Next week, Nicola Sturgeon is promising to outline her proposals for lifting the lockdown. Good luck with that. She is unlikely to open the schools because she can't rely on parents to send their children.

The First Minister says she will be relying on a strategy of “testing, contact-tracing and isolating” – the very measures that were halted in Scotland in March. Testing was stopped on the advice of her own government medical advisers.

Increasingly we are discovering that “the science” is all over the place. Take masks. The official view of NHS Scotland and Public Health England has been that masks make things worse because people fiddle with them and touch their faces. However, other experts are adamant that masks will help stop the spread after lockdown.

Last week one Oxford expert in primary care, Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, suggested on BBC Radio that we should make masks at home and hang them on “mask trees” outside for everyone to use. A surer way to spread the disease could scarcely be imagined.

It is one of the unfortunate facts of political life that governments are not only there to govern. They are also there to take the blame. To be punished for collective failure, that may not even be theirs.

Nicola Sturgeon listened to all the reports of world-leading epidemiologists on the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies and NERVTAG, with their models and graphs and projections. She has based Scottish Government policy on the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officers and the National Clinical Director. But they aren't the ones who carry the can for the testing debacle.

It was never policy to “let the disease rip”, but that has now become the narrative. The Government's key advisers all subscribed to view that, since there was no vaccine, the task was the “manage the spread” of the disease until herd immunity was reached. They did not try to eliminate Covid-19 because they didn't – and don't – believe that is possible.

In one sense the UK approach has been successful: in preventing the NHS from being overwhelmed. The sombrero has been flattened. The Nightingale Hospital was put up in nine days, designed to handle an expected rush of Covid patients not suffering from other life-threatening conditions. A brilliant effort. But as hospitalisations peaked last week it has been largely empty.

The big argument in March was not about testing but about the UK's lack of intensive care beds and ventilators. Turns out we have enough of those. What the NHS failed to do was deliver the most basic kit – gowns and masks and visors. Hospitals have been left begging clothing manufacturers to help out.

Then there's the care home scandal. In their rush to build capacity in hospitals, everyone forgot about the most vulnerable people of all: old people in homes. Actually, they weren't forgotten. Senior citizens were seen as a lower priority.

The NHS and medical advisers believed they would probably be OK because they were locked down. Plus, if they got Covid, they would probably die anyway. Well, they were right about that.

It emerged last week that one-quarter of all Covid deaths in Scotland happened in care homes. Many of the most tragic deaths have taken place in obscurity, with old people dying neglected and alone.

But that's not the real scandal. While the government was trying to mobilise resources, worrying about ICUs and following the science, they allowed the NHS in Scotland and England to stop testing.

The fateful decision to halt community testing and contact tracing was taken in mid-March. At the time Professor Jason Leitch, the National Clinical Director, said they were concentrating their testing capacity on people with symptoms and frontline, or critical, workers. Other tests stopped.

Now, I'm not singling out Professor Leitch who has done a great job throughout this crisis, and is a brilliant communicator. He was only following the science, just like the politicians who were following him. The consensus among medical advisers in Public Health England and the Scottish equivalent was – and still is – that testing people doesn't save lives.

But now that the results are in it turns out that, in this at least, the World Health Organisation was right. Testing is crucial. Germany didn't stop community testing and contact-tracing after the containment phase and as a result has had fewer than 4,000 deaths from Covid 19, whereas the UK has had more than 14,000.

Worse, the case fatality rate – those who are infected and go on to die – is 3% in Germany against 13% in the UK. These figures will be hung around the necks of UK politicians, including Nicola Sturgeon, until the pandemic is over. The Tory Government in England and the SNP Government in Scotland are in the same sinking boat, which is why Nicola Sturgeon wants to take control.

But Germany didn't just carry out tests. They also sought to treat the infected at a much earlier stage. In cities like Heidelberg, they send out fleets of “corona taxis” to locate and monitor people sick with Covid-19. If after five days they didn't seem to be improving they'd rush them to hospital.

It seems that isolating and treating the disease in hospital early is crucial. Just leaving people to get over it at home is fine for flu, but not for coronavirus which, as Boris Johnson discovered, can be fatal if not taken seriously.

The Scottish Government must now, belatedly, try to replicate German-style testing on a Scottish scale. The UK is doing only 18,000 tests a day, far short of the 100,000 rashly promised by Matt Hancock by the end of this month. There has been a dogmatic resistance to testing by health professionals.

Germany is now planning how to lift the lockdown, confident that they know where the disease is and can trace it and control it. There is no way we can do that here. The UK government is paralysed, unable even to discuss how to get the country back to work because they don't trust themselves to make the right decisions.

They are not even talking about opening the schools, for fear that this might lead to a new outbreak – it probably will. Teachers may demand hazmat suits. Companies may reopen for work, but their employees may not be prepared to take the risk of infection.

The “Stay home save lives” campaign was far more effective than expected. Voters now fear Covid as almost a plague, and are genuinely scared. In fact, the evidence is still that Covid is mainly a threat to the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions.

The vast majority of deaths are over 70 and 90% have one or more life-threatening diseases in addition to Covid. Covid is particularly dangerous for people with heart disease, who must be protected from infection at all cost. But what the government is learning to its horror is that because of the lockdown many people without Covid are dying of heart failure because they are afraid to go to hospital.

That's the next scandal, but it can wait for another day, while the Government puzzles about how to follow the science without the science killing people.

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