Covid: Scotland's Test-and-Protect system must be the best it can possibly be – Scotsman comment

Shortly after the long-awaited news of an apparent Covid vaccine breakthrough come worrying questions about Scotland’s Test-and-Protect system.

Nicola Sturgeon's government must ensure the Covid Test-and-Protect system is operating at the highest possible level (Picture: PA)
Nicola Sturgeon's government must ensure the Covid Test-and-Protect system is operating at the highest possible level (Picture: PA)

Revised figures from Public Health Scotland show errors were made about the numbers of people being contacted promptly. The new statistics reveal Test-and-Protect staff failed to get in touch with about half of positive cases within 24 hours in five out of eight weeks in September and October.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said this response rate “risks harming our ability to fight the spread of the virus”, while Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie pointed out that Test and Protect “was meant to be a major line of our defences against the rise of the virus”.

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Since the pandemic began, Scotland and the rest of the UK have struggled to set up comprehensive testing systems despite early advice from the World Health Organisation to “test, test, test”.

Knowing who has the virus enables them to self-isolate – essentially entering their own personal lockdown – while those who do not have it can go about their business with a much greater degree of freedom.

The effective use of testing could, therefore, both prevent the spread of the virus and protect our economy because the need for blanket restrictions would be reduced.

The Scottish government admitted the system had been "challenged” by the recent rise in positive cases, but said the latest figures showed more than 60 per cent of positive cases were contacted within 24 hours, with 95.8 per cent contacted and their close contacts traced and quarantined within 72 hours, thereby “far exceeding the World Health Organisation 80 per cent standard”.

With lives still being lost – the UK has just become the first European country and only the fifth in the world to exceed 50,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test – this improvement needs to be a lasting one, not just a statistical blip.

We all hope a mass vaccination programme will end this crisis, but it would be a fatal mistake to assume it will any time soon. So, in the meantime, we the public must stick to the lockdown’s restrictions and the Scottish government must ensure Test and Protect is the best it can possibly be.

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