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Coronavirus / No details on surveillance testing yet

Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital.

THE DETAILS of how surveillance resting for coronavirus of around 1.2 million people across Scotland will be carried out remains unclear, almost two days after the announcement by the Scottish Government.

The government said on Sunday that surveillance would be expanded to all health boards to monitor the spread on Covid-19 in the communities.

Scotland chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood said that the programme would be extended to GP practices covering up to 1.2 million people, which is just under a quarter of the population of Scotland.

This would mean that around 5,000 local people could be expected to be tested over coming months.

With 15 ‘known’ cases at the moment Shetland has one of the highest per capita spread of the disease in the UK.

This number may rise slightly over coming days as test results usually take 48 to 72 hours to come back, however case testing in the blue portacabin outside the Gilbert Bain Hospital has stopped.

At the moment people with symptoms who enter self-isolation are not tested,  but patients admitted to hospital with flu-like illness will be checked.

On Sunday, Calderwood said: “This new approach to testing will enable us to understand the pattern and spread of coronavirus in the community, to develop a clear assessment of the situation and to predict the peak number of cases, without having to test everyone with possible symptoms.

However, the Scottish Government has so far not responded when asked on Monday how the programme will be implemented and when.

A spokeswoman for NHS Shetland said last night that the details of the surveillance testing have not been made known yet. The local health board has not been advised as to when it will start.

She added: “There is already surveillance testing underway across the country for flu and Shetland is included in this. This same system is likely to be expanded to include COVID 19.

The people who will be tested are likely to be a random sample taken from people who are unwell with respiratory problems and who seek medical advice. It will be anonymous testing.”

The World Health Organisation has criticised the UK for its ‘herd immunity’ approach to the spread of the virus and urged all countries to “test, test, test” to understand how the virus spreads and what measures are needed to protect communities.

Experts have said that without surveillance in place it will be impossible to make scientific based decision.

Surveillance and accurate information on the spread of the virus will also help people to follow and adhere the advice and restrictions put in place over recent days.