Scottish Government resisted pressure to restrict access to testing by UK Government, Nicola Sturgeon reveals

The UK as a whole is facing a backlog of tests, the First Minister said.

Monday, 14th September 2020, 2:58 pm
There is an apparent Covid-19 testing backlog across the UK, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
There is an apparent Covid-19 testing backlog across the UK, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The Scottish Government ‘resisted’ calls from the UK Government to restrict access to testing for Scottish people with Covid-19 symptoms as part of a move to reduce the testing backlog.

Nicola Sturgeon revealed during her daily coronavirus briefing that the health secretary Jeane Freeman had rejected a request from the UK Government’s health secretary to restrict access to testing over the weekend.

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She said the Scottish Government had been asked to restrict access to mobile testing units and regional test centres in order to help reduce the backlog.

Mr Hancock had been speaking to the health representatives of the devolved administrations about issues with test availability.

The First Minister said she had “serious concern” with the “backlog of test results” and urged Mr Hancock to share the “full scale and nature of issues they are facing”.

She added the Scottish Government was keen to work with the UK Government to help tackle the issues it faced with testing.

The comments came as just 70 people tested positive for Covid-19, down from 244 on Sunday, a number the Scottish Government do not believe represents the complete data for all tests undertaken yesterday.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We now have a very serious concern that the backlog of test results being faced by the UK lab network, which the Glasgow lighthouse lab is part of, is starting to impact on the timeous reporting of Scottish results.

"We’ve been raising these concerns with the UK Government in recent days and indeed over the weekend the health secretary managed to resist a move to limit access to testing slots at mobile testing units and regional testing centres.

"However this apparent delay in turnaround is causing us concern and therefore we’ll be seeking to escalate these discussions with the UK Government over the course of today.

"We are very keen to play a full part in addressing these issues and finding solutions to them urgently but we need the UK Government to share the full scale and nature of the issue we are facing and the impact they are having on Scotland in order that we can collectively and very quickly find solutions.”

The First Minister insisted the testing system has been working well and “working robustly” through the pandemic despite reports of people being asked to travel large distances for tests.

When asked about the discussions with Mr Hancock, Ms Freeman said the key was for Scotland to “fully understand” the issues faced by the UK network.

Ms Freeman said she had “constructive conversations” with Mr Hancock and her Welsh counterpart Vaughan Gething about the backlog, which she said was being caused by rising demand and “an issue with the speed and capacity of processing the tests”.

She added: “I was pleased that we managed not to have the restrictions on access to testing slots that were originally being proposed, but this is work that we need to continue because we need to try as best we can to work cooperatively and to resolve this situation.”

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