Covid-19 Testing (Learning Disabled People)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th November 2020.

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Photo of Joan McAlpine Joan McAlpine Scottish National Party

We learned yesterday that care workers of learning disabled people will not be tested until next year—perhaps not until spring, in some cases—even in regulated accommodation that is similar to care homes, whereas groups such as students and family visitors will be tested in December.

The Scottish Government’s guidance for testing says that vulnerable groups will be prioritised, and we know from Public Health England’s recent data that learning disabled people’s deaths from Covid are six times higher than those of the general population; in younger groups, they rise to 30 times higher. Of course, it is more difficult for this group to take additional measures to protect themselves, such as social distancing and face mask wearing.

Can the First Minister explain the clinical reasons why the protection of this vulnerable group does not appear to be a priority in the testing roll-out?

Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

It is not that it is not a priority. There are different practical challenges with different groups that we are expanding testing to, and they have to be properly considered and thought through. The roll-out to the group that the member is asking about begins in January and it will be completed as quickly as possible. The practical challenges that we need to look at include the settings that people are in, who will be administering tests and, obviously, the availability of tests. We will continue to do that as quickly as possible, and the health secretary will keep members updated as appropriate.