Nicola Sturgeon accused of overseeing 'alarming' drop in Covid-19 testing

Simon Johnson
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of overseeing an alarming drop in testing in Scotland - AFP

Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of overseeing an "alarming" failure on testing after it emerged the daily total carried out halved in the first three days of the lockdown being eased.

Official figures disclosed the number of daily tests conducted fell from 5,472 on Thursday to only 2,729 on Sunday despite Ms Sturgeon stating her government's Test and Protect programme was vital to keep the virus suppressed. 

People with symptoms are being asked to notify the NHS and get a test, and pass on details of their close contacts, who will also be asked to isolate at home.

The Scottish total represents less than 18 per cent of the country's capacity of 15,500 and remains far short of the First Minister's target of 10,000 tests per day by the end of April.

It is also well below Scotland's UK population share, with 115,725 tests conducted across the whole country on Saturday.

Cancer Research UK yesterday warned up to 3,000 extra tests per day are needed for the safe return of cancer services suspended during the lockdown.

The charity said the greater testing would ensure staff and facilities dealing with cancer patients, who are more vulnerable to Covid, could be kept free of the virus.

The Scottish Conservatives said cumulatively 200,000 more tests could have been conducted in Scotland if all the capacity had been used every day.

In particular, they highlighted a lack of testing in care homes where almost half of Covid-19 deaths in Scotland so far have been recorded.

Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Tory leader, said: "“For weeks now the SNP government has been told to carry out more tests to help Scotland beat this virus.

"But instead, the number has now plummeted to the lowest since this new drive began. If the SNP doesn’t get its house in order in terms of testing, more people will die and Scotland’s move out of lockdown will be put in jeopardy.”

Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, added: "Scotland is lagging far behind other nations in expanding testing, many of which have recorded fewer deaths from the virus."

The most tests ever conducted in a day north of the border was 6,519 on May 15. Between Thursday and Sunday, tests conducted by NHS labs in hospitals, care homes or the community more than halved, from 4,235 to 2,096.

Drive through and mobile tests carried out by the Army-led Regional Testing Centres also declined rapidly, from 1,237 to 633.

A man is tested at a drive-through testing facility for Covid-19 at Edinburgh Airport - PA

Cancer Research UK said testing must be ramped up for NHS staff and cancer patients as services are reintroduced following the lockdown.

Marion O'Neill, the charity's head of external affairs, said: "In some cases, this would lead to lives being saved. Early diagnosis can significantly improve someone’s chances of survival.

"It’s crucial patients don’t wait for the pandemic to be over before they receive the treatment they need."

Speaking at her daily briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: "Our approach to testing continues to be driven by clinical advice. 

"The questions around routine testing, which is in addition to symptomatic testing for people who come forward through Test and Protect because they’ve got symptoms, these are issues that are under consideration.

“We’ve already extended our approach in care homes, and the issue within the NHS is something we continue to look at and consider.”