These are important issues and I thank Ron Hill for his thoughtful reply (Oct 3). Clearly, we share the same aims: I, too, want to see children in school and people leading normal lives.

Mr Hill has not fully understood how forecasting works. Prof. Ferguson:'s projected 120,000 deaths from BSE (vCJD) were based on a given premise. In fact, the deaths were higher than Mr Hill allows (I don't know where his 12 comes from) and, since vCJD develops slowly, deaths continue annually, though in small numbers because, so far at least, vulnerability has relied on a rare genetic mutation.

Messrs Whitty and Vallance had the problem this September when they offered possible figures for developing infections and deaths from Covid-19, stressing that these were not predictions, only to be taken to task for making alarming predictions. Big numbers make better headlines than nuanced accuracy.

Mr Hill should note that the Nightingale Hospitals actually turned patients away, lacking the necessary intensive care nurses, a specialism that is highly skilled and of limited supply. The result was that other hospitals were overloaded to the extent of being unable to treat normal patients, who with more thought could have been redirected to the Nightingale hospitals (as, indeed, could those who were discharged into care homes with fatal consequences).

What we need is information on which to make assessments of risk and to determine how much of "normality" we can return to with reasonable safety, and here the government has let us down badly. We need an effective test and trace system, which we have been repeatedly promised. Repeatedly broken promises merely undermine trust.

There are several reasons for this failure: a central system run by agencies lacking in relevant expertise; contracts which omit crucial requirements, such as the collection and dissemination of data through the system; the side-lining of local laboratories and the overlooking of Directors of Public Health's teams who specialise in tracing, and are only belatedly being brought in after many complaints; and the appointment to lead the test and trace system of someone with no relevant experience, a questionable record of management, and who helplessly pleaded, “I don’t think anybody was expecting to see the really sizeable increase in demand that we’ve seen over the course of the last few weeks” as children returned to school, people returned from holiday, workers returned to work, and the season for virus infections with some symptoms confusable with Covid-19 got under way.

If you have information, you can make reasonable choices about personal and general risk. That failure is why we now find ourselves desperately trying to find a way to salvation through a fog of incompetence, ignorance, fake news, misunderstanding, and hysteria that surrounds us.

Barry Tempest