Demand for answers to claims Scottish Covid testing is failing

The Scottish Government has been accused of “peddling widely inaccurate data” about its Test and Protect system, as a demand for an urgent Parliamentary question on the revelation it is performing five times worse than claimed has been granted.

Holyrood's presiding officer has agreed an emergency question from Scottish Labour's deputy leader Jackie Baillie, which will force a minister to attend Parliament today to be quizzed on the revision of Test and Protect statistics.

She will ask the Scottish Government "when it was informed that errors had been made in the publicly reported contact tracing performance of Test and Protect”.

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The question comes after a report in The Sun showed Test and Protect officials failed to contact around half of recent positive cases within 24 hours of being told of their results.

Demands have been made for an urgent question on testing.
Demands have been made for an urgent question on testing.

Revised information by Public Health Scotland has revealed that its numbers up to last week contained errors. The corrected data showed that in five of eight weeks in September and October, Test and Protect staff failed to contact about half of positive cases within the expected timeframe.

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The statistics show the proportion of people with positive swabs alerted within 24 hours dropping as low as 41.7 per cent in one of the eight weeks. Overall figures for people waiting more than a day to be interviewed after the system was notified they were positive for Covid were revised up from 8,262 to 15,291.

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “After months of claiming that Test and Protect was working well, it is now clear that the system was performing even worse than previously indicated.

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie speaks at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Picture: Fraser Bremner-Pool/Getty Images

“Jackie Baillie will today raise this matter in the Scottish Parliament as an emergency question and urge the SNP Government to come clean and say when it became aware of these reporting errors as a matter of urgency.

“We expect answers on the flawed handling of Test and Protect, and the public must have confidence that the government is taking all appropriate action at this time.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who had also demanded an urgent question, said: “We need an urgent statement to Parliament on how these suspect statistics were ever published. Test and Protect was meant to be a major line of our defences against the rise of the virus yet now we discover it has weak flanks.

“For months I have been asking the First Minister about the performance of Test and Protect. For months she has insisted it was working very well even though the virus continued to spread across the country.”

And Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: "To discover the SNP Government has been peddling wildly inaccurate data to the public is shocking. It beggars belief that this has gone unnoticed for months. However, it's not just about dodgy data. This risks harming our ability to fight the spread of the virus.”

The Scottish Government spokesperson said while the system had been "challenged” due to the rise in positive cases, in the most recent week, from October 26 to November 1, Test and Protect completed 91.7 per cent of cases within 72 hours — “far exceeding the World Health Organisation 80 per cent standard”.

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