FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon told to 'get a grip' on Covid tracing regime

Nicola Sturgeon has been told to “get a grip” of Scotland’s Covid-19 contact tracing regime amid criticism over failures to track down thousands of infected Scots and data errors.

The First Minister insisted the Test and Protect system was "working well" as she came under fire from opposition leaders at Holyrood over shortcomings in the system.

It emerged today that more than 3,000 Scots who have tested positive since the tracing system was launched were not spoken to by tracers to get information about their contacts.

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Tory leader Ruth Davidson also raised questions over a coding error that emerged this week indicating that thousands of Scots had been contacted earlier than was actually the case.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The SNP leader said the coding error meant Scots tested at 9am one day, then contacted at 11am the following day, were classed as being contacted within 24 hours.

"In actual fact that was slightly more than 24 hours," Ms Sturgeon said during First Minister’s Questions today.

"In many cases this is a difference of a very small number of hours. That said it shouldn't have happened.

"The most important thing in terms of public confidence is that Test and Protect is working to a very high standard."

It is now beating World Health Organisation standards, although the Tory leader insisted this was no being achieved in the early weeks of the system.

Ms Davidson said: "For eight consecutive weeks at the start of the Covid second wave, we were not meeting those targets and we didn't know that we were missing them because of this data error."

Labour leader Richard Leonard also raised concerns over the "failure" to meet the WHO standard between August and October.

"An effective tracing system is key to containing the virus," he said.

"It is in all of our interests for the government to succeed. That's why it's worrying to see the system struggling so much.

"While the First Minister was standing in Parliament saying in recent weeks, like she said again today, that the system was working well, one third of contacts were not being traced with 72 hours.

"So once again there is a disconnect between the First Minister's parliamentary pronouncements and what's going on out there in the real world."

He cited the 3,500 Scots who have not been interviewed by Test and Protect after testing positive, including 400 in the past week.

"Is the First Minister seriously telling the people of Scotland that this shows Test and Protect is working well?” he said. “Isn't it showing us that it's desperately short of resources and the government needs to get a grip?"

But Ms Sturgeon insisted the latest figures on Scots who have not been contacted were people who have refused to answer phone calls or text messages from contact tracers.

"You cannot blame Test and Protect when people are not answering their phone to test and protect," she said.

"Let's all of us encourage the tiny minority who might be in that category to not do that and make sure they are answering their phone to Test and Protect."

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