Letters: Covid is far from over. We can’t give up now

AFTER the furore created by Joanna Blythman’s Opinion article on November 20 (“Making vaccination compulsory is immoral – and it doesn’t even work”), I’m disappointed to find in today’s edition another opinionated article by Ms Blythman, which is also full of inaccuracies, nonsense and outlandish ideas (“Omicron is being used to heighten fear levels. We must not be spooked”, The Herald, December 4).

In her earlier piece, Ms Blythman claimed that, in the UK, the Covid vaccine had caused 1,766 deaths; that was tripe. Now she claims that “the Covid infection fatality rate is more or less the same as flu: 0.096%”. In fact the data show that there have been 10 million positive Covid tests, 145,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, and 170,000 deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate. That gives rates of 1.4% and 1.7%, either 15 or 18 times the figure Ms Blythman has plucked from the air, or from a wild and wacky website.

Particularly obnoxious are Ms Blythman’s personal attacks on Professor Susan Michie, head of the Health Psychology Research Group at University College London, and Dr Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency. Ms Blythman refers to “grim-faced Harries and Michie… in their 60s, no young family…”. She says of Dr Harries: “Her appearance would cause the mince pies to chill on the plate.”

How rude, how silly, how pathetic. When Ms Blythman descends to personal abuse, she’s simply a troll, someone who spews bile and conspiracy theories in the hope of stirring up a storm. I expect better in The Herald.

Covid isn’t finished with us and, after all we’ve been through, we mustn’t give up now. No doubt there were some in the UK who thought it would be a good idea to throw in the towel in 1941, after two years of war and restrictions. Thank goodness wiser heads prevailed then, and I hope wiser heads than Ms Blythman’s will prevail now, for all our sakes.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

* JOANNA Blythman states: “No one in South Africa is known to have been hospitalised with the Omicron variant” yet in the same edition Helen McArdle writes: In South Africa hospitalisations with Omicron are rising” (“In our world of uncertainty, caution makes good sense”, The Herald, December 4). These two statements appear to be incompatible. Which one is correct? Personally I will be following Ms McArdle’s advice and being cautious. If I attend a party and Ms Blythman is present, probably not wearing a mask, I think I will take the cautious approach and find another party.

Angus McKee, Glasgow.

THE ART OF THE POSSIBLE

BRIAN Chrystal (Letters, December 4) asks us whether David Watson “has a point” in his criticism of the Scottish Government not acting in the face of Omicron. Yet, as Professor Linday Bauld has pointed out, “we do not yet know the full extent of the challenge that will emerge in practice from Omicron”.

The guiding principle of Government policy regarding Covid has been that the restrictions should be proportionate to the degree of threat, so if we don’t know the full degree of threat how can we take proportionate action?

However, a wider difficulty is that each of us would place different weights on the conflicting aims of controlling the virus and the needs of parts of the economy, so it is almost inevitable that there will be those who will consider Government policy too draconian or too lax. Indeed, policy in Scotland has, over the course of the pandemic been characterised as the former, compared to England, and as the Financial Times noted in February, the First Minister’s “greater willingness to maintain restrictions has helped Scotland keep deaths and infections lower than in England.”

Of course, it can be argued that we should take a high level of precaution in the face of a threat which may be serious, that we don’t wait till we find it is serious. There is, though, another issue – how far will the public go in respecting new, additional restrictions? The current environment is radically dissimilar to that after the announcement of the first lockdown, when it would not be going too far to say people were frightened into following restrictions.

Therefore, if constraints on our behaviour are not going to be followed, and cannot be enforced, what point do they have? Is it not better to put in place the maximum limitations that most of the community can be encouraged to follow?

Rather than issues of right or wrong, or having a point or not, the more important and comprehensive judgement is that this is an instance that, as Harold Wilson observed, “Politics is the art of the possible”.

Alasdair Galloway, Dumbarton.

WILL LESSONS REALLY BE LEARNED?

I WAS beyond disgusted reading in Saturday’s Herald about the horrific way Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was treated and then murdered by his stepmother (“Couple who killed boy, 6, jailed as grandmother slates authorities”, The Herald, December 4). I am not in favour of capital punishment but would definitely make an exception in the case of Ms Tustin. The father deserves no better and what failures as human beings both of them are.

Despite warnings by family members, the system let down a decent wee boy and how social services could have missed this is beyond belief. Somebody deserves their jotters for this. No doubt “lessons will be learned” and it won’t happen again, until the next time.

Iain Harrison, Linlithgow.

SICKENING LEVEL OF INHUMANITY

MANY of us who have lived through the biblical lifespan and beyond, including myself, will have reckoned that we had come to know in the world seriously awful levels of human depravity. We had come to believe that we had seen or been made aware of the worst that people were capable of. How wrong we were. I refer to the awful circumstances of the murder of young Arthur Labinjo-Hughes.

Many will have been profoundly moved by the cruelty shown to that young, innocent child. I was greatly moved about the circumstances of the life Arthur was living – wondering when he would next be struck or bullied; wondering when he would next be fed; and failing to understand why he was being treated in such a despicable way. The fact that a young child could be treated with such viciousness is beyond human comprehension.

It made one emotional to think of the many families who would have been pleased to take care of this little boy. I have no doubt many tears have been shed by those reading of and listening to descriptions of how Arthur was treated during his short life. His treatment and eventual loss of life represents for me a sickening and depressing level of man’s inhumanity to man.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

HOW COULD ANY GOD ALLOW THIS?

THESE past few days have seen coverage of the heart breaking story of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, tortured and killed by his father and stepmother.

The tormentors of this lovely-looking wee boy have been given long prison sentences, though whether they are enough is doubtful given the evil that obviously resides in those two individuals who, according to court comments, showed no remorse.

Most of us reading the reports of how this wee boy was treated and his calls for help: “no one loves me”, “who will feed me?”, would feel their heart break and yet, and yet.

Many of these same people, whilst in despair at just how low some of our fellow human beings can reach, are members of a church of religion and are sure of their faith. Regardless of the conduit that they believe allows them to worship, praise and exalt God – Christianity, Islam, Judaism and many more – they all have in common that God is an all-seeing, benevolent being without sin who looks after us all regardless of our role in society, especially the weak and little children. Some even believe He can forgive sin if certain words are offered.

Well, where was this God when the poor wee soul Arthur needed him? What had he done at the age of six to have been abandoned by God and given to the depraved individuals who took the life of this innocent?

People of faith will argue we were given free will ,but Arthur’s death does not square with their belief that God loves us all, and of course when challenged by those of us not taken in by fairy stories when we say how can you square the circle reply: “Ah, but we have faith.”

It’s pathetic and intellectually indefensible. Rest in peace, Arthur.

James Martin, Bearsden.

MARR WILL NOT BE MISSED

Thank goodness Andrew Marr is leaving the BBC. His style of interviewing is very confrontational, and the main reason for my letter is that he constantly interrupts guests. His style instead of elucidating the response he is seeking has the opposite effect, and the viewer is left wondering: why bother?

I do hope that the BBC in casting its net finds and employs a presenter who has the skills not only to ask the questions but the good manners to listen to the response.

Neil Stewart, Balfron.

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