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Sturgeon ‘rowing back’ on contact tracing target

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of “rowing back” on her contact tracing target, after suggesting today she wouldn’t need 2000 in place by the end of the month after all.

Speaking BBC Radio Scotland, the First Minister said it wasn’t necessary to have the full number “in the first stages” – which are due to begin next Monday.

That’s despite previously promising to have 2000 in place for the test, trace and isolate scheme to be up and running by June 1.

The system is essential for Scotland to move to the next phases of lifting lockdown.

However, the SNP’s approach to testing from the outset of the coronavirus crisis has been riddled with problems.

More than 100,000 tests have been left unused as the daily target falls short on a consistent basis, and care homes are still missing out, despite assurances they would all be given tests.

And today, a top academic has spoken out after his warnings to the SNP about Covid-19 in care homes were ignored.

Prof Richard Ennos, who wrote to health secretary Jeane Freeman at the beginning of the pandemic, said: “Discharging people from hospitals to care homes without testing was incredible.”

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said:

“Everyone desperately wants Scotland’s plan to exit lockdown quickly and safely to work.

“But it won’t happen unless the testing system is up to scratch.

“There’s no getting away from the fact Nicola Sturgeon said there would 2000 contact tracers recruited by the end of this month.

“Now she’s rowing back on that pledge significantly, and it sounds like she’s getting her excuses in early for having significantly fewer.

“The SNP’s approach to testing has been botched from the outset, and continued failure on this front will put lives at risk and lead to lockdown lasting longer than is necessary.”

Ends

 

Notes to editors:

 

On the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland today, Nicola Sturgeon said in relation to contact tracers: “I don’t think we’ll need all 2,000 in incidentally in the first stages of this but we have to have the ability to adapt.”

 

It follows her deputy John Swinney admitting only 600 contact tracers were in place last week on the same programme:

Studio: We last heard that 600 of the 2000 contact tracers that you need to be in place for June, were in place, has that number changed at all?

John Swinney: 600 is the last number that I have available to me. That’s sufficient contract tracers to get the system up and running, for what we require at the end of this month.

Studio: We’re only a week away from June so are you hopeful that can happen?

John Swinney: I’m sure every effort to increase the numbers, but 600 is a good contingent of numbers to have in place to begin the work on contact tracing. Contact tracing is only valuable where you have suppressed the level of coronavirus in the community to be able to manage all of those contacts and to pursue them. So, we will have the resources in place to do that, so that we can take forward the test and protect strategy that the FM outlined yesterday, will be an integral part in supporting the decisions we can take under the route map to further relax the constraints that people are operating under.

(BBC, Good Morning Scotland, May 22, 2020, 2:16:10, link).

 

Statement on Dominic Cummings

Below is a statement from Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw in relation to Dominic Cummings.

“I've heard what the Prime Minister has said and it is a situation for him to judge.

“He has reached a conclusion and we must all now focus on continuing to beat this dreadful pandemic.

“I want the Prime Minister to be able to continue his excellent work leading the country out of lockdown and I am glad he set out his plans clearly today.

“Here in Scotland, our focus must be on tackling the ongoing crisis in our care homes and building a robust testing and tracing system.

“There are more worrying reports today that this is proving difficult, and the Scottish Conservative focus will be on challenging the Scottish Government and demanding that promises both to protect care homes and isolate the disease are kept.”

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