One of Scotland’s top experts on Covid-19 has told how she was left “extremely shaken” after being sent white powder and a used face mask in the post.
Professor Devi Sridhar received the items last summer, with the words ‘I am done’ written in black ink on the face mask, along with a smattering of the white powder.
And professor Sridhar, who is a global public health expert at Edinburgh University, said that she has thought about withdrawing from the public gaze she is subject to in her high-profile role.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised professor Sridhar as a ‘voice of reason’ throughout the pandemic, as she acknowledged the ‘horrendous abuse’ that she receives on social media.
Speaking in an interview with the Times newspaper, professor Sridhar acknowledged the public dimension to her job due to the nature of the coronavirus pandemic.
Reflecting on being sent the items in July last year, the public health expert said: “I was extremely shaken and it was probably the hardest part because it was in my real life, not virtual or online.
“I have thought often about withdrawing but it feels like, for better or worse, my job now also has a public dimension.
“Hopefully it’s helpful to have scientists out there explaining things for most people.”
On Saturday, Sturgeon told the PA news agency that the abuse suffered by women in the public eye has “got to stop”.
“Obviously that is awful – I’m not going to go into the detail of that because that’s obviously for the appropriate authorities to look into,” said the SNP leader when asked about the items sent to professor Sridhar.
“But Devi is an example of a high-profile, vocal woman who gets horrendous abuse through social media – she’s not alone in that but I know she has received that.
“Sometimes that abuse seems to be all the greater because she has been an adviser to my Government – a hugely important and valuable adviser to my Government, but one that has given very straight and at times uncomfortable advice to me and to my Government.”
Sturgeon added: “She has been a real voice of reason and good sense throughout this pandemic, but like many women who put their heads above the parapet they face the most horrendous abuse and it’s got to stop.
“Social media companies and others really have to be part of putting a stop to it.”