£13 million to establish genome sequencing service.
Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon has today published an updated testing strategy for Scotland, setting out how testing will support the easing of restrictions and a return to everyday activities.
It includes a £13 million investment in 2021/22 to establish Scotland’s own genomic sequencing service to track new coronavirus (COVID-19) variants, and manage future outbreaks.
Capable of identifying the genetic origins of up 1000 cases a day when fully built, the service will support Scotland’s preparedness for any future pandemics, as well as other threats such as antibiotic resistance.
Scotland’s Testing Strategy Update sets out how existing testing routes will continue, and be expanded to help suppress COVID-19 to the lowest possible level, alongside other measures such as vaccination and the levels system.
This includes the existing testing routes that are in place in hospitals, care homes, and schools, as well as wider community testing to spot asymptomatic cases in high prevalence areas.
Proposals for targeted community testing have been agreed with 20 local authorities across eight NHS Board areas so far. There are now 28 Asymptomatic Test Sites (ATS), and 12 dedicated Mobile Testing Units (MTUs) providing access to community testing for people with and without symptoms in these areas, with more sites planned to open shortly.
Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon said:
“Testing must become part of our everyday lives, if we are to protect the progress we’ve made so far. As we learn to live with the threat of the virus, we must keep testing, and test more and in more circumstances, to help us return to activities and lives that have been largely restricted over the last year.
“This strategy sets out how we will achieve this, and ensure we are better prepared for any future threats to health with a £13 million investment to develop the Scottish Whole Genome Sequencing Service as part of a world class public health system to track COVID-19 and other emerging threats.
“Working alongside the vaccination programme and other measures that help prevent spread of the virus, including social distancing, self-isolating, hand washing and face coverings – testing will become even more important to find and prevent future outbreaks, as overall cases reduce.
“So whether you have symptoms, work in a vulnerable setting or live in an area where community testing is available, the message is the same. Get tested when it is offered to you, and protect those around you. Dedicated support is available for anyone who needs to self-isolate.”