Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie.

By Bill Heaney
Green Party leader Patrick Harvie’s position on the pandemic lockdown is very clear. He doesn’t want it to happen.
He told the Scottish Parliament: “Our thanks go to everyone who is respecting the lockdown.
“Some people seem to be willing to hand over Scotland’s decision making on that issue and are actively agitating for an end to the life-saving measures that are in place. We urge the Scottish Government to continue to put public health first.”
The Dumbarton Academy-educated MSP added: “Test, trace and isolate is now clearly stated as Scottish Government policy.
“I am pleased by the move back to that approach. However, as others have done, I want to explore the numbers. On testing, the First Minister said two weeks ago that she wanted to “use to the full now the capacity that we are building.”
However, she has just told us that, from capacity for more than 10,000, just over 4,000 tests were completed yesterday.
“That under-use of our capacity is not a single day’s anomaly; the stats that were published for previous days showed that 1,400 or 1,600 tests had been done, against capacity of well over 8,000 at the time.
“It seems that, since the start of this month, well over three quarters of our testing capacity has been sitting idle.”
He asked Nicola Sturgeon: “When does the First Minister believe we will get close to using our full capacity for testing? Does she agree that that is a necessary step towards the mass testing that Scotland needs?”
Ms Sturgeon asked for leave to correct Patrick Harvie’s figures “a little,” which must mean he wasn’t wide of the mark.
She said: “I said on Friday that by the end of this week we will have capacity for 10,000 tests a day; we do not currently have capacity for 10,000.
“On Friday, the capacity that I confirmed we had reached was 8,350, split between the expanded national health service lab network and the University of Glasgow lab, but I also said that a change to the shift pattern at the University of Glasgow was taking 2,000 off that capacity, until yesterday.

“Therefore, until yesterday, testing capacity was—my arithmetic might betray me here—about 6,350, so the figure of 4,000 tests represents use of more than 70 per cent of the capacity that we had yesterday. If I have, in the moment, got any of those figures wrong, I will happily correct them later.

I also said on Friday—this is something about which my understanding has deepened over the past weeks—that there will never be a perfect match between capacity for testing and use of testing, because of fluctuations and geographical variations in demand.

“There will also never be a perfect match between the number of tests that we do and the number of people who are tested, because there are good clinical reasons why some people require to be tested more than once.

“For example, we require that Covid patients who are being discharged from hospital to a care home have two negative tests. There will always be differences.

“We are working to ensure that capacity is used as fully as is possible and practical, and we are working to build capacity beyond what it is now. The milestones that I set out were capacity for 10,000 tests by the end of this week, and for 12,000 by the middle of the month.

“The initial assessment of where we need to go after that, for TTI, is 15,500. Again, I will inject a bit of caution on that number: we might need to go beyond it. That will depend very much on how well we suppress the virus and on the requirement for testing to keep it at low levels.”

Patrick Harvie replied: “We will continue to look at the figures, of course, but the tables that were published yesterday seemed to suggest that there had been 1,400 or 1,600 tests done per day, from capacity for well over 8,000 a day.

“Mass testing—actual tests taking place, as opposed to capacity—is only the first element in TTI. It is good that the Scottish Government is emphasising the work of human contact tracers as the next step. A proximity app might well have a role to play, but I agree with the First Minister that it should not and cannot replace the proven methods that are used by people who work in public health.

“I was therefore pleased to see the first estimate of the numbers, which is that 2,000 contact tracers will be needed.

“However, the plan that was published on Monday does not have clear timescales attached to it, so I am still unclear about the timescale, even after the First Minister’s exchange with Jackson Carlaw [the Tory leader].

“The First Minister says that enhanced contact tracing capacity should be in place by the end of May. Does that mean that 2,000 contact tracers will be recruited, trained and deployed by then?

“If not, how many will be in place by then? Will the First Minister tell us who is undertaking that recruitment? Will the contact tracers be employed by public health agencies or by outsourced private contractors?

“What measures will be put in place to support people for whom isolation will pose particular challenges, including people with family caring responsibilities, significant disabilities or complex health needs?”

The First Minister shot back: “We will set out more detail on the milestones towards capacity, and we will set out changes to our estimates of capacity as we build towards milestones.

“Health boards are already looking to train existing staff in contact tracing, and an advert will go live on Friday, through Public Health Scotland, for recruitment of additional contact tracers.

“That work is under way. I ask members to try to appreciate the complexities in the assessments that are required to allow us to estimate what we need, and to appreciate that they will vary as we go through the experience of the pandemic. We will share as much detail of that information as we can, as quickly as possible.”


One comment

  1. Meanwhile in England 400,000 pieces of PPE flown in specially by the RAF from Turkey has had to be impounded because of it being sub standard.

    The rank incompetence of the Union Quackery shows no sign of abating. Like the First World War the blimps are once again in control.

    And next on the comedy circuit will be an all too early exit from lockdown that will give rise to a second wave of deaths

    Bojo and his Brexit Band are certainly the boys. Take it on the chin chaps, we’re now practicing for the second wave.

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