MSPs vote for weekly Covid testing of all health and care staff

MSPs have voted to “immediately” introduce weekly coronavirus testing for all health and social care workers.

Jeane Freeman MSP Health Secretary at Holyrood on Wednesday
Jeane Freeman MSP Health Secretary at Holyrood on Wednesday

A motion from Scottish Labour’s Monica Lennon calling for routine testing received support from all parties in a vote at Holyrood on Wednesday evening.

An amendment from Health Secretary Jeane Freeman which said the rollout would be “guided by expert clinical advice” was also passed by MSPs.

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Ms Lennon’s motion called on the Scottish Government “to introduce routine weekly Covid-19 testing for all health and social care workers immediately”.

She told the Scottish Parliament: “Eight months into the pandemic it is unacceptable that widespread testing is still not under way.”

Ms Freeman said the Government supported the Labour motion, saying her own amendment only addressed “how we deliver the rollout”.

She said that roughly 40,000 care home staff were being tested each week in Scotland.

Routine testing was already in place for staff in parts of the health service, she said, including oncology, radiotherapy and long-term mental health care.

The Health Secretary said testing capacity was being scaled up with the goal of reaching 65,000 per day, with help from new technology including robotics and rapid testing.

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron tabled an amendment saying “rapid turnaround contact tracing” was needed.

He said NHS staff had done a “heroic” job despite the pressures of the pandemic, adding: “As we enter the winter months those pressures on our NHS and social care sector will undoubtedly intensify.

“We must ensure that our health care services are fully equipped and best placed to deal with what comes.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Alison Johnstone said she had written to the Health Secretary in April calling for routine testing for frontline NHS workers.

Ms Johnstone said NHS staff in England were being offered routine testing through the new lateral flow method.

She said: “We have to question why Scotland seems so very unambitious when it comes to testing.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrats health spokesman, said his party only had a “guarded acceptance” of the government amendment.

He said: “This government has been prioritising things for months and we still aren’t testing everybody who needs to be tested.”