Scottish Government urged to ditch contact-tracing programme

Opponents call for more ‘targeted’ approach to virus

Credit: Scottish Government/CC BY 2.0

Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to scrap Scotland’s “increasingly redundant” Test and Protect contract tracing system.

A key strain of the programme is the Protect Scotland app, which alerts users when they have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus shortly afterwards.

But calls have come from the Scottish Conservatives to scrap the technology and the wider contact-tracing scheme The party has proposed a new roadmap on getting “back to normality”, in which it urges the Scottish National Party-led government to take more targeted measures on tackling the virus. The Tories say that the more transmissible Omicron variant and the move to lateral flows to diagnose a positive case means Test and Protect is “no longer an effective use of scarce NHS resources”.

Shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said the government should “adopt a new, more targeted approach to Covid.”

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He added: “We would place a higher emphasis on protecting vulnerable groups and trusting the public, instead of blanket restrictions such as mandating face masks in classrooms.

“One of the key proposals is replacing Test and Protect. It was incredibly useful in earlier stages of the pandemic but it has become increasingly redundant in recent months.”

He added: “We are nearing the point where Test and Protect is no longer an effective use of scarce NHS resources. As we start to move beyond the pandemic, our approach must adapt to fit the new situation.”

The Scottish Government has committed funding to keep Test and Protect in place until September.

The First Minister has previously said testing may be “one of the protections that we are likely to ask people to follow for longest, because it is such an important way of breaking chains of transmission.”

Last week, health secretary Humza Yousaf said Scotland was now through the worst of the Omicron variant.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland: “I think we’re through the worst of it. I definitely think the last few weeks of December and the first few weeks of January — that five to six-week period — was probably the worst and most intense period the health service has ever come under in its 73-year existence. That’s not coming from me, that’s coming from people who have been working there for decades and decades.”

Yousaf warned that there was still “significant pressure,” on the NHS.


Sam Trendall

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