Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has increased pressure on Ministers to agree to publish the number of Covid-19 tests being carried out in each local health board area.
Last month, Mr McArthur secured an assurance from the First Minister that she would ‘discuss the practicalities’ of how the publication of localised testing figures could be done. However, the data is still not publicly available, despite the Test and Protect system now up and running across the country.
During Topical Questions today (Tuesday), Orkney’s MSP reiterated the importance of allowing people to know how much testing is taking place in their area and pressed the Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, to indicate when the public could expect this information to be available.
In response, Ms Freeman indicated that information on tests conducted through NHS controlled facilities will be available shortly. She also commented that “we’re working to make sure that we give as clear and as robust data as we can possibly can and, as soon as we’re ready to publish that, and with what frequency we will update it, I’ll make sure Mr McArthur knows that”.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:
“With test and protect already up and running and some restrictions now being eased, it is even more critical that the public are equipped with accurate, reliable and timely information so that they can make informed decisions going forward.
“The number of confirmed Covid cases and Covid related deaths are already published daily, but the public are still being left in the dark about the level of testing taking place. Without these figures, it is impossible for anyone to make sense of what is happening on the ground.
“Being open and transparent about testing numbers is crucial to building public trust and confidence which, ultimately, is a key component in keeping our communities safe as we begin to ease restrictions over time. The First Minister not only agreed with me this point but also gave an assurance that Ministers would now consider how to make this data available.
“The Health Secretary has now provided her own assurance that the information will be available shortly. This needs to happen now, however, as the continued delays are doing nothing to help build public confidence at a time when people are desperately looking for clarity ”.