Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today urged the Health Secretary to set out the detail of the government's winter Covid planning as new figures showed that in the week ending 17 July 2022 334,000 Scots tested positive for COVID-19 and an average of 1,770 patients were in hospital with COVID-19, an increase of 6.1% from the previous week.
Mr Cole-Hamilton 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.
These latest figures come amid a significant risk of a COVID-19 outbreak on board a ship docked at Leith, which is due to house approximately 700 Ukrainian refugees. 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.
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 rising figures, Mr Cole-Hamilton said:
“Cases are spiking yet 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 Covid cases spiking once more, it is absolutely appalling for the Scottish Government to be talking about housing 10% of the Ukrainian refugee population on a cruise ship. 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."