The Scottish Government has defended its handling of an early Covid-19 outbreak in Scotland after claims the infection was allowed to spread.
More than 70 Nike employees from around the world attended a conference at the Hilton Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh on February 26 and 27, with investigations finding at least 25 people linked to the event contracted Covid-19, including eight in Scotland.
The first coronavirus case in Scotland was announced on March 2 – a Tayside resident unrelated to the conference.
According to The Scottish Mail on Sunday, two companies believe their employees became unwell after coming into contact with delegates at the conference.
One of the companies – a digital marketing business – shares an office building with Nike in Glasgow, which sent staff to the conference. The other firm – a hire shop – fitted ten event attendees for kilts.
Both companies said they were never warned about the outbreak by the Scottish Government and there was no contact tracing of their staff.
Health Protection Scotland was told on March 2 a delegate at the conference tested positive and the Scottish Government said it was made aware of two cases in Scotland connected to the event on March 3.
Speaking at the government’s daily briefing, health secretary Jeane Freeman said there was no failure in the government’s approach and that “all the proper clinical led standard protocols” were followed.
“If we are not told by someone all the contacts that they have had we cannot trace,” she said. “We can only trace on the basis of what the trigger case says.”
Also speaking at the briefing, national clinical director Jason Leitch said: “This was not a mass gathering, it was a small group of people who met internationally from lots of different countries. There was an international incident management team set up very quickly and contact tracing done in a number of countries.
“There were very, very few cases in the country, very few cases across the whole of the UK, that was absolutely the right thing to do at that point in the pandemic.”
Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said the “cover-up” of the outbreak is “now a national scandal”.
He said: “”The Scottish Government still refuses to accept responsibility for this cover-up and its impact, with Jeane Freeman trying to point the finger of blame at those who attended.
“The explanation from Ms Freeman is surely the very reason the public should have been told.
“If tracing is based on recall of everyone you have been in contact with then that’s ineffective, so you have to inform the wider public.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “All appropriate steps were taken to ensure public health was protected. All of the cases linked to this event were assessed by their close contact, or contact with conference delegates who tested positive after the event so public health authorities were satisfied that there was minimal infection risk.
“NHS Lothian and Edinburgh City Council worked closely with the conference venue to provide advice for close contacts of delegates and infection prevention and control considerations.
“Given that there were cases in England, Public Health England was also part of the Incident Management team, which was provided with full details surrounding the circumstances of the infections.
“The Scottish Government has been entirely consistent in its handling and publication of information relating to positive cases of Covid-19 in Scotland.”
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