IT is reported that more than 40 per cent of care home workers in Scotland have tested positive for the coronavirus, although showing no symptoms. We then learn that care home workers are terrified of being tested, because they are paid such low wages, that they would only receive around £90 a week to live on if they go off sick. It then becomes clearer why so few care workers have attended the free testing stations. This must surely have led to the high level of virus spread in care homes.

The death rates of old people within the care system has been horrific, everywhere across the world. It wasn't clear why that should be, the speculation was, that very old people, tend to have multiple underlying health conditions, making them more vulnerable to such viruses. Protecting those in care from the virus is clearly absolutely essential. However, since care staff now seem to have been avoiding testing, to protect their own families from even more poverty than they already suffer, we can start to understand how decades of underfunding of the care services has led to these fatal consequences.

So what does this tell us about the state of our care home industry? Decades of diminishing investment in local council care home provision have opened the door to the private sector to grab every opportunity, to skim off the substantial funds that many of our more wealthy home-owning pensioners have, to act as collateral to fund their end of life care. The private care system was allowed to develop to fill the gap in provision. It quickly realised what a cash cow opportunity this offered their shareholders.

I have personal experience of the private sector provider, when a member of my family was charged between £1,200 and £1,500 per week, for full nursing care, for the last three years of her life, by a private care provider. No local authority homes could provide that service in Edinburgh at the time. Fortunately, the Scottish Government made a substantial contribution towards the extortionate costs. There was no doubt the quality of service the private providers could offer was what my relative needed and deserved, but questions must be asked why private enterprise should be delivering these services at all. The profits they cream off from such high fees could be better invested in well-paid employment for the dedicated, care staff that we now see as heroes.

Surely one lesson we should be learning from the pandemic, is that never again should we underrate the skill, compassion and dedication of those who care for our old people. We should not be depending on thousands of foreign nationals to staff our private care services for minimum wages. The high-quality care enjoyed by those who can afford to live in the private care homes, should be the quality of service we all deserve and get.

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow G12.

WHEN funding isn't available, which has been the case for decades now, the elderly have been kept in hospital longer than necessary before being able to go to the more appropriate setting of a care home. It is called bed blocking and has bedevilled social care planning.

It appears that Covid-19 has eradicated the problem and individuals are being transferred to care homes which, paradoxically because of Covid-19, have suddenly become potentially lethal rather than more appropriate. If the object was to free up hospital beds why has more use of the Jordans and Nightingales not been made? And if they had been would it have been so necessary to move elderly patients during these dangerous times?

From the start it was obvious that care homes, with their elderly and frail population, were peculiarly vulnerable to attack from a highly contagious virus. To use them as overspill from the hospitals was questionable to say the least, and the irony of the apparent eradication of bed blocking to facilitate the tactic only highlights the reality, which has been apparent for far too long in a civilised society, that care of the elderly has been at the tail end of social care thinking.

Jim Proctor, Paisley.

GIVEN the large numbers of elderly and vulnerable people who have died in Scotland's care homes from Covid-19, I am concerned about the Scottish government's policy of allowing care workers who have tested positive for the virus, to stay on the premises until the end of their shift.

Even if self-isolating, that person remains a potential source of infection in an environment which demands the highest standards of hygiene. Is it beyond the ken of the authorities to introduce emergency cover to allow infected workers to leave the homes without delay, both in the interests of the infected workers themselves, their colleagues and above all, elderly and vulnerable residents?

Bob MacDougall, Kippen.

OUR Prime Minister tells us it's nigh on time to lift the lockdown.

I will believe it when I see Boris Johnson strap-hanging in a crowded tube train, Dominic Cummings comforting patients in A&E without any PPE, and the rest of the Commons pushing and shoving, shoulder to shoulder in the voting lobbies to award front line workers a decent salary.

I'll believe that we've learned something about us all being in this together when I see billionaires, worldwide internet giants, venture capital companies and banks offering to pay more tax.

