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Health secretary Jeane Freeman defends approach to testing for Covid-19


By Gregor White

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Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman has said approaches to testing are based on the best scientific and clinical evidence.

Ms Freeman revealed today that the Scottish Government is looking to recruit between 1500 and 2000 volunteers to assist with contact tracing in Scotland.

In response to a question at today's briefing about whether any testing and tracing measures should have been undertaken earlier, she said: "We have been very clear all along that we have acted on the best expert scientific and clinical advice available to us and taken decisions – I think the right decisions – at various points along the road that we are on.

"In the early days it was clear we were in a phase of containment, and test and trace was a significant part of that phase, but as the virus became more prevalent in the community... we moved into a delay phase, at which point the purpose of testing changed.

"We are planning not only to significantly scale up testing capacity but also to build infrastructure that will see us do much more in terms of test, trace and isolate as part of measures that might be taken to ease any of the restrictions we are currently operating under."

At today's briefing the health secretary also revealed that 22,000 people have volunteered to join or rejoin the NHS or care workforce, to bolster capacity.

While not all volunteers will be needed immediately, she said, the fact that they are available is important for the weeks ahead.

Chief nursing officer Fiona McQueen made an appeal to former nurses and those working in areas of healthcare that might be seeing lower than normal levels of demand to make themselves available for work in care homes.

"What is needed now is to make sure that we rally round," she said.

"I have urged nursing directors and health board managers to look at deployment of staff where it is needed. At the moment we are expecting it to wrap around and support care homes."


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