Coronavirus (COVID-19) Adaptations Expert Advisory Group minutes: 26 January 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 26 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Tim Sharpe, University of Strathclyde


  • Victoria Sanderson, Health and Safety Executive
  • Dr Kimberly Marsh, Public Health Scotland (items 1 to 4)
  • Dr Carole McRae, Public Health Scotland
  • Christoph Ackermann, BDP (items 1 to 5)
  • Professor Vittal Katikireddi, University of Glasgow
  • Neil Granger, British Property Federation
  • Stephen Long, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Dr Chris Iddon, The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (items 1 to 4)
  • Fiona Richardson, COSLA
  • Patrick Mackie, Local Authority Environmental Health

Scottish Government attendees

  • Judith Ainsley, Head of Covid Policy Unit, Covid Ready Society
  • Katherine McIsaac, Joint Head of Strategy & Insight, Directorate For Communications And Ministerial Support
  • Katherine Goodwin, COVID Ready Society
  • Dr Stephen Garvin, Deputy Director, Building Standards
  • Thomas Lennon, Construction Professional and Technical Author, Building Standards, Directorate for Local Government and Housing
  • Caroline Welsh, Policy Manager, Environmental Quality, Directorate for Environment and Forestry
  • Covid Ready Society policy officials


  • Professor Cath Noakes, University of Leeds
  • Dr Alice Street, University of Edinburgh
  • Professor Linda Bauld, Chief Social Policy Advisor
  • Marion McCormack, Deputy Director, Covid Ready Society


  • Covid Ready Society policy official

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions 

The Chair welcomed members to the fifth meeting of the COVID-19 Adaptations Expert Advisory Group.

Agree minute of previous meeting

A Scottish Government (SG) official invited members to comment on or propose corrections to the minutes of the interim meeting held on 1 December 2022 and meeting 4 held on 14 December 2022. No comments were raised therefore the minute was agreed and will be published on the Group webpage.

Assessing ventilation in public spaces

Learning from building standards – ventilation research for non-domestic buildings and adaptations for public organisations

Thomas Lennon (TL) provided an overview of 2022 Buildings Standards ventilation research, to identify effective ventilation guidance and practice to mitigate the indoor airborne transmission of infectious diseases in new build, non-domestic buildings.
Members were invited to consider whether it would be appropriate to run a similar ventilation survey for public sector organisations, as a prelude to actions to encourage greater use of Co2 monitoring devices through trials, which could lead to an observatory model. 

The Chair highlighted that this would link to recommendation six of the COVID-19 Ventilation Short Life Working Group (SLWG): To develop a strategy on the best methods to gain insights into the actual ventilation performance of buildings in Scotland as an aid to understanding health impacts on the public and building occupants. This may include the development of monitoring and evaluation tools or a survey of ventilation levels in the existing building stock, or development of requirements for monitoring of buildings. This could also take the form of an Observatory involving a cross section of buildings across the country.

The Group discussed building standards more generally including compliance and the potential need for requirements in relation to ventilation. Overall, members agreed a survey would be a helpful approach to gaining insights into the ventilation performance of buildings, however noted that this is more difficult to gather in transient spaces, and often when issues are identified it may not be cost effective or practical to address. Stephen Long (SL) highlighted a new requirement of the Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIS) to have occupancy sensors installed to make sense of other data e.g. Co2 levels. Secretariat have taken an action away to set up an additional meeting with some members of the group to explore the design of a survey and develop an approach for public spaces. 

State of the pandemic 

Public Health Scotland (PHS) provided a state of the pandemic update and noted that the prevalence of COVID-19 is declining from the peak over the festive period and the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Infection Survey data suggests the estimated number of people testing positive for COVID-19 was around 1 in 30. The incidence rate of influenza has decreased to low activity level overall. PHS currently consider excess mortality to be at a high activity level, the  examination of the cause of death in these individuals reveals that the excess in the numbers of deaths are increasingly due to respiratory causes. COVID-19 will continue to be monitored to identify any need to change interventions. 

COVID highest risk and adaptations

Katherine Goodwin (KG) delivered a presentation on the work of Scotland’s Shielding Programme, now known as ‘Highest Risk’, outlining the four main phases of the programme: 

  • phase 1 (March to July 2020) involved an emergency response to the pandemic with strict shielding in place
  • phase 2 (August 2020 to August 2021) involved coming out of shielding and reducing communications however commitment was made to provide localised data to help inform people on the shielding list of the risk in their area
  • phase 3 (August 2021 to May 2022) involved promoting general population advice e.g. encouraging uptake of vaccination, unless advised otherwise by their GP or specialist clinical team, and the decision to close the Highest Risk List on 31 May 2022
  • phase 4 (June 2022 to present) has involved ensuring a robust identification process for those at highest risk is in place and learning lessons for future pandemics

Members were invited to note the future plans for COVID Highest Risk and consider any obvious crossover with the work of the Group. Members highlighted the importance of individuals being able to risk assess, or make an informed judgement about a space. KG highlighted that the Stay Well This Winter Signage scheme is a way of facilitating this. Members also discussed the importance of the response to COVID and other respiratory illnesses being taken at a population level, for the benefit of all. This approach would help to avoid ‘othering’ groups of people considered to be at highest risk. KG confirmed commitment to continue engagement with stakeholders, and to undertake follow-up research to understand a number of issues including; self-shielding, identification of risk and how best to support people previously asked to shield.

Response to emergence of ‘warm spaces’

An SG official provided an update on the SG’s response to the emergence of ‘warm spaces’; public, likely crowded spaces, where individuals may gather to keep warm during the winter months.

The SG proposes to provide guidance to support ‘warm spaces’ in two ways: 1) by targeting ‘warm space’ providers to participate in Stay Well This Winter Signage and 2) provide new infection resilience guidance for individuals who may be visiting public, likely crowded indoor spaces, including ‘warm spaces’. Members were invited to comment on draft guidance and offer views on how the guidance should be promoted e.g. engagement with Local Authorities through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) or other relevant networks.

Some members felt that guidance directed at those providing ‘warm spaces’ would be beneficial to offer support on how to manage the service. SG officials advised that in addition to promoting the Stay Well This Signage scheme, organisations would also be signposted to existing SG guidance e.g. Safer Workplaces and Public Setting guidance which includes information on risk assessment, ventilation and other measures. Secretariat have taken an action away to recirculate the updated draft guidance based on advice from the group to seek any further comments before publication. 

Any other business, next meeting and close

The Chair thanked members for their time and valuable contributions, and noted the next meeting is scheduled to be held in March. 

Back to top