Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Sub-Group on Public Health Threat Assessment: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Coronavirus (COVID 19): Advisory Sub-Group on Public Health Threat Assessment.

The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has created a range of risks to health, either directly from the effects of the disease COVID-19, or indirectly as a consequence of the wider responses to managing or suppressing transmission of the virus and the impacts that these have had on healthcare, society and the economy.

As we transition from what may ultimately become viewed as the “first wave” of infection, it is important that we assess how these potential harms have interacted and plan forward to assess whether there may be further concurrent clinical risks that may present even greater challenges to society and its healthcare system at a later stage.

As an example, this may include a scenario when re-emergence of widespread transmission of SARS-CoV-2 coincides with other seasonal communicable disease, such as influenza, or annual healthcare pressures associated with winter.


The Public Health Threat Assessment subgroup of the CMO Advisory Group will be chaired by Professor Sir Harry Burns and will provide advice to CMO and to Scottish Ministers by:

  • determining the likelihood and impact of significant and concurrent clinical risks to public health that may occur during the next 12 months
  • identifying data that will be critical to signalling in advance this emerging risk and also monitoring the response of the health and social care system in addressing these
  • identifying and describing high value and evidence-based interventions that healthcare systems can begin to plan and make contingency for should these threats arise

The group will be part of the CMO Advisory Group structure and will be supported, and report, through this structure to CMO. The Chair of the group will be a member of the CMO Advisory Group. Further requests for advice on particular aspects of public health threats may be requested as this work and understanding progresses and must be made using the recognised commissioning process for advice from the CMO Advisory Group.


Members of the group will be drawn from the operational and academic public health structures across Scotland and be supplemented with relevant expertise to fulfil the intended function of the group. It will meet virtually on a weekly basis (or as determined by the Chair) and provide a written report of progress through the secretariat for the CMO and the Advisory Group members. It is expected that it will be short-life in nature with final recommendations for the CMO and Scottish Ministers by end-August.

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