Scientists and medical specialists meet as part of new expert pandemic group
A group of scientists and medical specialists set up to advise the Scottish Government on preparing for the threat of future pandemics is meeting for the first time today.
The Standing Committee on Pandemics will be tasked with ensuring that the country is as prepared as possible for any future risks from novel pathogens.
The establishment of the group was a commitment of the new government to deliver during its first 100 days in office, which are due to end on 25 August.
Humza Yousaf, the health secretary, said Scotland's "world-class scientific expertise" had been evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and believes the committee will ensure the country is ready for any future threat.
He added: "The immediate challenge will be to continue to ensure we can respond to the current pandemic but we know that infectious disease outbreaks could become more frequent in the coming decade.
"Our public health capacity has been significantly strengthened across Scotland as a result of COVID-19 to manage outbreaks both at national and local level.
"This new committee will help bolster our readiness."
Professor Linda Bauld from the University of Edinburgh chairs today's meeting in an interim capacity, while a permanent chair is sought.
She said: "It is critical for scientists and officials to work alongside each other to make sure Scotland can meet the challenges infectious diseases will throw at us in the future.
"I’m delighted to be a part of starting that process."
The existing COVID-19 advisory group will continue to sit and advise ministers on the current pandemic. The new committee will focus on preparedness for other future emerging threats.
Dr Gregor Smith, chief medical officer, will be a member of the committee, which will provide expert advice across public health, epidemiology, virology, behavioural sciences, global health, zoonotics and statistic modelling.
He said: "This committee will play a vital role in considering a broad range of scientific and technical advice, including both human and animal health.
"It will also look at wider behavioural and societal factors which could affect how we respond to a pandemic in the future."