Fri 8 May, 2020

Former chief medical officer and respected public health professor Sir Harry Burns has indicated his support for Scottish Green proposals to routinely test health and care workers.

Speaking at Holyrood’s COVID committee, Sir Harry endorsed the approach, which was proposed by Scottish Green health spokesperson Alison Johnstone two weeks ago.

The idea was also endorsed by Population Health expert Professor Linda Bauld.

In response to questions from Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer, Sir Harry said: “We should be testing the whole population... but yeah, we need on a regular basis to be looking at the folk capable of spreading it, and those are predominantly our health and care workers. We need to be testing them on a regular basis.”

He also said New Zealand and other countries had been more successful because they had been more “aggressively” testing, then effectively tracing and isolating cases.

Professor Bauld said: “It’s absolutely crucial that testing is available for all those staff.”

Professor Bauld also said the UK had been “slow” to expand its testing capacity, and with test results currently taking 30 hours, it will need to be sped up to allow effective tracing.

Responding, Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: “This evidence, provided by Scotland’s most respected public health experts, is clear. We need to be testing our health and care workers on a regular basis, ideally weekly. This is what my Green colleague Alison Johnstone proposed two weeks ago to protect our frontline workers, those they care for and stop the spread of the virus. The Scottish Government must urgently implement this policy.

“Sir Harry also called into question the quality of the UK Government’s drive-through centres, where people are asked to swab themselves, while Professor Bauld said test results were taking too long. It’s clear we need to adopt a more aggressive test trace isolate approach modelled on the success seen in New Zealand and elsewhere, and which proactively seeks out cases and then all those they have been in contact with.”

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