Government urged to define Covid-19 strategy for this year

Panel of Scots convened by Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee advise an 'elimination' plan would be best.

Government urged to define Covid-19 strategy for this year PA Media

A panel of Scots has told the Government to define its strategy to tackle Covid-19 in 2021, as they advise an “elimination” plan would be best.

The broadly representative group of 19 people were convened by Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee in response to the pace of regulations being brought in by the Scottish Government.

Following four sessions, the group has drafted a report with a number of recommendations before some members appear at the committee.

Chief among the recommendations is transparency on the Scottish Government’s plans for tackling the virus this year.

On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon said she hopes a new road map out of lockdown will be published next week.

Covid-19 Committee convener Donald Cameron said: “The committee is very grateful to the members of the public and experts who gave their time to participate in deliberations.

“The steps taken to counter this virus are so drastic they would have been unimaginable a year ago. It is therefore vital we gauge the public mood as we enter into the next phase of managing the pandemic.

“The considered priorities of this broadly representative group, who have looked at the issue with fresh eyes, will help inform us as we begin to look at the likely extension of the emergency powers, and work to ensure the efforts of Government are focused in the right place.

“We are looking forward to hearing more from panel members, and testing their conclusions, at our next meeting.”

The panel pushes for an elimination strategy to be put in place to fight the virus, which would see restrictions in place to slowly work the number of cases to zero.

But they accept there would need to be an agreement across the UK, and it would also require Scots to make a number of “sacrifices” – particularly around travel restrictions.

The UK and Scottish governments are currently locked in discussions on travel rules, with Holyrood choosing to make every traveller arriving from abroad quarantine in a hotel for 10 days, while only those from “red list” countries are forced to do so in England.

In areas of the response where an elimination strategy cannot be used, one of “maximum suppression” is suggested, which would include a robust Test and Protect scheme to track cases across the country as numbers begin to fall.

Other harms caused by the virus, the panel said, such as economic, social and other health problems, would all be helped by the suppression of the virus.

In all cases, the panel said the Scottish Government should be clear about what it considers to be an “acceptable level of infection” within the population.

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