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Coronavirus: Could Scotland have responded quicker?

The Scottish Government Response to Coronavirus

Stop anyone in the street right now, and ask: 

‘What are your thoughts towards Britain’s Covid 19 response’?

It would be unanimous.

We did not act soon enough.

The story is the same in Scotland. Health is devolved to the Scottish government, and not governed by the UK, but all four nations decided to stand together, and respond collectively.

This, on the surface, was a good thing. As someone in favour of a United Kingdom, I felt very much relieved that we were acting together, on a united front.

Many hands make light work and this is too complicated an issue, and too connected a kingdom; to have gone it alone.

It is, after all, an emergency situation. 

Yet this does not mean, you put down the baton. You act as a cooperative. 

Therefore, why was the Scottish government so slow with its responsibilities?

Could they have responded quicker?

Is it because that was what Westminster demanded? 

Or, did Scotland not have a handle on the situation to be able to act cooperatively? 

Health is after all devolved. It is within Scottish power. We may have been acting unanimously, but it is within Scottish jurisdiction to act accordingly. 

If Scotland came across evidence that suggested a different course of action it is the Scottish government’s responsibility to act on behalf of its’ people, and the union.

This is exactly what they came across. 

This week, a programme examining the Scottish response was aired. Disclosure Scotland examined whether Scotland should have acted sooner.

The programme unveils evidence of a major outbreak in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, in late February. This was three weeks before Scotland went into lockdown, alongside the rest of the UK.

25 people attending a Nike event on the 26th and 27th of February at the Hilton Carlton Hotel, fell ill and were later confirmed to have Covid 19. 

The Scottish government said nothing of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, over two weeks go by and the clinical director for the Scottish government, Jason Leitch, told Good Morning Britain, that Scotland did not need to ban mass gatherings. This was on March 16th.

Public gatherings were then banned that very day Jason Leitch appeared on Good Morning Britain. 

In response to the show’s host Piers Morgan, who confronted Jason Leitch, Leitch made reference to Morgan’s, ‘Masters of Public Health’. In which Piers responded with:

“I’m a master of common sense”!

And therein the problem lies. 

For all that Piers Morgan falls short on, he does hit the nail on the head.

Where is common sense?

It does not take a master of Public Health, as Jason Leitch insinuates, to understand the basics of how a virus transmits. And what might need to be in place in order to stop it?

Where were the Scottish government’s heads?

It is reported the government knew of the outbreak in Edinburgh by the 2nd of March, according to the BBC. Such an outbreak would be bound to spread. However, people residing at the hotel, who were in contact with the Nike attendees, were not contacted by the authorities despite their assurance of contact tracing.

Needless to say, various public health experts on the Disclosure Scotland programme, felt dismayed the government did not act sooner.

In fact, one Scottish family, as the programme reveals; hosted a party at the beginning of March. This led to five family members falling ill with the virus and three of them subsequently dying.

One public health expert actually wrote to the Scottish Government, advising them to take greater action.

She has had no reply.

I have experienced a similar situation during this pandemic. I corresponded with the Scottish government, concerning a matter I had witnessed that affected public health. It took weeks before I received any answer, and the answer I received did not address my concern. I received a PDF of the guidelines instead. Writing again to reiterate what I had said, my concern was eventually understood and ‘passed on’, which then was ‘passed over’ weeks later, without any feedback and another PDF attached.

Concluding then that the Scottish government were not functioning as a jurisdiction, before, Disclosure Scotland made the revelation.

The programme discusses whether Scotland has enough of a say within SAGE, which is the scientific advisory body for emergencies in the UK.

Nevertheless, Scotland still has public health officials who are making their opinions heard. As seen with both Jason Leitch and Dr Calderwood: the now ex-chief medical officer, went against her own advice.

Dr Calderwood travelled to a second home after the lockdown was put in place, despite telling everyone on TV to ‘Stay at Home.

They are not only there to liaise with SAGE, but to advise Scotland’s health specifically.

If the Scottish government does not have the capacity to listen to and inform its’ own people, it is not in a position to govern.

Even Nike closed all their stores across the world, in response to what happened over a week before the lockdown.

The Scottish government is especially not in a position to govern during a crisis.

It is of no wonder then that Scotland was so slow to react in the face of this pandemic.

Scotland did not have a handle on the situation, and instead of acting cooperatively, acted obediently in the end.

If Scotland had responded more responsibly, we may have saved more lives. 

The TV programme, Disclosure Scotland revealed a new model. If lockdown had happened two weeks prior- as many as 2000 lives would have been saved.

Scotland’s death toll at that point was in the range of 2600.

It is fair to say that Nicola Sturgeon is now exercising her responsibilities as a devolved nation. Whilst England moved into phase two of this pandemic with a new slogan: ’Stay Alert’, suggesting it is not so important to ‘Stay at Home. Nicola has told the Scottish public that the message remains the same, and it is not safe to imply we do anything other than ‘Stay at Home.

How the Scottish government responds during the rest of this pandemic, remains to be seen, but it is without doubt-they could have responded quicker.

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