THE ideological determination of the SNP Government to pursue a glacial exit from lockdown compared to the rest of the UK will come at an unprecedented economic cost. It is increasingly clear the SNP is exploiting and bolstering fear of Covid-19 to promote nationalism at the expense of the nation’s prosperity. I am sure the SNP dreams of sealing the border with England if only it had the powers.

In pursuing its lockdown strategy the SNP can conveniently hide behind the fig-leaf of the science but the evidence suggests the science is little more than an "a la carte" menu to be used to justify any pathway you wish. Depending on which university boffin you believe the Covid-19 infection in the UK is anywhere from one per cent of the population to 60 per cent. Furthermore, the much-published R factor has an uncertainty range so large that it lacks any credibility as a guide to an exit route from the continued implementation of lockdown measures.

Without sustained testing of millions per week no politician or scientist has any reliable assessment of the appropriate pandemic pathway. This continuing uncertainty is in stark contrast to the very real catastrophic damage to the economy.

Every new day in lockdown elucidates the future more starkly as one characterised by grinding poverty for the many, decades of austerity, a structurally underfunded NHS, mass unemployment, boarded-up high streets, increased drug addiction, more mental health patients, egregiously high tax rates and children lacking any near-term prospect of a normal education. It is not difficult to conclude that far more fatalities will be created from lockdown than from the virus itself. The virus death statistics are clear, poverty kills but the consequences of the strategy being pursued is one of deeper more widespread poverty for a generation or more.

The Chancellor will not permit Scotland to access the furlough scheme for longer than England so businesses north of the Border must be permitted and prepared to exit lockdown at the same pace or ahead of those south of the Border; if not a tsunami of redundancies will be the consequence as early as July.

The Scottish Government should stop spooking the nation with a daily dose of fear and act immediately to open the economy at least to the same extent as the rest of the UK and preferably beyond. There is no scientific reason for the continued closure of building sites, garden centres, hairdressers, offices and most leisure activities. Given the much shorter tourist season north of the Border efforts should be focused on opening this sector some weeks ahead of England.

Raymond Hall, Killearn.

ACCORDING to the Scottish Government figures, coronavirus patients in ICU beds are down to around a quarter of their peak about a month ago, whilst both daily deaths and daily new infections (despite increased testing) are less than half of their peak. Of course every death is a tragedy and one too many, but these reductions are excellent and better than what's happening in England. So why was Jason Leitch on TV at the weekend playing this down, describing the reductions as slight, and essentially preparing us for continued lockdown?

Scott Macintosh, Killearn.

THE coronavirus is winning. At least for now. Nicola Sturgeon announced recently that it was in retreat. It is nothing of the kind. It is simply waiting in the wings until the easing of lockdown leads to more dense groupings of people, and with that the opportunity to re-infect. With that, the R number, an entirely valid metric, will rise above 1, requiring a further lockdown to pull it back down again. It is winning, but it is not unbeatable.

First, the good news. Most people who contract coronavirus experience a mild illness for about a week, and are then fine, and hopefully immune for a while, at least until it mutates, if ever it does, an eventuality not known.

The bad news is that leaves a sizeable proportion of the population very ill; those with underlying illness, of which the infirmity of old age can be considered one, plus several of any age without any outward weakness. Some of them die; most do if they don’t get intensive medical care. By any moral standard, those who fall into these susceptible categories must be valued, never abandoned.

What everyone would like to see is a vaccine, but it looks like that is not coming any time soon, certainly not before full lockdown can no longer be sustained without a catastrophic economic recession.

Herd immunity is once again being talked about, but it requires a majority of the population infected before it can operate. The figure of 60 per cent is being widely quoted, but, given the virus’s particular ability to spread so easily, I find that figure unconvincingly optimistic. Furthermore, that percentage is completely dependent on people’s behaviour in terms of "staying apart" as lockdown is lifted.

