Nicola Sturgeon denies ignoring SAGE advice as temperature checks for hospital visitors 'under review'

Nicola Sturgeon rejected opposition claims that she ignored advice from the government’s leading scientific advisory group when developing new restrictions for Scotland.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th October 2020, 5:16 pm
Shoppers wearing face masks in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin
Shoppers wearing face masks in Glasgow. Picture: John Devlin

The First Minister was also challenged on guidance for infection control in hospitals by the Scottish Conservatives following a virtual statement to the Scottish Parliament where she announced new guidance on face coverings.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard highlighted the minutes from the UK Government advisory group SAGE from 21 September that warned new restrictions should be “without ambiguity or contradiction” and warned of a cycle of circuit breaker lockdowns.

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He said: “Despite this, the First Minister last week chose measures, which were imposed with no engagement of those affected, which have resulted in ambiguity and confusion, and which will hit hardest those on the lowest incomes. Meanwhile, the current test and trace strategy and system is not good enough.

Servicemen of Russia's Emergencies Ministry wearing protective gear disinfects Moscow's Yaroslavsky railway station on October 15, 2020, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Picture: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

“Can the First Minister explain to us why she ignored that scientific advice?”

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Ms Sturgeon flatly rejected the suggestion, saying her Government had “absolutely not” ignored the advice from the scientists.

She said: “If we look at the actions from governments across the UK, the Scottish Government acted to implement many of the recommendations SAGE made.

"Governments have to take account of the scientific advice and, of course, the further we go into this pandemic, we must balance the imperative of stopping the virus with the harms that are done through some of the measures we have to use to do that.

"We have to reach balanced decisions that stop the virus, protect people’s jobs and livelihoods and wider well-being and health as well.”

Ms Sturgeon said household visiting restrictions were introduced by Scotland the day after it was recommended by SAGE.

The First Minister was also pressed by Ruth Davidson over several outbreaks of Covid-19 in hospitals and the infection prevention and control guidance in place in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservative’s Holyrood leader’s question was affected by poor wifi signal and audio, meaning much of it was inaudible to those watching the virtual session of Parliament.

However, raising outbreaks in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow and the Western General in Edinburgh and amid news of another outbreak in an orthopaedic trauma war in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Ms Davidson asked Ms Sturgeon: “Can the First Minister say that further infection control measures, such as temperature testing, is being considered on a ward by ward basis across Scotland?”

In response, the First Minister said hospital acquired infection of Covid-19 was a “concern”. She said the Scottish Government was following advice from scientists on how to reduce the chance of infection.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We will continue to keep all of that under review and take decisions based on clinical advice.

"We publish weekly figures on nosocomial hospital acquired infections and we continue, the health secretary and I, to be updated and advised by the chief nursing officer and deputy chief nursing officer about the situation in particular wards and hospitals and the steps that are being taken.

"Infection prevention and control, both in the sense of preventing Covid getting into hospitals, but controlling and preventing its transmission in hospitals, is of paramount importance.”

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