieved by any virus?

Willie Maclean, Milngavie.

ALTHOUGH a few may disregard the lockdown, during this deadly virus, may we thank the vast majority as we rejoice at the wonderful support generated throughout Scotland. From our First Minister, MPs, MSPs, church and community leaders and all who work for the NHS, to the tireless happy band of volunteers helping the vulnerable and "auld yins" like ourselves; truly it has been a revelation.

Instead of negative press quotes, let us focus on the timeless "we have nothing to fear except fear itself". Also in the auld Scots tongue "ca canny, haud yer wheesht an get oan wi it".

In these troubled times, as this pandemic deepens, we now realise just how fragile our world is. However through past days of fun and laughter, the present must retain a sense of humour, confident that the power of the human spirit and the inert goodness of people will see this pass.

Finally in this period of isolation there is time to tackle things long forgotten, time to read and think, time to contact long-neglected friends, watch buds flower, listen to birdsong and generally accept a gentler rhythm of life.

Jo and Grant Frazer, Newtonmore.

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