Questions concerning COVID-19 testing: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

1. Has the SARS-CoV-2 virus been physically isolated and, if so, where and when?
2. Does a positive RT-PCR test constitute a case in the Scottish Government statistics?
3. Is there any correction factor for the false positive errors and other errors applied to the test results prior to inclusion in statistics given to the public and in the decisions of restrictions to be imposed on the population of Scotland?
4. The First Minister said, as she introduced the requirement to use face coverings, that the decision had been taken because of the ‘’evidence’’. I would be grateful if you would forward details of the peer reviewed studies which support the decision since I cannot find this on the Scottish Government website.
5. Has a risk assessment been carried out on the effects of mask wearing by schoolchildren under the age of 18 years and, if so, can you please forward?


1&2. Some individual cases can be tested on more than one occasion for a number of reasons including as part of their clinical management. When reporting on cases to SG we run a deduplication process on all the positive tests, to identify individual cases. And it is these cases that constitute laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases that we include in our daily reports to SG.

3. False Positives: The likelihood of false positives arising is dependent on a number of factors such as the overall prevalence of infection in the population, the clinical presentation of disease in the person sampled, and quality of the sampling method. It is very difficult to exactly measure the false positive rate of any testing system.

NHS Scotland laboratories have a number of quality procedures in place to minimise false positives results. NHS Scotland laboratories have a protocol in place to carry out confirmation testing (or repeat testing) in certain circumstances to confirm whether low positive test results should be reported as positive or negative. Public Health Scotland have produced guidance for sampling and laboratory investigations to minimise reporting of false positives occurring:

4&5. Under section 25(1) of FOISA, we do not have to give you information which is already reasonably accessible to you. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

I have however provided the evidence below: 

  • On 4 June 2020, SAGE discussed mitigation measures which included the use of face coverings. You can find further information in the meeting minutes which are available on the UK Government website here.
  • The World Health Organisation released update advice on face covering on the 5 June 2020. The guidance advised that to prevent Covid-19 transmission effectively in areas of community transmission, governments should encourage the general public to wear face coverings in specific situations and settings as part of comprehensive approach to suppress Covid-19 transmission. You can find a copy of this guidance on the WHO website here.
  • The UK Government released a summary of the relevant SAGE reports for this topic. This can be found on the UK Parliament website here.

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Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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