I want to believe,

but I will not be holding my breath.

Arthur Clarence, Prestwick.

MARK Boyle (Letters, May 14) disparages “callous bean counters” who favour the “sacred economy” over health and asks us to remember that each death represents “someone’s parent, someone’s child”. I would ask Mr Boyle to consider that the population’s health and that of the whole welfare state ultimately depends upon the health, or otherwise, of the economy. If we descend into a severe recession or even possibly a depression, then we will put the NHS in peril. The consequences then for the sick and vulnerable would be dire.

Much as I understand his concern for parents and children, he might find reassurance, in figures emanating from both America and China, showing that for children infected by Covid-19, the death rate is vanishingly small. Not so of course for the elderly or for those with certain underlying conditions. Indeed, for those in good health and under 60, the bulk of the working population, the disease is generally not particularly nasty.

This might explain why, in my opinion, compliance with the lockdown is beginning to weaken. As I walk around my locality, taking my daily exercise, I have noticed small but subtle changes in behaviour. However, apart from teenagers, almost everyone is maintaining the two-metre rule and behaving responsibly. Again I look to Sweden, where the government has put trust in the people and been rewarded. There, there is no lockdown but the populace are asked to maintain physical distancing, which they do. So far their death rate compares favourably with ours and their economy should emerge from this pandemic in far better shape than ours. I concede that their demographics are quite different, with the world’s highest rate of single occupancy and enjoying a much higher standard of living. We can only wait and see.

Jim Meikle, Killearn.

I’M puzzled by some of the data you’ve published recently. You reported on Saturday that 4.6 million people worldwide have been confirmed as infected by Covid-19, of whom 306,000 have died; that’s a mortality rate of just under 7 per cent. You also reported that the US has had 1.4 million infections and 85,000 deaths, a mortality rate of 6%.

However, in Germany, you report 170,000 infections and 8,000 deaths, a mortality rate of under 5%. In Japan, it’s 16,000 infections and 680 deaths, a mortality rate of just over 4%; while in New Zealand, it’s 1500 infections and 21 deaths, a mortality rate of 1.4%.

And the UK? The figures are 237,000 cases and 34,000 deaths, a mortality rate of over 14%.

Why the huge variation in the mortality rates? Is the data wrong, or are different countries measuring things in different ways? And, if the figures are valid, why is the UK the outlier, so much worse than others?

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

THE sense that one takes from what the First Minister has been saying in the last few days leads one to expect that sooner rather than later for complex social and political reasons the science of this pandemic will be be somewhat overtaken by political necessity. This is understandable. The Government must take social and economic factors into consideration and a lot of forces will be pushing it to ease the lockdown.

It has been suggested that most islands where there have been few cases of Covid-19 could relax before places on the mainland which have had much denser infection. As an island person, I would welcome this for obvious reasons but we have no herd immunity and if this is accompanied by a relaxation in travel restrictions to and from islands, unless a proper testing and contact tracing programme is in place (difficult on an island with tourists) the virus will be transported to islands.

My feeling is that tourism to islands in 2020 is not scientifically supported and should be prevented. This may sound draconian but if day and weekend trippers come to Arran in droves as they do, and B&Bs open up and so on, some Arran residents who have been hunkering down for months may get infected and the rest will have to hunker down again for goodness knows how long. I do not think this is right.

Dr John Cruickshank, Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran.

A GOOD friend of mine trying to explain the two-metre distancing rule to someone suggested she think of it as the length of a coffin. Now is that clear enough for everybody?

John Dunlop, Ayr.

TOM Gordon's article on transparency ("The pretence of transparency is not what Scotland needs", The herald, May 16) includes a part where he asks what slogan Scotland should have. Perhaps this would be suitable: "The economy can recover, the dead cannot. Save lives."

Jim McAdam, Maidens.

Read more: Letters: We are being held back by the timidity of the Scottish Government