Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 8th December 2020.

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The First Minister:

I agree 100 per cent that we do not want level 3 to be anything other than a stepping stone to level 2, just as we do not want level 2 to be anything other than a stepping stone to level 1. We want the trajectory to be downwards. However, if cases are rising, we cannot ignore that, and we must take precautionary action when we deem it necessary, especially as we know that we are going into a period in which the risks of transmission will be greater. Three or so weeks ago, one factor in our decision to put those local authority areas into level 4 was that it seemed that, without such greater action, they might have been left in level 3 for a lengthy period. Although such areas are about to go back into level 3, it is to be hoped that the period that they spent in level 4 will mean that they will be in level 3 for a shorter period than they might otherwise have been.

The point about mass testing is an important one. As I think I said earlier, we will publish the initial results of the mass testing pilots tomorrow, and more results will be issued next week. Early indications are that that approach has picked up cases of the virus that would not previously have been identified, which will enable us to break the chains of transmission. Although such testing is not the whole answer to getting the numbers of cases down in high-prevalence areas, it give us another tool in the toolbox, which will make a big difference to areas such as Renfrewshire.