Information

Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group minutes: 27 April 2020

A note of the tenth meeting of the COVID-19 Advisory Group held on Monday 27 April.

This document is part of a collection


Attendees and apologies

Advisory group members

  • Andrew Morris
  • Angela Leitch
  • Aziz Sheikh
  • Chris Robertson
  • David Crossman
  • Jill Pell
  • Mark Woolhouse
  • Stephen Reicher
  • Sheila Rowan
  • Tom Evans
  • Jim McMenamin
  • Jacqui Reilly
  • Devi Sridhar
  • Nicola Steedman

Invited attendees

  • Mary Black

Scottish Government

  • Roger Halliday
  • Niamh O’Connor
  • Daniel Kleinberg
  • Donna Bell

Secretariat

  • [Redacted]

Items and actions

Minutes

Welcome and apologies

Chair welcomed all attendees

Apologies – [Redacted].

Minutes, action points, Chair update

Chair briefly ran through minutes and actions from last meeting.

SAGE communications and media

There was a discussion regarding the recent media coverage of SAGE. The following points were made:

  • the purpose of the group is to provide independent advice to CMO and Ministers
  • open publication of email / Slack exchanges might influence what members are willing to share with the group
  • that some members of the group are NHS or Scottish Government officials, who seek approval for all decisions. Scottish Government officials are present in a liaison and facilitation capacity to ensure policy colleagues and Ministers are sighted on the work of the group
  • sometimes the media will take the inclusion of an idea in a document as endorsement, even if the document merely includes it for completeness or explicitly rules it out, it should not inhibit discussion, comments should not be attributed to individual members
  • frank discussion, including lack of consensus between group members, or between the group’s opinion and political opinion is important and should not be inhibited
  • formal advice to Ministers is not made public to protect the political process

Action:

  • Secretariat to write a note to Ministers suggesting that evidence reviews and papers produced by the group should be published as long as the author gives consent, and that if slightly extended minutes were to be published it should be without attribution of comments
  • Secretariat to advise group members on advice in relation to security as membership of the group is in the public domain

CSA update

Discussion around Sciencewise is ongoing.

Scottish Government Decision Making Framework

The recently published framework set out four harms arising from COVID-19. Potential further advice from the group was discussed, including:

  • the tension between currently available evidence, the time required to get better evidence, and the potential harm of waiting to make decisions
  • work is ongoing on the test-trace-isolate system, further updates will follow
  • it seems a phased approach is the only way to go. A time gap to allow monitoring of each sequential change would be ideal. Agreement on important indicators of impact is also important
  • important to have NHS services up and running in order to reduce other health consequences
  • key concerns are rebound of infections, drop in compliance with measures, harms associated with lockdown which should not be allowed to continue for longer than necessary
  • equality and a perception of fairness / consistency is important to bear in mind
  • measures with maximum impact on morale should be considered – some of these may be low risk. Public communication would be required to know what these measures would be
  • clear public communication about risk is important if / when measures are relaxed
  • localised outbreaks may occur, how will these be handled?
  • agreed that the group should stick to evidence-based principles and best practice, rather than detail such as garden centres vs corner shops, for example. Although areas viewed as a priority by the group, such as NHS services, should be fed into Scottish Government

Action: Chair / another volunteer to summarise views of the group and reply to Scottish Government.

Modelling update

Scottish Government is continuing work to pull together models from different groups in order to take into account different approaches and seek consensus from sometimes conflicting predictions. Different options for easing restrictions are being modelled and the group will be asked to examine this, likely on Monday. Discussion point – is it possible to get more granular on what is contributing to rate of transmission?

Testing

Group noted that work is still ongoing on optimal numbers for testing, further discussion can be held on Thursday.

Stratification of social distancing

Noted paper shared from SAGE.

SAGE feedback

Agreed it would be useful to know what items would be tabled for discussion at future meetings.

Action: Secretariat to ask SAGE secretariat if it has a plan for upcoming agendas.

Summary notes

The Advisory Group discussed the recently published ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making’, which members had contributed comments and feedback to.

Noting the four harms set out in the framework, the group discussed further areas for consideration and advice. It was agreed that the group’s advice should be on the basis of evidence-based principles and best practice for risk reduction rather than attempting to consider all possible applications.

The Advisory Group discussed the recent media coverage of SAGE, noting the need to be as transparent as possible about the work of the group while not inhibiting discussion. The group expressed concern that sometimes media reporting can interpret the inclusion of an idea in a document as endorsement or serious consideration, even if the document merely includes it for completeness or explicitly rules it out.

An update was provided on Scottish Government modelling work. The team is continuing work to pull together models from different groups in order to take into account different approaches and seek consensus from sometimes conflicting predictions. Different options for easing restrictions are being modelled and the group will be asked to examine this.

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