Back in March, when the pandemic was still young, millennials on Reddit, Twitter and Instagram started sharing jokes and memes under the hashtag “Boomer Remover”. The idea was that Covid-19 was some kind of karmic revenge against the “gammon”, as they call old white men. Well, they weren’t far wrong.

This has been very much an epidemic targeting old men. Men are twice as likely to die of this disease as women. Those over 65 are 34 times more likely to die than people of working age. Last week, we learned that 57% of deaths from coronavirus in Scotland are in care homes for the elderly.

Many thousands of boomers have been removed, but it’s no joke. They have died alone and distressed, uncomforted by loved ones, often isolated from all human company save for care-givers wearing masks and visors.

Epidemiologists talk of diseases like flu and Covid-19 “harvesting” old people, as if this is old father time swinging his scythe under people who have lived beyond their time. That is not only a callous way of describing the deaths of human beings, but misleading.

Many of the thousands who died in care homes did not die because it was their time. Their lives were cut short by a misguided policy implemented by the NHS with Government approval.

This involved decanting thousands of elderly patients, untested, to care homes where they were exposed to – or exposed others to – serious risk. Some of those discharged already had symptoms.

The objective, made clear in NHS directives to hospitals on March 17, was to remove around 30% of the elderly from hospital wards. The rationale was that they were better looked after “in the community”. It was to protect the NHS, but it didn’t save lives.

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At the time, the media was attacking both governments for not having enough ventilators and intensive care beds. We had one-seventh the number of ICUs as Germany. The priority seemed clear: increase capacity at all costs.

It was achieved by clearing the non-acute and by building pop-up hospitals like the Nightingale and Louisa Jordan. These have lain almost empty as the pandemic moved into the care homes along with the discharged geriatrics.

SNP supporters reacted furiously last week to reports that the rate of deaths in Scottish care homes was twice that in England. The UK Government, they said, was fiddling the figures. There may indeed be an element of under-reporting.

But they miss the broader point that, both north and south of the Border, a policy was implemented which left thousands of elderly people, and their carers, exposed to a deadly virus with precious little protection.

Underpaid and under-strength care workers were handed the responsibility for treating, without proper PPE, the most vulnerable group in society. Not surprisingly, coronavirus spread like wildfire in care homes, transmitted unwittingly by carers.

The true scale of this is only coming to light now. Last week, the GMB in Scotland reported that, in homes tested, some 30-40% of care workers were testing positive. Eventide homes became Covid incubators.

Mini-pandemics started erupting in homes in places like Skye and East Dunbartonshire. The Care Inspectorate is taking legal action against the firm, HC-One, which ran the Home Farm care home in Portree. But questions will be asked about why the Care Inspectorate allowed it to remain open at all.

The NHS implemented the elderly clearout, but the Government authorised it. Ministers in turn passed the buck to their scientific advisers, in SAGE, and the Chief Medical Officers who thought the risk was low.

As Sir Keir Starmer pointed out at Prime Minister’s Questions this week, the guidance from the Government, on February 25, stated that it was “very unlikely that anyone receiving care in a care home or in the community will become infected”. This is because “there is currently no transmission of Covid-19 in the community”. The scientific advice was provisional but didn’t change until March 13.

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However, we now know from this week’s BBC Disclosure programme that there was a major outbreak at a Nike conference in Edinburgh on February 26, which the Scottish Government knew about but kept quiet. The first case it made public was in Tayside on March 1.

The First Minister scolded journalists for raising this “politically motivated” issue and said that it was “patient confidentiality” that prevented the Edinburgh cluster being made public. Yet there is no need to identify the names of people suffering an outbreak of a disease. It is clear now that the disease was spreading through the community in February.

Some critics of the Government, like Professor Richard Coker of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, claim that both governments were pursuing a morally inexcusable “strategy of herd immunity and harvesting”. In other words: letting old people die.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson reject this and insist that far from letting the disease run unchecked, they took action to “flatten the curve” of infection by social distancing and lockdown. But ironically, if the governments had been implementing a herd immunity approach, they might have looked after the elderly more carefully.

One of the leading advocates of what has been called “herd immunity” was the UK Government’s chief pandemic modeller, Professor Graham Medley, also of the London School of Tropical Medicine. He told Newsnight on March 13 that he would like to see all the old and vulnerable “sent to the north of Scotland” to be looked after in safety while “we have a nice big epidemic in Kent so that everyone gets immune”.

He didn’t mean that literally, of course. What he meant was that, given the lack of a vaccine, the policy should be to look after the people who are most at risk: the elderly. The Government, it appears, did precisely the opposite.

Some blame negligence by the private and voluntary care homes which look after 80% of Scotland’s 40,000 frail elderly. But it is the Government that regulates the homes and local authorities who pay for most of the old people who end up there.

Moreover, for the last five years, the Scottish Government has been spending hundreds of millions on integrating the two services under the Health and Social Care Partnership. This was supposed to end delayed discharge or “bed-blocking” by elderly people in hospital wards. It is difficult for the Government to wash its hands of responsibility for what happens to them in social care.

Lawyers are gearing up to make a killing out of suing care homes, health boards and regulators like the Care Inspectorate. These cases will drag on for years and will cost many millions. Many bereaved families have a case that their loved ones died through negligence.

This may not be the time to point the finger of blame for Britain having one of the world’s highest death rates. There are multiple factors – age, immigration, deprivation – but it is hard not to see the care homes as an avoidable tragedy.

The one thing everyone knew about Covid-19 was that it kills the elderly first. When the epidemic is over, and the inquiries begin, I expect a lot of well-paid people will be seeking early retirement.