First Minister reveals lack of urgency on COVID testing

The First Minister has rejected calls to introduce weekly COVID tests for all NHS staff.

In a letter to Scottish Greens health spokesperson Alison Johnstone, Nicola Sturgeon appeared to rule out testing all hospital staff, instead preferring a slower, more gradual approach.

In her response to the Scottish Green call in September for mass testing, the First Minister writes: “As testing capacity builds and in line with clinical and public health priorities identified through the review of our testing strategy, we will also extend routine weekly testing of asymptomatic groups in a way which focuses on protecting those most vulnerable to the most harm, including those at the highest risk of mortality.”

Alison Johnstone presented a dossier of evidence on asymptomatic testing in April, when she called for weekly tests for all frontline NHS and care staff.

Although the Scottish Government opened up regular testing for care home staff a month later, this has not been afforded for the vast majority of hospital staff or those who do care work in people’s homes.

Commenting, Alison Johnstone said: ““Despite the fact we are in the grip of a second wave of this deadly virus, the Scottish Government has a complete lack of urgency when it comes the World Health Organisation’s top priority, testing.

“The Scottish Government’s own testing review established weekly testing as a priority for Scotland, yet in her letter she says routine testing will only happen if there is a ‘clear purpose’. I can’t think of a clearer purpose than ensuring our vital NHS staff are protected, are able to work and have greater security that they themselves are not going to be spreading the virus.

"It’s still the case that someone working in our hospitals today could have the virus and could be walking about without knowing it. I know this is of great concern to those working to look after us all. They should have been getting weekly tests months ago.”