Information

Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group minutes: 23 July 2020

A note of the twenty-sixth meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group held on 23 July 2020.

This document is part of a collection


Attendees and apologies

Advisory group members

  • Andrew Morris

  • Harry Burns

  • Angela Leitch

  •  Jim McMenamin

  •  Jill Pell

  •  Steve Reicher

  • Chris Robertson

  • Sheila Rowan

  • Aziz Sheikh Devi Sridhar

  •  Nicola Steedman 

  • Carol Tannahill

Invited attendees

  • Mary Black
  • Cat Carver

Scottish Government

  • Susan Gallacher

Secretariat

  • [Redacted]

Items and actions

Minutes

Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed group members and the observers attending today: Susan Gallacher and Cat Carver.

Apologies – [Redacted]

Minutes and actions

All group members were content with the minutes from the previous week.

The PHE sitrep was noted. Work is underway by PHS in liaison with SG colleagues to compile different reports covering the same range of data into a single report. The ethnicity data on p19 of the sitrep was highlighted – Asian ethnicity now accounts for 47% of cases but only 7% of population – an epidemic within an epidemic. It was noted that there was a SAGE paper on communications with ethnic groups.

Action: Alert CMO to this new information in connection with the group’s previous advice.

It was noted that the addendum to the group’s testing paper would be discussed at the Testing subgroup next week. Ministers were considering the group’s advice on care homes.

Further and higher education

The arrival of students from elsewhere in the UK and countries overseas with higher rates of coronavirus is a risk factor which will need to be controlled – e.g. 8k overseas students at Edinburgh University and 1/3 of St Andrew’s undergraduates from USA

There was concern that students may not comply with quarantine/self-isolation on arrival in Scotland or if indented through contact tracing. This will need close monitoring and Test & Protect planning must take it into account to prepare for the potential for a bunch of outbreaks. It was acknowledged that HE was significantly different from FE in this respect, though similar in other aspects. Both are employers and subject to the same requirements as others in relation to their employees. There would be a benefit in looking at FE & HE separately as they typically operate on different scales. There is a need to be clear about the risk for different people and settings; compliance is easier in more regulated settings.

University compliance with mandatory measures is typically high while uptake of optional measures might be variable; guidance is more likely to have effect if prescriptive. Universities will look to SG guidance and Test & Protect but will need to supplement that with their own guidance and disciplinary arrangements. Need to incentivise institutions to act responsibly, recognising that the aim of all concerned is to ensure students and staff are safe while they are learning. Need to recognise however that student behaviour outside educational settings may have a significant impact regardless of formal arrangements. Important that students understand how to behave positively and understand Scottish rules and expectations for shopping, transport and social settings. HE & FE arrangements should support and encourage this.

Learning is possible from examples elsewhere – arrangements at some US Universities for testing before arrival, on arrival and afterwards, with symptom tracking via an app. Good practice in Taiwan, which was comparable to Scotland when universities resumed, based on eight principles. A SAGE subgroup is producing guidance on higher education – important to link to that.

Action: find out current status of work by SAGE subgroup and links to Scotland.

Action: update recommendations for discussion at a meeting to be arranged early next week before submitting final advice. Need to consider advice on two metre distancing and mitigations for subjects/settings such as medicine/labs where distancing is problematic.

Subgroup, CSA & SAGE updates

Postponed till next meeting.

Summary notes

1. The group noted that the Education and Children’s Issues and Public Health Threat Assessment subgroups had met and were pursuing their remits. The group identified the importance of recent data on ethnicity published by Public Health England. Work being done by Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Government to consolidate various reports on coronavirus was acknowledged.

2. The group discussed issues relating to further and higher education, noting the similar issues arising in many respects – both sets of institutions are employers and will be subject to the usual guidance in most respects. Overall however they considered there would be benefit in looking at them separately as they typically operate on different scales. There is a need to be clear about the risk for different people and settings.

3.The group acknowledged that the arrival of university students from elsewhere in the UK and countries overseas with higher rates of coronavirus is a risk factor which will need to be controlled, although this was not an on-going risk. It would be important for these students to understand how to behave positively in line with Scottish rules and expectations for shopping, transport and social settings as well as education settings and universities’ arrangements should support and encourage this. Scotland can learn from international experience and examples of good practice.

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