6. Decision making following an outbreak in Scotland
Following the identification of an outbreak it will be essential that any actions taken to mitigate further spread of the virus are robust, agile and proportionate. The first line of response sits with everyone in Scotland as we continue to adapt our behaviour to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. We will need to continue with physical distancing and good hand and respiratory hygiene, including the appropriate use of face coverings.
To support organisations and businesses across Scotland to prevent, communicate and take action if someone reports symptoms, work is underway with Public Health Scotland to develop a Scottish COVID-19 Workbook and sectoral Advice Cards. The Workbook will bring into one place advice on how local and national public health agencies will provide support to prevent virus spread and provide advice on the management of an outbreak.
The Advice Cards are being designed to be used by those who have responsibility for an individual setting, e.g.. food processing, cafés and restaurants. They do not replace but complement existing guidance by providing a single point of access to the key information for the sector; and to inform on what to do if someone reports symptoms of COVID-19. They will be updated as sectoral guidance is progressed and work is underway with Public Health Scotland to develop and publish the first set of Advice Cards by early August.
Key Actions following identification of a Case
Prevent Transmission by applying guidance appropriate to the sector and complying with the outcomes of safe working risk assessments
Take Immediate Action that will help suppress the spread of the virus and contact the local Public Health team
Communicate Concerns (how and when) to the local Public Health team who will help you through the rest of the process;
Support Further Action as advised by local Public Health teams and follow their advice and judgement
Source: The Scottish COVID-19 Workbook 2020
When an outbreak is confirmed the formal decision-making about local services principally remains with those legally responsible. Decisions around the most appropriate action will be driven by Public Health leadership, working in partnership through the Incident Management Team.
Depending on the scale of the outbreak, local authorities and other local bodies may limit or close individual facilities or services in response to evidence and concerns raised by the local data, and where they have powers to do so.
Scottish Ministers receive comprehensive information, on a daily basis, drawing together the local positions on Health and Resilience in relation to COVID-19 and any other emerging issues. For the reasons given in the previous section (the scale and seriousness of the pandemic, the implications of local outbreaks for the national picture), Scottish Government advisors and / or Ministers will seek assurance from Directors of Public Health and others on the Incident Management Team to ensure the actions being taken are appropriate and proportionate.
When circumstances dictate, the Scottish Government Resilience Arrangements may be activated to enable clear lines of communication between Ministers and Partners. Depending on the scale of any outbreak, the risks to public health and the potential impact of a more widespread local spike, Ministers may decide to re-impose local or national lockdown conditions, either through direction or through targeted regulations.
In all cases, any national decisions to implement restrictions will be undertaken on the basis of national/local dialogue and informed by intelligence gathering, analysis, availability of resources and the best interests of our communities. This approach to decision-making is founded on established resilience policy, practice and legislation, and aligned with the principle of subsidiarity.
If an outbreak occurs, clear communication will be essential in ensuring that the right actions are taken at the right time. The approach to this is set out further in Section 7.