ANY crisis brings out the very best and the very worst in human beings. The coronavirus pandemic is no different – except the consequence of taking the wrong approach is measured in the loss of loved ones, not pounds sterling or the wiping out of percentages in GDP and stock market shares.

In Glasgow, there are wonderful stories abound of people in streets making plans to help neighbours who are elderly, alone or vulnerable. Concerns have been raised about the less fortunate. Those who are street homeless; with serious medical conditions; reliant on foodbanks; who care for a severely disabled person. What hope do they have?

Panic buying helps no-one. Not even the person who hoards, because the only way to fight a pandemic is if everyone works together. Having a ton of hand sanitiser will keep your hands clean, but unless you live in a bubble you will be infected by someone who couldn’t buy any. We need to learn quickly from the experience of countries who have managed this crisis well.

Singapore was hit early with the coronavirus and took decisive action by setting up targeted systems to identify and treat every case, with strict travel restrictions. It has infections down to less than 200. European countries who had taken a more laid-back approach such as Spain, France and Germany now have 10 times the cases as Singapore. Italy has the most infections outside of China – more than 25,000 cases – and is now on lockdown.

The approach in the UK is worrying. It’s called “herd immunity” – first brought up by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance but denied as part of the strategy by Health Secretary Matt Hancock – and involves being cautious and doing less. Allow people to contract the coronavirus naturally, most get sick but hopefully become immune, and you build resilience over time. This is dangerous strategy and assumes you can control the spread of infection and have an NHS capacity to treat cases.

In truth, it’s a plan that would put the economy before the people. More people will die. The PM said that himself.

Last week, within 24 hours, the UK Government U-turned on its own policy. Over the weekend it announced a ban on large sporting events and mass gatherings – effectively adopting the Scottish Government’s policy. None of this is enough. The evidence is the fact businesses and organisations are taking action themselves.

In Scotland, universities and colleges are effectively closing; travel for staff within the UK is being restricted by employers; conferences and public events are being cancelled; and more public services are being offered remotely with face to face services being reserved where essential.

There is now a growing divergence between the policy of government – UK and Scottish – and what employers are implementing to protect their staff as much as they can. Government policy is now out of kilter with practice. It’s not about if, it’s about this is happening. This gives rise to a number of practical challenges. First and foremost, in Scotland we need to ask ourselves – do we want to put people first?

If the answer is yes, we need to do everything possible to reduce the spread. Schools in Glasgow are due to come off for Easter in a couple of weeks. Why not now? Closing schools creates childcare problems, but many employers can be sympathetic and give one-off paid leave. More flexible and home working needs to be considered. If we are all in this together, then needs must.

Many are self-employed or in the gig economy on zero-hours contracts. We need to ensure if they get sick, they have money to live on. The Scottish Government could use some of its Barnett consequential income from the UK Budget to beef up the Scottish Welfare Fund. Crisis grants for coronavirus difficulties must be an option.

For carers, we need robust local authority social work contingency plans in place if they get ill and have no-one else to look after a loved one. Local authorities will need extra funding for this. Again, Barnett consequential funding could be used. Likewise, we need to ensure foodbanks in Scotland have an adequate supply of essentials and the Scottish Government could facilitate this through a one-off emergency grant.

Many of the UK banks have already announced extra forbearance and the waiving of fees for mortgage and current account customers where the coronavirus causes financial difficulties for a household. That is to be welcomed. We have yet to hear anything from social landlords.

For those in the private sector it will be difficult to achieve any meaningful forbearance, however the Scottish Government should ensure no tenants are evicted because of financial difficulties from the coronavirus.

We need to put people first in the fight against the coronavirus in Scotland.