Humza Yousaf has been urged to appear before MSPs to explain remarks he made suggesting that ten young children had been hospitalised “because of Covid”.
The health secretary made the comments in response to a question in Holyrood on Wednesday about whether parents could travel from a level two area to a soft play in level one.
Yousaf later said that he regretted if he had unduly caused any alarm, stating that his main message had been to urge caution.
At the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that Yousaf had not used the correct word.
Responding to a question by a journalist, she said: “Humza answered a question about, ‘should a parent in level two take their kid to the soft play in level one’.
“It was in the context of that question that he was making the point, with reference to the small number of children in hospital, that it isn’t the case that there’s no risk to children in the course of this and he used a word that was not the correct word to use there.
“Nobody meant to do that. We’re trying to give people the best assessment of the risks as we possibly can to allow people, as far as possible within all the rules that are set, to make the best judgements.
“Do we always get that right? No, and people like you are right to pull us up for that and subject us to real scrutiny.
“But, where I just occasionally ask you to cut a bit of slack, is nobody’s trying to get it wrong, and we do try to correct it when we get it wrong.
“But, if we can’t always do that as quickly as you like, it’s maybe, just maybe, some good reasons that lie behind that.”
Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross accused Yousaf of “irresponsibly frightening” parents.
“Today’s Covid briefing should have taken place in the Scottish Parliament,” said Ross.
“By going on the BBC instead, Nicola Sturgeon dodged scrutiny from opposition parties on Humza Yousaf’s scaremongering.
“Parents deserve upfront honesty from the SNP Government, not days of spin over child hospitalisations.
“Instead of admitting Humza Yousaf’s comments were misleading and alarmist, the deputy first minister and now the First Minister have made up excuses to defend him.”
Ross continued: “As justice secretary, Humza Yousaf irresponsibly pre-judged a police inquiry and failed in his duty to calm tensions, not heighten them.
“Now as health secretary, after just a few weeks in the job, he has already been sidelined for irresponsibly frightening parents and failing in his duty to prevent panic, not create it.
“The lack of a straightforward apology and correction is unacceptable. We will be seeking to call him before the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday for a full explanation.”
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