SCIENTISTS and medical specialists will hold talks today on the first steps in helping prepare the Scottish Government for future pandemics.
The Standing Committee on Pandemics has been tasked with ensuring Scotland is as prepared as possible for any future risks from novel pathogens – making sure lessons are learned from the Covid-19 crisis.
SNP ministers are stepping up preparations for future pandemics with the announcement on Tuesday that some temporary powers used during the Covid-19 pandemic could be made permanent to allow politicians to quickly respond to future health crises.
The move comes after opponents criticised the Scottish Government for its sluggish response to the pandemic.
The new expert group was a commitment a new SNP Government pledged to deliver during its first 100 days in office.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Scotland’s world-class scientific expertise has been evident throughout the pandemic and this committee will help ensure we are as ready as we can be for any future threat.
“The immediate challenge will be to continue to ensure we can respond to the current pandemic but we know that infectious disease outbreaks could become more frequent in the coming decade.”
He added: “Our public health capacity has been significantly strengthened across Scotland as a result of Covid-19 to manage outbreaks both at national and local level.
“This new committee will help bolster our readiness.”
Professor Linda Bauld from Edinburgh University will chair today’s meeting in an interim capacity, while a permanent chair is sought.
Prof Bauld said: “It is critical for scientists and officials to work alongside each other to make sure Scotland can meet the challenges infectious diseases will throw at us in the future. “I’m delighted to be a part of starting that process.”
The committee will provide expert advice across a range of areas including public health, epidemiology, virology, behavioural sciences, global health, zoonotics and statistical modelling and recruit further members to support that.
The first meeting of the committee today will discuss its future work programme and remit.
The Scottish Government’s existing Covid-19 advisory group will continue to sit and advise ministers on the current pandemic. The new committee will focus on preparedness for other future emerging threats.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith will be a member of the committee.
Dr Smith said: “This committee will play a vital role in considering a broad range of scientific and technical advice, including both human and animal health.
“It will also look at wider behavioural and societal factors which could affect how we respond to a pandemic in the future.”