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Scotland must increase testing or risk ‘catastrophe,’ think tanks warns

SCOTLAND must rapidly upscale testing for coronavirus or risk being only “weeks from catastrophe,” a think tank warned today.

Analysis published by Common Weal suggests that the Scottish government must urgently begin to test more individuals. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the most effective way of tackling coronavirus is testing for the spread of the disease and monitoring its transfer. 

The research, led by the group’s head of policy and research Dr Craig Dalzell, claims that the current approach of limiting numbers and largely only testing those with symptoms means that Scotland is fighting the virus “blind” and risks a further spike in cases once lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

“Until you have a vaccine and you have rolled that out, then the virus is out there and we don’t know where because we’re not testing,” he said.

“The Scottish government must adopt the WHO’s pandemic strategies and must do it quickly. 

“Otherwise, we’re only weeks away from a catastrophe that was warned about months ago but apparently ignored.”

Dr Dalzell said that the government should now increase the ratio of tests to positive cases, matching countries such as South Korea which have successfully suppressed the virus. 

Countries carrying out fewer than 10 tests per positive case, such as Scotland at about six, are currently experiencing the fastest rates of increase of infections and of deaths.

He said of testing: “That’s how you break the chain, that is how you suppress a pandemic.”

The need for mass testing has been backed by Scottish Labour, which highlighted the high proportion of deaths among the elderly. 

Labour MSP and health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “We welcome the steps taken towards improving transparency. However, without mass testing in the community, many coronavirus deaths will continue to go unrecorded.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the government continues to look at other countries’ responses, but stressed the “difficulty” of making direct comparisons with other nations.

A government statement said: “The Scottish government and NHS Scotland will continue to procure all the necessary kits and equipment to rapidly extend our testing capacity within Scotland. 

“As has been set out in Parliament, we have already increased this capacity to 1,900 tests being processed by our NHS a day and this will be increased to around 3,500 tests in the coming weeks.”

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