The Scottish Greens have pushed for mass Covid-19 testing of up to 100,000 people every day.
In a letter to the First Minister, the party’s health spokeswoman Alison Johnstone has called for an expansion to include increased weekly testing for NHS staff and carers, increased access for university students and staff, and “targeted weekly testing” for teachers.
Johnstone also pushed for “frontline workers” – including retail and hospitality staff – to have access to tests before they develop symptoms.
She urged the Scottish Government to invest in more advanced tests, such as the 15-minute version designed by Abbott Laboratories which cost $5 (£3.80) each.
She said: “The Scottish Greens have been consistent throughout this crisis that a robust testing regime must form the basis of Scotland’s response to the virus.
“Now, with cases rising rapidly and the privatised UK-wide testing system failing to keep up, the case for mass testing is stronger than ever.
“The more data we have about who has the virus and where it is spreading, the sooner we can take action to reduce or better target the restrictions that can harm people’s liberty, mental health and economic prospects.”
Johnstone said it is time for Scotland to end its partial reliance on the UK Government’s testing system, which she described as “failing”.
She said: “I understand Scotland’s NHS testing labs remain underused while we place the burden on the failing UK-wide system.
“That is the wrong way round. It’s time to step up Scotland’s own efforts to tackle the virus, provide regular testing for all our at-risk frontline staff and roll out the latest 15-minute tests for all.
“Scotland could be testing 100,000 people a day if we did this. The short-term cost of this would be more than worth the benefits of the country being able to recover.”
Concluding her letter, she wrote: “I realise that these proposals would require a major effort and expense, though I note that £136m of consequentials linked to Covid-19 testing have already been available to Scotland and there may be other opportunities to shift capital given the critical importance of delivering mass testing.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have recently secured a deal with LumiraDx to supply 12-minute test instruments to NHS Scotland which will play a vital role in Scotland’s Test and Protect strategy and will be rolled out in the near future.
“We have also continued to increase our NHS testing capacity throughout this pandemic and as we move into winter we will continue to work towards the target set out in our testing strategy of building laboratory processing capacity to approximately 65,000 tests per day between NHS Scotland laboratories and the Lighthouse Labs network in Glasgow, as we prepare for winter.
“Weekly testing is available to all care home staff and given the recent delays with the Lighthouse Lab Network, we have begun to migrate this programme of testing into NHS labs.”
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