Lib Dems call for COVID inquiry to start on day one of next Holyrood term
The Liberal Democrats have called for Scotland’s Covid inquiry to start on the first day of the next parliamentary term.
Willie Rennie said the prompt probe would “ensure the same mistakes are never repeated”. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has admitted that there were mistakes in the way elderly people were discharged from hospital to care homes in the early stages of the outbreak, when ministers and advisers, worried about wards being overrun, were keen to get fit patients back into the community and free up beds.
Recent analysis by Public Health Scotland found there were 3,595 discharges to care homes between March 1 and April 21 and the majority (82%) were not tested for Covid-19.
While the report said “no statistically significant association was found between hospital discharge and the occurrence of a care home outbreak” it could not “rule out a small effect, particularly for those patients who were discharged untested or discharged positive.”
Asked by the BBC if discharging untested patients from hospitals into care homes had cost lives, Sturgeon said: "The number of people who died were too many and we got some things wrong and I feel the responsibility of that every single day."
The SNP leader has already committed to holding a “person centred” full public inquiry covering Scotland before the end of the year.
The LibDems want it to start sooner rather than later. They've also called for it to make interim reports every six months, and take evidence from other countries where the response to the early stages of the pandemic seem to have been more effective - for example New Zealand.
Willie Rennie said: "Scotland has had one of the highest per capita death rates in the entire world. We know that in part this was due to major errors surrounding the handling of care homes, shortages of PPE and a lack of capacity for testing and contact tracing
“As coronavirus restrictions start to ease again, we must put recovery first and ensure the same mistakes are never repeated.
“That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for the coronavirus inquiry to be set up on day one after the election so we can start learning lessons now.
“To win back trust, I want to see the inquiry making its first interim report in six months and include experts from countries where the response seems to have been more effective.”
Earlier this week, the UK government said it was “not appropriate” to launch a four nation inquiry just now as “the very people who would need to give evidence to an inquiry are working round the clock”.