Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th January 2021.

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The First Minister:

Yes, there is capacity for 65,000 tests per day. That target, which we set earlier in the year, was met by Christmas. However, the number of tests that are actually carried out on any given day is largely demand driven, because it depends on the number of people with symptoms who come forward for testing. We have seen, and I think that we will continue to see, that number rise as, unfortunately, the faster-spreading strain of the virus infects more people. However, the numbers for capacity and the demand for testing will often not be exactly the same, for obvious reasons.

Although some aspects of testing of asymptomatic people are not done through the PCR testing that goes through the laboratory network—they are now increasingly done through lateral flow testing, the results of which do not appear in these numbers—other aspects of it are done in that way. For example, we are well through the process of transferring testing of care home staff from the Lighthouse lab network to the NHS Scotland lab network.

We have a well-functioning test and protect system, which continues to be a really important part of our response to the virus. However, because the virus is now spreading faster, we must have a range of different responses in order to complement that system. As far as interventions are concerned, just as the test and protect system has been important, the vaccine programme will become increasingly important over the next period.

I understand that there has been a last-minute—or, I should say, late-stage—issue with a sprinkler system in the Edinburgh regional lab. That is in the process of being rectified, and the lab is due to open shortly.