Calls to step up COVID testing in Scotland as England moves to offer two a week
Calls have been made to increase the rate of COVID testing in Scotland to match the offer in England as the UK Government has announced twice weekly testing.
Rapid lateral flow tests are to be made available for free south of the border from Friday.
The tests, which provide a result within 30 minutes, will be available from pharmacies for use at home, even for people without symptoms.
It is hoped this will help to suppress COVID-19 levels as lockdown restrictions start to ease.
But in Scotland the tests are only available in limited settings, for example in schools and at high-risk workplaces.
Scottish Labour has called for access to be improved to ensure transmission chains can be broken.
Deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “The WHO said the key to tackling COVID was test, test, test. In response the SNP has been slow, slow, slow.
“Scotland needs the same access to twice weekly mass testing as we will now see in England – and the Scottish Government is responsible for the failure to deliver it.
“It is testing alongside our vaccine rollout that will stop our route out of the pandemic slipping backwards. Scotland deserves better than this haphazard approach to lockdown exit.”
Hairdressers, garden centres and some non-essential click-and-collect services have been able to reopen from today across Scotland, following the lifting of the ‘stay at home’ rule on Friday.
Further moves to reopen society are not expected to be made for another three weeks, but England is set to move to the next stage of easing from Monday when pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops can reopen.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “As we continue to make good progress on our vaccine programme and with our roadmap to cautiously easing restrictions underway, regular rapid testing is even more important to make sure those efforts are not wasted.
“That’s why we’re now rolling out free rapid tests to everyone across England – helping us to stop outbreaks in their tracks, so we can get back to seeing the people we love and doing the things we enjoy.”
The prime minister is also set to make an announcement later today on so-called COVID passports to allow bigger events to resume.
But Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman said practical, ethical and equality questions remained over this before Scotland could follow suit.
She told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “We’re currently looking at what would be the digital infrastructure you’d need for any form of certification as we work through those ethical and inequality and practical questions about how it might be used and in what circumstances.”
Meanwhile the Scottish Lib Dems have urged for caution before going ahead with any such scheme.
Leader Willie Rennie said: “It is a massive step for the state to insist that people be vaccinated before accessing everyday services.
“People should have a chance to have a say on this major development and on my call for caution. The impact on young people and the risk of abuse are serious.”