Scotland could eliminate coronavirus – without England

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By Michael Marshall

A handmade sign outside Ballachulish in the Highlands of Scotland

Jane Barlow / PA Wire / Images PA

SCOTLAND is only a few weeks away from the complete removal of the coronavirus, a situation which highlights the different approaches adopted by the nation and England in recent months. While Scotland initially made many of the same mistakes as England, since late March its government has acted on its own scientific advice.

The two countries reacted to the coronavirus in the same way from January to March, said Devi Sridhar of the University of Edinburgh. “There are a few things where Scotland left a little earlier, but not drastically. ”

One of the first Scottish successes came in community screening for the disease. When Kate Mark of the National Health Service Lothian in Edinburgh realized that suspicious cases were increasing, her team began testing people at home and set up one of the world’s first driving test centers. But on March 12, the British government abandoned all community testing efforts to focus on testing in hospitals and other health facilities due to a lack of resources. Since then, the disease has spread rapidly until, on March 23, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a blockage across the United Kingdom.

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It was not early enough to prevent waves of deaths in retirement homes in Scotland and England. In both countries, the protection of social care has been prioritized in favor of health care. When Scotland started collecting data on covid-19 in nursing homes on April 11, 37% of the homes were already infected, according to a report co-authored by David Henderson at Napier University in Edinburgh. “In some weeks there has been a 300% increase in deaths in nursing homes in England and 200% in Scotland,” he says. “We could say we were a little better, but I wouldn’t say that a 200 percent increase in deaths is glaring. ”

Then the paths taken by Scotland and England began to diverge. Two days after the start of the national foreclosure, Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon created a scientific advisory group for Scotland to complement the advice of the British scientific advisory group for emergencies. “That’s probably when you started to see more discrepancies,” says Sridhar.

“We have stayed true to our old-fashioned, traditional and evidence-based contact search principles”

Scotland has been slower to loosen the lock than England and has done it step by step, so that the effects of each change can be measured. This differs from the rapid relaxation of England, says Sridhar.

Scotland has also been more successful in setting up tests and contact tracing, without relying on the very late application of the British government. “We have stayed true to our old-fashioned, traditional and evidence-based contact search principles,” says Mark.

Two other factors have contributed to Scotland’s relative success, says Sridhar. The first is a clear message. On May 10, the British government changed its slogan “stay home” to “stay alert”, but Scotland remained on the original line. Since then, he has gone on to “stay safe”.

In addition, “there is a very high level of confidence in the Scottish government and in the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon,” says Sridhar. According to YouGov, as of May 1, 74% of Scots approved of their government’s handling of the pandemic and 71% were confident in Nicola Sturgeon’s decisions. In contrast, a June poll found that 50% of Britons disapproved of Johnson and only 43% disapproved of it.

On 29 June, Scotland reported only 5 new cases, out of 815 for the UK as a whole, and announced no new Covid-19-related deaths for the fourth day in a row. The nation may soon have days with no new confirmed cases. “Scotland is weeks away from this,” says Sridhar. “A few months from England. ”

However, in practice, it is unlikely that Scotland will achieve complete elimination in the near future, as it has a 154-kilometer border with England. “Lots of people cross this border every day,” says Sridhar. “I think we will probably never get complete elimination without England’s cooperation.”

On June 29, Sturgeon said that there were “no plans” to quarantine people entering Scotland from other parts of the United Kingdom, but that the nation should “be able to consider all options ”to prevent the virus from rebounding if infection rates are different elsewhere in the country.

However, it should be possible for Scotland to keep the number of new cases very low – and perhaps to encourage England to follow suit.

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