AS we head into a seemingly inevitable second national lockdown, it might be instructive for our leaders to look at the country which was the original disaster area in Europe for Covid-19. Namely, Italy.

The Italians have now recorded 300,000 cases and more than 35,000 deaths since the outbreak began there. But in recent weeks it was clear that the infection and death rates in Italy were far, far lower than in France, Spain and the UK. Which is why my partner and I decided to visit Rome and Sorrento for 12 days.

The differences between how the virus is being tackled here and in Italy are blindingly obvious. You know that a country is taking its approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic very seriously when every toilet used by the public has the plastic or wooden seat on its WCs removed.

Absolutely no checks were done on us as we left Scotland, though Ryanair’s staff were very strict on masks being worn on board, but our temperatures were taken as soon as we arrived at Rome’s Ciampino Airport and when we boarded trains. And every second seat was sealed off to ensure social distancing, while mask-wearing was compulsory and 100% of people complied with the regulation.

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As soon as we arrived at our hotel in Sorrento our temperatures were taken again and even as we got on the sightseeing bus in Rome. Hand sanitisers were everywhere and people encouraged each other to use them. Their test and trace system works and the catastrophic scenes in Italy back in February are a thing of the past.

Everybody that served us in the entire 12 days was wearing a mask, but most importantly so were the vast majority of the populace out in the streets.

In short, it has become second nature for Italians to comply with the rules and that’s why their number of new daily cases is so low compared to elsewhere – a daily average of about 1500 in the past week and deaths down to single figures – leading to hope that a second wave will be avoided.

After the initial disasters they have saved lives and businesses in Italy by everyone taking the virus seriously. The UK and Scottish governments – and yes, many more people in these islands – should start following the example of the Italians, and get the job done.