What, then, can be done? We can hope that the scientists get lucky and find a vaccine soon, but that seems unlikely. It should therefore be recognised that some time in the near future, Covid-19 is going to spread.

The key is to prepare now to methodically look after those who react badly to the infection. All of them. The true value of lockdown is to buy time for that preparation; to get medically supervised isolation units with all the respirators needed and any other equipment, in place, and care staff suitably rested so that they can function at their best when the time comes.

Lockdown will not stop the virus. It needs to be managed along these lines, with planning and purpose. Given the realities of the disease, that could pull both the people and the economy into a viable future that is less than disastrous.

Jim Robertson, East Kilbride.

EVER since you published the letter from Dave Biggart seeking a fill explanation of the R number (May 5), I have been looking for an answer to the question of how the infection transmission factor, R, is calculated. I am a physicist, not a physician, but I thought that my experience in dealing with exponential growth and decay may lead to a simple formula.

Recently, I realised that I was on the wrong track, as I first heard that the calculation was “based on several different models” and took “56 hours on the most powerful computer available”, which I assume means something a bit better than my laptop. In Germany however, it is reported that a simpler formula is in use. R is equal to the number of new cases reported within the community in the past four days divided by the number reported in the previous four days. Now I am really worried as, in Britain, statistics was the first casualty of this war against the virus. Maybe it is different in Germany. Without accurate data, any result is useless. It is well known that politicians use statistics like drunks use lamp-posts; for support, not illumination.

Politicians started quite well at first, if a little slowly. On March 5, they declared that Covid-19 was a notifiable disease, which meant that any doctor becoming aware of a case should inform the central authority. Good. This was then made impossible as within a short time the following instructions were given to us: on experiencing the symptoms, we were told that we must not go to the doctor, inform the surgery, call NHS111.

Thus at a stroke it became impossible for any count to be kept of the number of cases within the community. Now our leaders are pinning their strategy on the R number, calculation of which requires accurate values for the numbers of cases within the community in categories: total, new, recent, recovered. This past weekend I became aware of two contrasting statements about the incidence of the disease. On Friday it was reported that “one person in 400 is infected”. This corresponds to a percentage of 0.025 percentage. Today (May 18) I read that a study by a team at Manchester stated that the percentage of people who have been infected is as much as 29 per cent of the population; that is, around 20 million cases. Both these statistics cannot be true. Sadly, as I do believe that the time has come when the lockdown must be ended; accurate calculation of R is impossible. Even worse, reliance on testing has also serious deficiencies.

Ken Johnson, Lochwinnoch.

MOST of us look on shocked and dismayed at the disturbing number of fatalities due to the coronavirus which have occurred in care homes, and we are full of sympathy for the relatives and friends of those who have had their lives ended prematurely because of the high incidence of the virus in such homes. Given these circumstances, a saying attributed to Mahatma Gandhi comes forcibly to mind : "The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members". By that yardstick, our governments have fallen well short and the learning of lessons at a later stage will come too late for many.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

WILL the re-evaluation of the elderly and their care due to the coronavirus lead to some serious reflection by those who vociferously advocate euthanasia and its derivatives?

Rev Dr Robert Anderson, Dundonald.

YOU report that Nicola Sturgeon has ruled that Scotland’s schools are to stay closed until at least after the summer holidays ("Scottish schools ‘to stay closed until after summer holidays’", The Herald, May 16). Of course they should not re-open until any virus risk to pupils and staff is considered to be at an acceptable level. Bearing in mind that zero risk is impossible to achieve, just when that will be is unknown for now.

I merely question the arbitrary nature of this ruling, which appears to be on the basis that a traditional holiday break is sacrosanct and more important than the need to try to catch up as soon as possible on the lost education of the pupils who have been at home on lockdown. To that end, should not the schools start to re-open at the very earliest opportunity whenever that occurs, if necessary sacrificing the whole or part of any holiday break, whether seasonal or otherwise?

Alan Fitzpatrick, Dunlop.

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

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