The First Minister must tell the public now if the aim to hire 2000 contact tracers by the end of the month has been ditched, the Scottish Conservatives have said.
It comes after her deputy, John Swinney, refused to say whether the target would be hit this morning.
He instead focused on the 600 already in place, and stated that would be sufficient for the test, trace and isolate scheme to launch on June 1.
Now Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has called on Nicola Sturgeon to be straight with the public, and say now if the target has been dropped.
He said that, given how crucial contact tracing would be to successfully exiting lockdown, people and businesses had a right to know.
On today’s Good Morning Scotland, when asked about the 2000 recruitment commitment made earlier this month by the SNP, Mr Swinney said: “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. 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.”
Last weekend, it emerged more than 3500 people have applied to become contact tracers.
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said:
“Given how critical contact tracing is to exiting lockdown, it’s vital the First Minister is straight with the public.
“It sounds like John Swinney doesn’t think the 2000 target is going to be met, and if that’s the case people and businesses need to know.
“The SNP can’t row back on this commitment and hope nobody will notice.
“Nicola Sturgeon needs to say how many contact tracers, over and above the 600 Mr Swinney is talking about, have been recruited, and will she have 2000 in place by June 1 like she said.
“If that commitment is going to be broken, when will there be 2000 contact tracers ready and available to work?
“We all want contact tracing to work because it’s the only way out lockdown, and we all want to be confident in the system.
“But that will only happen if the SNP is transparent and accountable about what progress is being made.”
Notes to editors:
Below is the relevant transcript from Mr Swinney’s appearance on GMS this morning:
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).