SCOTLAND’S Health Secretary has denied that contact tracers no longer asking those who have tested positive for Covid if they have been to pubs, shops or sporting events is down to “malicious reasons”.
Humza Yousaf has confirmed that once extra staff are on board, Scotland’s Test and Protect system will be able to handle 5,000 cases a day “in the very near future”.
The service has been scaled back in recent weeks following a surge in cases – with arrivals from red and amber list countries no longer followed up by telephone call and secondary contacts no longer traced.
The pressure has led to Scotland failing to meet World Health Organization targets for 80% of cases to be closed within 72 hours for the last two weeks.
The Sun on Sunday reported that those testing positive are no longer being asked if they have attended sporting events, shops or pubs.
Instead, positive cases are now only asked about visits to care homes, schools or travel abroad
A whistleblower told the paper that the interview “script” for those testing positive for coronavirus has been cut from 25 questions to just five.
Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, Jackie Baillie, accused the Scottish Government of having “abandoned proper tracing of the virus and is letting it spread unchecked” adding that the “shameful surrender” was “playing fast and loose with the safety of the public”.
But Mr Yousaf has rejected the claims and insisted “Test and Protect has performed extraordinarily well”.
Speaking on the Sunday Show, he said: “What we saw in the last few weeks was a swift and steep increase in the number of cases, a record number, to a number that we’ve never seen in Scotland.
“Yes, performance has dipped below the WHO standard, below the standard the Scottish Government would expect. But through the changes we’ve made through the last few weeks including the additional 100 staff that are being recruited, that means that the daily system capacity has increased from 1,300 to 3,800 cases per day.
“With the additional 100 staff coming on board, the daily capacity should go to approximately 5,000 cases per day in the very near future.
“I certainly see an improvement in Test and Protect performance.”
Mr Yousaf was pressed about the claims that scripts used by contact tracing officials has been scaled back with 20 questions cut out.
He said: “The script is continually evolving. Right throughout the 16 months of this pandemic, that script has evolved depending on the nature of where we are in the pandemic.
“We are in a phase where the majority of the adult population is double vaccinated, for example. The questions would be different, potentially, at a time when we have the majority of the population vaccinated.
“I don’t write the scripts for Public Health Scotland. Very correctly, it’s Public Health Scotland – the clinical experts, the public health experts at Public Health Scotland that decide what the scripts should look like.
“That is done for clinical or public health reason – it is not done for any other reason – certainly not what was being suggested. It’s not being done for a malicious reason.”