Scotland’s covid contact tracing strategy ‘shambles’ and vital app not available for months

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Scotland’s contact tracing strategy has been branded a “total shambles” after it emerged an app vital to the battle with Covid-19 won’t be available until autumn.

Health leaders have already failed to launch a separate web-based programme to allow patients to list people they could have infected, which had been promised by June.

Now experts are developing a Bluetooth-powered app which will automatically trace individuals who might be at risk.

However the package – which is being built by the company that devised similar technology already available in Northern Ireland – won’t be available in Scotland until after the summer.

There are fears that as lockdown eases a robust contact tracing system will be essential to keeping the spread of the virus under control.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “This is a total shambles.

“The importance of contact tracing was apparent from the off.



The NHS coronavirus contact tracing app

“We’re now in the sixth month of Covid-19 in Scotland and the Scottish Government is still flip-flopping over contact tracing apps.

“Businesses and services which have been seeking to implement contact tracing since they re-opened will be aghast and rightly concerned that
continued confusion will undermine the fight against the virus.”

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs added: “A key part of the Scottish Government’s Covid strategy is meant to be contact tracing.

“But ever since the revelations that visitors to Scotland weren’t being contacted, this promise has fallen flat.

“The main feature of the SNP’s approach to the virus is to waste months doing nothing, testing
next to no one, while claiming that Scotland is somehow doing better than anywhere else.”

It is unclear whether the original mobile phone software, which was being developed by a firm called Storm ID in conjunction with the Scottish Government’s Digital Health and Care Institute, has been ditched after missing a June deadline.

The new system is being built by Nearform, which provided tech for Northern Ireland.

It will use Bluetooth to anonymously alert those who have been in close contact with another user who has tested positive for Covid-19.

The software is voluntary and will not ask
people for personal information.

Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to raise concerns about levels of coronavirus testing north of the Border.

His letter states: “The apparent increase in Covid-19 infections in several European countries, where the outbreaks were previously under control, has been very concerning.

“It is clear that even when infection rates are low, the threat of the virus has not subsided.

“With that in mind, I wish to raise with you the issue of consistently low levels of testing in Scotland.

“In the week to July 29, 22,532 people were tested. This averages at just over 3000 people per day. This is far too low. Even comparing Scottish testing levels to the rest of UK, the number of people tested in Scotland only makes up six per cent of the UK total, despite representing eight per cent of the UK population.

“In order to effectively suppress the virus going forward, without turning to the last resort, blanket approach of a nationwide lockdown, we must have testing levels that can support localised lockdowns.

“I am concerned that local authorities do not have sufficient support in order to deliver and maintain local lockdowns, as may be necessary in the future.”

The Scottish Government announced
yesterday 18 new confirmed cases of coronavirus had been reported in the previous hours.

There had been no confirmed deaths from the virus for the 16th day in a row.

But it came after 30 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Friday – the highest daily increase for eight weeks.

A link has been established between a cluster of Covid-19 cases in Inverclyde and an earlier outbreak at a call centre in Lanarkshire.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said 13 people had tested positive in its area.

And it was revealed one of those cases was linked to the Sitel call centre outbreak in Motherwell. Staff at M,amp;D Green Pharmacy in Port Glasgow have also tested positive as well as a worker at Amazon’s Gourock warehouse.

In England, a senior scientific adviser to the UK Government has suggested pubs could be
closed again as a trade-off for opening schools.

Professor Graham Medley said the re-opening of schools was seen as a “priority” for children’s
wellbeing.