The detailed decisions on how to respond to any cluster of cases, or an outbreak that follows it, are led by local incident management teams. The response will be informed by a team’s understanding of the trigger case, the circumstances around it, where the other cases have come from and how one case is linked to another.
For example, if Peter Chapman looks at how the Dumfries and Galloway IMT responded to the outbreak in that region and compares it with the IMT response in Lanarkshire or Aberdeen, he will see that there are core actions that run through all the responses, but also that each team has applied its expert knowledge and understanding of health protection to its individual circumstances.
The local IMT in Aberdeen looked at what it needed to know, starting with the Hawthorn bar, from which the team secured contact details in paper and digital form. The team could then see and trace individual contacts, which led it to understand the number of premises in the night-time economy that were impacted, without having to ask each of those premises for the specific contact details that they might have been collecting.
The IMT debated more than once how best to deal with those premises. As Peter Chapman knows, it concluded in the end that the right way to make sure that everyone who might either have been affected, or was concerned or anxious about the cluster of cases, knew that the team was publishing details of all the premises that it knew might have had an individual who was a contact from the people on the original case list who had been in those premises. However, those people might not have been in the premises for long enough or in close enough contact with another person to qualify as a close contact.
I thank the cabinet secretary for that answer, but I do not accept it. Many bars in Aberdeen that were connected to the Covid outbreak have reported that no one from environmental health or NHS Grampian has attempted to contact them or to gather their contact lists. That is a complete dereliction of duty that further highlights the failings of the Scottish Government’s track and trace system. I now believe that that, inevitably, has meant that the lockdown has lasted for longer than was necessary.
Can the cabinet secretary give a commitment to the Parliament that lessons have been learned, and that businesses will be involved in future contact tracing, instead of being left in the dark, as they were in Aberdeen?
It is regrettable that Mr Chapman has absolutely no evidence for the assertion that he has just made.
The national health service test and protect programme is proving itself to be highly effective in a range of outbreaks—from Dumfries and Galloway, around Gretna and Annan, through to the complex outbreak in Aberdeen, to the current one that is being successfully managed in Tayside. All are different and all are complex. All of them are being managed effectively, because we do not take a blanket national approach; rather, we rest on the expertise of public health professionals, through the IMT and work with local authorities, NHS boards and other colleagues.
I do not at all accept what Mr Chapman said, and I will give no such guarantee, because I think that politicians should not overrule the professional expertise of clinicians, health protection experts, public health academics and people who know their local areas. That is why our test and protect programme works so successfully. That combination of national support and local expertise is, so far, proving to be a very effective test and protect system.