Coronavirus (COVID-19) Adaptations Expert Advisory Group minutes: 8 September 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Adaptations Expert Advisory Group on 8 September 2022.

Attendees and apologies


  • Professor Tim Sharpe, University of Strathclyde


  • Victoria Sanderson, Health and Safety Executive
  • Dr Maria Rossi, Public Health Scotland
  • Dr Carole McRae, Public Health Scotland
  • Professor Diane Dixon, University of Aberdeen
  • Dr Nicholas Phin, Public Health Scotland
  • Christoph Ackermann, Architectural Design and Engineering
  • Professor Gill Hubbard, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Richard Atkins, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
  • Professor Cath Noakes, University of Leeds
  • Professor Vittal Katikireddi, University of Glasgow
  • Professor Stephen Reicher, St Andrew’s University
  • Stephen Long, Scottish Futures Trust
  • Fiona Richardson, COSLA
  • Neil Granger, Scottish Property Federation

Scottish Government attendees

  • Marion McCormack, Deputy Director, Covid Ready Society
  • Elizabeth Sadler, Deputy Director, Covid Ready Society
  • Judith Ainsley, Head of Adaptations Unit, Covid Ready Society
  • Professor Linda Bauld, Chief Social Policy Advisor
  • Dr Stephen Garvin, Deputy Director, Building Standards
  • Ian Gilzean, Chief Architect
  • Katherine McIsaac, Joint Head of Strategy & Insight, Directorate for Communications and Ministerial Support
  • Safer Workplaces Policy Officials, Directorate for Economic Development
  • Covid Ready Society Policy Officials


  • Dr Chris Iddon, The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers
  • Morag Angus, Chief Surveyor
  • Patrick Mackie, Argyll and Bute Council
  • Tamsie Thomson, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland


  • Covid Ready Society Policy Official

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The chair welcomed members to the first meeting of the COVID Adaptations Expert Advisory Group. The chair invited introductions from all members. 

State of the pandemic

Public Health Scotland (PHS) provided an update on the current state of the pandemic; infection rate is currently having a low impact on health services despite a relatively high presence in the population e.g. 1 in 55 people according to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Infection Survey. Most of the population have either been infected with COVID or vaccinated, providing good protection (albeit this wanes over time). As we approach autumn/winter, the COVID and flu vaccination programme has started, with an initial focus on older age cohorts.

PHS explained the hierarchy of controls in public health e.g. elimination of the hazard is a key control, with substitution, engineering control, administrative control and PPE as additional controls. They confirmed the focus has shifted to ongoing surveillance, monitoring infections at population level and horizon scanning for new variants. Our key response is through vaccination, local management through health protection teams and continued messaging through guidance focused on infection control, hand hygiene, symptom awareness and environmental control.

The chair asked about modelling for this autumn vs previous autumn periods over the last two years. PHS confirmed modelling can be done but very difficult as there are a number of scenarios and influencing factors.

Discuss and agree terms of reference

A Scottish Government (SG) official introduced and talked through the group’s terms of reference (ToR), summarising the ToR background, scope and overall aim.

The group highlighted that whilst what we are doing is relevant to COVID, we should highlight the positive impacts of clean air on health and wellbeing more generally. The Royal Academy of Engineering Infection Resilient Environments report includes a cost-benefit analysis of various changes - and it concludes that, if one includes the impact on productivity there are considerable financial (as well as health) benefits to implementing changes.

The group discussed the work detailed in the ToR; partly technical in nature, highlighting that we must consider cost, and ‘trigger’ points e.g. how to ensure adaptations are implemented in both new buildings and existing buildings.

The group discussed the significance of the task to make recommendations and/or take action ahead of this Winter.

The chair confirmed this is a longer term group and scope will look beyond COVID, emphasising the need to think beyond ventilation and filtration, and consider how we can learn from issues faced in the past. 

The group highlighted that longer term thinking should also consider water and waste water and the relationship to risks in the built environment, and that some mitigation behaviours are 'transportable' and helpful across environments.

Members were invited to provide additional comments by COP Friday 16 September via secretariat mailbox:

Discuss and agree work plan

An SG official introduced the draft work plan, explaining it is a live document and will be shaped by members.

The chair invited members to suggest emerging issues and potential topics for discussion to shape the work plan e.g. ‘warm banks’ this Winter. The group discussed the concept of ‘warm banks’, highlighting that guidance would be beneficial to local governments to ensure ‘warm banks’ operate safely. The Cross-Government Analytical Group on the cost of living crisis are currently looking at examples of ‘warm banks’.

The group noted that we should look at the work of the group holistically and consider how to co-produce messaging to cover a range of issues e.g. cost of living crisis and increased prevalence of respiratory infections. 

Presentation on governance

An SG official provided an overview of governance, confirming the Adaptations Expert Advisory Group will report to the Adaptations Steering Group (a Scottish Government cross-government group). The Four Harms Group programme board will oversee the work of both groups. 

AOB, next meeting and close

The chair thanked members for volunteering their time and valuable contributions.

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