Cole-Hamilton: SNP respond to Covid by cramping refugees on cruise ship

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today reiterated his call for the Health Secretary to set out the detail of the government's winter Covid planning as new figures showed that in the week ending 24 July 2022, 1 in 15 Scots are still testing positive for Covid-19 and 82 people died from the virus. 

The figures come as the first group of Ukrainian refugees arrived at a cruise ship docked in Leith today, which could house up to 1,700 people. Emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, Hugh Pennington, has stated that the Scottish Government would be “bloody lucky” if there was not a significant COVID-19 outbreak on the ship.  

Mr Cole-Hamilton is now calling for the Scottish Government to reach out to all refugees arriving in Scotland to ensure that they have had three vaccinations.  

Mr Cole-Hamilton also wrote to Mr Yousaf to confirm whether the Scottish Government plans to phase out routine testing of health and social care and to ask what measures it will take to avoid imposing restrictions in the winter months.   

Following the letter, the government announced plans to give booster vaccinations in community clinics to various priority groups from September onwards, including all adults over 50. The government stated that, where possible, the Covid booster will be given at the same time as the flu vaccination.   

However, there is no information about whether other groups outside the JCVI priority categories will be able to purchase boosters, as happens with the flu jab.  

Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for the Scottish Government to create a new class of NHS worker tasked with delivering vaccinations and a permanent vaccine workforce, freeing up nurses and GPs to get on with cutting waiting lists.  

Responding to the figures, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: 

“We are seeing no meaningful progress in reducing Covid rates and the closer we come to the winter months, the worse this position will become. 

“The Health Secretary has suggested that routine testing of health and care staff could end. NHS staff and patients will be filled with dread at this prospect.  

“I hope that the Health Secretary will soon confirm whether an end to routine testing is on the cards and, if so, what clinical advice he has to support this decision. We also need to hear whether people outside JCVI priority groups will be able to purchase additional boosters as we head towards the winter months. 

"We should be building up our defences, not dismantling them. Given the Scottish Government’s failure to plan ahead for previous Covid waves, the public need to know that meaningful planning is being done now.”  

On the Leith cruise ship, he added: 

“With the stubbornly high Covid rates, it is absolutely appalling that nearly 2,000 refugees will be housed on a cruise ship. What’s more, the SNP are talking about cramping people into cabins which are smaller than the safety measurements of a prison cell for one person. Have the SNP seriously forgotten that cruise ships were a key epicentre of the virus when the pandemic first began? 

"The government should be reaching out to every refugee arriving in Scotland to offer them the three doses that most Scots have now taken up." 

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