Suppressing the Virus
To achieve the ambitions of this Programme for Government we must successfully keep COVID-19 suppressed. This will depend on our individual actions, on national and local surveillance and response, and on NHS Scotland's Test and Protect system.
As we approach winter we are taking a series of actions which, alongside public compliance with physical distancing and hygiene requirements can help us all to reduce the impact of the coronavirus. We will continue to regularly review the Coronavirus guidance and restrictions against Scotland's route map through and out of the crisis. As we remobilise NHS services safely, we will ensure that capacity is necessary to deal with the continuing presence of COVID-19 as well as preparing the health and care services for the wider pressures of the winter season.
Since the start of the outbreak, testing capacity has been significantly increased in Scotland, and we will continue to expand it further.
We have also established Test & Protect, and to support contact tracing we will shortly launch a new proximity app "Protect Scotland". This will enhance, not replace, the work of our team of contact tracers - it will add an additional means of notifying people who may have been exposed to the virus and require to self‑isolate.
Seasonal flu vaccination
Starting this year we will extend the offer of seasonal flu vaccination to all social care workers who provide direct personal care, to all those 55 years and over, all those sharing a household with people who have been shielding for the purposes of Covid‑19, and those aged 50‑54 depending on vaccine supplies, to protect people and our NHS this winter. This will better protect people at greater risk, and our health service from becoming overwhelmed.
Alert service for those who previously had to shield to advise of localised risk factors
Following the pause of shielding on 1 August, we are establishing mechanisms by which people at high risk from COVID-19 can access tools and information to help them understand the changing levels of infection in the community. This will allow them to make informed choices about their individual situations. We will give people at the highest risk as much advice as possible and we will change our advice immediately if we feel it's necessary to keep people safe.
Recognising the specific impacts on ethnic minority people as a result of the coronavirus, we commissioned an Expert Reference Group on COVID-19 and Ethnicity. We are now working to implement its recommendations, including better collection and use of minority ethnic health data, to ensure our public health response is properly focused.
Building a Scottish Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply chain
The safety of our essential frontline workforce is an absolute priority and the improvements we have made to distribution routes for PPE in health and social care are helping to make sure we continue to deliver the supplies that are needed. There has also been a significant strengthening of the Scottish supply chain, which builds greater resilience into our PPE stocks.
Working with partners across the UK, Scotland is leading, enabling and delivering world‑class COVID-19 research, a key element of our overall response to the pandemic. Scotland forms part of a UK process led by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and draws on expert advice to prioritise the COVID-19 studies which hold the most potential for tackling the challenges faced. The Chief Scientist Office (CSO) has funded a number of COVID-19 studies being conducted in Scottish Academic Institutions. The research will draw on the very best science and methodologies in Scotland to address specific issues.