Scotland’s Nonsensical Covid Book Ban

A student at the University of Edinburgh has written a stinging piece in the Spectator on the Scottish Government’s restrictions on library access.

Why is the SNP banning books? On January 5th the Scottish Government introduced a strict new lockdown in response to the spread of a more infectious strain of Covid. As a student at the University of Edinburgh, one particular restriction has baffled me ever since. Unlike in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Scottish Government decided to ban students from reading, borrowing or even touching books in their university libraries.

Even as fears rose over the rapidly spreading “Kent” variant, it seemed that this policy lacked any scientific foundation. The Scottish Government’s explanation for its book ban is baffling, and seems to be just copied and pasted advice from public websites and bluster over the importance of fighting Covid. Fighting Covid is important of course, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to abandon logic either. A quick look at the Scottish Government’s own Covid data, studies on how the disease spreads and the ramifications for Scotland’s already shameful educational inequality makes you wonder why this policy was ever introduced in the first place.

Harry Warren – the piece’s author – quotes from a paper by Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (August 2020) evaluating the claim that Covid is spreading via library books. (Presumably, he didn’t come across the paper in a library.)

In a study in which the authors tried to mimic actual conditions in which a surface might be contaminated by a patient, no viable SARS-CoV-2 was detected on surfaces.

In my opinion, the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze.

Harry comments:

In other words, the transmission of Covid via university books is only feasible if an infected individual coughs or sneezes directly onto a page which is then touched within one or two hours. Before the Scottish Government mandated the book ban, Edinburgh University already isolated used books for a period of 72 hours, mitigating this already negligible risk.

Why, then, is the ban in place?

Worth reading in full.

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