SCENES over the weekend of people queuing up in the UK’s largest cities for the supermarkets’ golden shopping hour for NHS and social care workers was not edifying. Besides defeating the entire purpose of social distancing, the fact people who didn’t work for the health service were in those queues was deeply sad.

If we are honest much of this panic behaviour occurs because people are frightened. It happens when there is a lack of trust and confidence. You may remember back in September 2007 when word broke that Northern Rock was going bust people queued for three days outside its branches to get their savings out. That in itself exacerbated the collapse of the Rock.

It was the first run on a UK bank since the 1860s. It wasn’t until February 2008 that the Northern Rock was nationalised by the UK Government; that gap in time before there a solid plan resulted in people becoming seriously unnerved and going into panic mode. Likewise, the response to the coronavirus in the UK has been slow, patchy and confusing.

For example, advising people to self-isolate if they develop possible symptoms; then advising people to deploy social distancing, or to work or stay at home if they can do so; while telling everyone to go out to the parks and public spaces. Over the weekend, particularly in London, we have seen the parks with more people than a summer’s day – Scotland isn’t immune from such mass gatherings either.

People have had conflicting and mixed messages. And therein lies the heart of the problem. These are only messages which many folk seem to be ignoring. In Scotland, the messaging has been clearer but it’s still ostensibly guidance. Yesterday’s newspaper headlines including pressure on the Prime Minister to impose a full lockdown in London.

If you look at how other countries around the world are coping to beat this crisis, all of the measures are more than keeping a stiff upper lip and carrying on. A lockdown as a relatively short-term measure may be tough on the economy and peoples’ freedoms but they do work to control a pandemic. We also need proper travel restrictions as an interim measure.

Last week Professor Hugh Montgomery, director of the Institute for Human Health at University College London gave a power illustration of why the coronavirus is more contagious than the common flu.

He said if you get the flu you can infect on average 1.3 people; if they all give it to someone by the time that occurs 10 times you have infected 14 people. With the coronavirus you infect 3 people and by the time it spreads on the same cycle of 10, you have infected 59,000 people on an exponential basis.

It was very welcome news last week to hear that the Simon Community were given £300,000 from the Scottish Government to purchase hotel accommodation for people faced with street homelessness and destitution in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

What is still concerning is that both the sheriff court and housing tribunal will continue to make orders for eviction and mortgage repossession.

The housing tribunal isn’t listing new hearings at least for the next couple of months (if not longer), however eviction orders will still be made 30 days after of a decision to evict.

The Sheriff Principal in Glasgow has issued court guidance in relation to the coronavirus. No evidential hearings with witnesses will be fixed – and existing ones will be adjourned to a later date.

However, the ordinary court for mortgage repossessions is unaffected so decrees for eviction can still be granted there. The debtors court will continue to operate however the Accountant in Bankruptcy has suspended all sales and eviction in sequestrated homeowner cases.

The heritable court at Glasgow Sheriff Court is also sitting as normal. Over 100 cases of social landlord eviction cases are due to call on Wednesday this week. Besides the frightening prospect of eviction decrees being granted against tenants, the idea of so many members of the public all sitting in a crowded court room for a morning or afternoon goes against the Scottish Government’s guidance.

You can’t self isolate or engage in social distancing if you don’t have a roof over your head.

Both Govan Law Centre and the Legal Services Agency are calling for all eviction cases to be suspended in Scotland pending the coronavirus pandemic in the interests of public health and safety.

In my view, there needs to be emergency resilience legislation in the Scottish Parliament to put all evictions from residential homes on hold pending getting past this crisis which affects us all. That should include a freeze on all existing decrees for ejection as well as new cases.