By Paul Cassidy
Contact tracing is still falling far short of the mark in its bid to tackle and contain the spread of Covid-19, Scottish Labour has said.
In response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests by Scottish Labour, Public Health Scotland revealed that at least 40 per cent of contacts were recorded as having been “traced” by Test and Protect after having been sent a single SMS message with self-isolation advice.
The number of contacts traced with a SMS message spiked at 66.5 per cent in the week ending 18 October, and 85,838 contacts were traced this way in January 2021 alone.
Furthermore, contacts who do not respond to other methods of communication are marked as “complete” after they have been sent an SMS message. This means that since October 5, at least half of all contacts have been considered ‘traced’ after an SMS message has been sent.
On November 12 the First Minster told the Scottish Parliament that “We expect the percentage of close contacts being phoned rather than just texted to continue to increase” but since then the proportion receiving only SMS messages has never fallen below 40 per cent.
Scottish Labour says that any Scottish Government Covid-19 elimination strategy must involve a significant overhaul in Test and Protect practices, and that the current system is not fit for purpose.
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie, above left, said: “The Citizens’ Assembly this week called for the Scottish Government to deliver an elimination strategy. Test and Protect will be key to making that happen but it must be robust and reliable.
“So far the system has been woefully inadequate and riddled with holes, with either too much time between identifying cases or failing to follow through thoroughly – it’s just not good enough.
“If we are to pull ourselves out of the pandemic, all aspects of Covid management must be robust and – frankly – SMS messaging is not up to the task of tracking the virus.
“The Scottish Government has failed to provide any assurance that people receiving a SMS message are self-isolating and know how to access any support they may need.
“The SNP government must show some leadership and beef up its Test and Protect system if we are to have any hope of seeing the back of the pandemic once and for all.”