Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton Constituency, has called for urgent action to be taken in light of the series of testing and contact tracing failures that have been reported in recent days.
A number of serious issues have emerged in regard to the Scottish Government’s testing strategy and its ‘Test and Protect’ system. A report from Public Health Scotland showed that previously published test and protect figures had been inaccurate and that far fewer individuals who had been in contact with COVID-19 had actually been contacted and told to self-isolate than previously believed.
It was revealed that the government’s Test and Protect programme was performing five times worse than was previously thought. The incorrect figures claimed that 8,262 positive cases waited more than 24 hours to be interviewed by Test & Protect between August and October. The corrected statistics show that this figure was actually 15,291 positive cases. Jackie Baillie raised an urgent question with the Cabinet Secretary for Health regarding the misreporting of statistics. She told Jeane Freeman that the Scottish Government was failing to keep the public safe.
Following the issue of misreporting, it then emerged that 3,512 people who tested positive in recent months were never contacted by Test and Protect contact tracers, meaning none of their close contacts were told to quarantine. It was also revealed that no contact was made with 9,252 people identified as contacts by positive cases.
In addition, it has been found that only one in ten individuals who have been required to quarantine upon returning to Scotland from a country that has quarantine restrictions has actually been contacted by a Test and Protect tracker to ensure that they are complying with rules.
In May, the UK Government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (SAGE) warned that any delay past 48-72 hours before contacts were isolated would have a “significant impact” on the R-number which, in turn, would increase the rate of transmission and further outbreaks.
Public Health Scotland statistics showed that there were 8,477 cases for which contact tracing took over 72 hours to be completed over the week ending 16 August to the week ending 25 October – equivalent to 24.2 per cent of all cases and more than the WHO recommended standard.
Jackie Baillie MSP said:
“The Scottish Government’s Test and Protect system has been dominated by a long list of failings which highlights a total mismanagement of what is a hugely important strategy for reducing the spread of COVID-19.
“The complete misreporting of Test and Protect figures – and the nonchalant way in which the First Minister and her health secretary dismissed concerns surrounding this – was completely unacceptable.
“This SNP government is dismissing each and every failing as nothing more than a minor hiccup. Their lack of action and resources to urgently improve the system is putting the health of vulnerable individuals at risk.
“We have the best chance of keeping ourselves safe and reducing the spread of COVID-19 when positive cases are identified immediately and all individuals who have been in contact with the virus begin isolating straight away.
“The Scottish Government needs to show some sense of urgency and get its act together. Otherwise we will only see greater case numbers, tighter restrictions and, sadly, more deaths.”