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The First Minister said today she wanted to be able to carry out 65,000 coronavirus tests a day as the Scottish Government revealed an updated testing strategy. Currently, 40,000 tests for the virus can be carried out each weekday and the SNP administration says work is now being done to increase this, in part to cope with greater demand in autumn and winter.
But Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said testing is being used to “actively hunt down the virus”.
Close contacts of those confirmed as having COVID-19 have now been identified as a priority group for testing.
Ms Sturgeon said the revised strategy “seeks to give a concise and clear explanation of whom we are seeking to test, why we are doing so and what our plans in the near future are”.
She said this “sets our intention to further increase testing capacity in Scotland”, which she said, “will be increasingly important as we move into the autumn and winter”.
The SNP leader explained: “In those months more people will have symptoms such as a new cold, which might be similar to COVID symptoms.
“Current weekday capacity in Scotland is for just over 40,000 tests every day but we want to and are working to increase that to 65,000 tests a day.”
Ms Sturgeon said the “top priority continues to be to test anyone who has symptoms of COVID”, such as a high temperature, new cough or change in sense of taste and smell.
But she stressed that the second priority now was “testing contacts of people with COVID and using testing in that way to prevent or minimise new outbreaks of the virus.”
Meanwhile, she said that the third priority was routine testing of people who work in higher-risk environments, such as care homes.
Under the plans, all contacts of people classed as “COVID-19 index cases” will now be offered testing, regardless of whether they have symptoms.
Such contacts are currently advised to isolate at home for 14 days.
They will still be asked to do this but it is hoped testing will enable further contacts to be identified, helping to contain future outbreaks of the disease.
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Richard Leonard MSP, leader of Scottish Labour told Express.co.uk tonight: “From the very beginning, Scottish Labour has emphasised the importance of testing in tackling this pandemic.
“The SNP government spent months testing at a level well below its own proclaimed capacity, failed to test care workers at the most critical stage of the outbreak, and abandoned contact tracing before re-adopting it.
“I welcome the increase in capacity – but the government must also ensure the infrastructure is in place to use this capacity, or we will see yet another shambles in our testing saga.”
MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman, added: “Testing might not be a one-stop-shop solution but it is a very important part of the puzzle which will ultimately get us out of this crisis.
“We should not only be upping our future testing capacity but fully utilising the capacity we already have.
“University students, school teachers and people visiting care homes would all benefit from more regular testing.
“Every case we catch could stop an outbreak.”
The Scottish Government Strategy, released today, concluded: “Testing is one important tool in our overall approach to managing the pandemic in Scotland and reducing as far as is possible all of the harms caused by COVID-19.
“Testing does not – in and of itself – reduce transmission of the virus.
“Testing provides information that can enable us to take action to reduce transmission of the virus.”
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