Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

I thank Jackson Carlaw for his comments and for his statement about support from the Scottish Conservatives. We face a potentially very serious situation, and we all have a responsibility to work together to make sure that our response is what the people of Scotland would expect.

Before I turn to the specifics of Jackson Carlaw’s question, I confirm to the Parliament that, as of this morning, we have six confirmed cases. I would expect that number to rise, possibly very rapidly, in the days to come.

I want to stress that we are still very much in what is called the contain phase of the virus in Scotland. If people follow the advice, if we ensure that confirmed cases are isolated and that contacts are traced and given appropriate advice, and if the public follow the advice about hand and other personal hygiene, we can continue to have a degree of success in stopping the spread from individual to individual. It is important that we do that for as long as possible.

That said, we all recognise and accept that it looks increasingly unlikely that we will be able to contain the outbreak indefinitely, so it is likely that we will move into what is called the delay phase of the virus. That may be reasonably soon, but that will be guided by the best scientific advice. When we are in that phase, the focus will be very much on seeking to slow down the spread and reduce the peak—the number of people who are infected at any one time. As we take decisions about that, it is important that we are informed by good-quality scientific advice.

Difficult decisions will potentially be involved—ministers will not take those decisions lightly but, equally, we will not hesitate in doing exactly what is required to protect the public for as long, and as best, as we possibly can.

We took early action to ensure that testing facilities were available in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and there are plans in both Tayside and Grampian to potentially have testing facilities there as well. I am satisfied at this stage that we have the capacity to deal with testing.

Although I am not saying that we are close to this at the moment, here, as with any outbreak, we may reach a point at which the spread is such that not every individual is tested, because the presumption will become that, if they are ill with certain symptoms, they have the virus. However, we are not at that stage right now, and we will continue to take the actions that we require to take.