Publication - FOI/EIR release

Various questions regarding COVID-19 testing: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Published:
1 Oct 2020
Various questions regarding COVID-19 testing: FOI release
FOI reference: FOI/202000084300
Date received: 3 Sep 2020
Date responded: 25 Sep 2020
Information requested

1. Whether or not the Scottish Government will introduce coronavirus testing for those not in key worker sectors or for those not showing symptoms of COVID-19;

2. If the answer to yes, then the date of implementation; if the answer is no, then why not;

3. Why the Scottish Government is not introducing mass and regular coronavirus testing for all teachers as a means of isolating and tracking the COVID-19 spread; and

4. Why the Scottish Government is not introducing mass and regular coronavirus testing for all arrivals at Scottish airports as a means of isolating and tracking the COVID-19 spread.

Response

The answers to your questions are:

1. Anyone in Scotland who is self-isolating because they are showing symptoms can be tested. A level of priority for testing appointments will be maintained for key workers and their household members to support them returning to work where it is safe to do so. The test is only reliable for those who have symptoms. Please see the following link –
https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/infections-and-poisoning/coronavirus-covid-19/test-and-protect/coronavirus-covid-19-testing

2. We are not planning widespread testing of people who are asymptomatic because:
It is not a good use of resources. It requires a high level of testing to find a low level of cases. It remains the case that test results in people who are asymptomatic are not straightforward to interpret. A positive result indicates the presence of viral RNA, but does not tell us if the person has active infection (and thus is infective) or has recovered and still has bits of virus in their system. A negative result provides a point in time assessment that person does not have detectable viral RNA, but cannot tell us if a person is incubating the disease. Therefore it is possible that by the time someone gets their result, they are then positive.
Testing is one of a number of key public health mitigation measures which must be seen alongside adherence to physical distancing, appropriate use of face coverings and good respiratory and hand hygiene. It must not be seen as a substitute.

3. Teachers, nursery and school staff can now be tested for COVID-19 on demand if they are concerned they have been at risk from infection, even if they show no symptoms. Please see the following link -
https://www.gov.scot/news/testing-available-for-education-workers/

4. Testing at airports is something we are considering carefully. We are working on a four nations basis to examine whether additional measures at airports could further reduce the risk of imported COVID-19 cases from abroad. However, we know that testing at airports would not be fully effective on its own. COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to 14 days and the quarantining of travellers from high risk countries is the safest way to reduce the risk of travellers arriving into Scotland inadvertently transmitting the disease to others.
We continue to engage closely with the airline industry and we understand their concerns. Our priority remains to safeguard public health and suppress transmission of the virus.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG