Willie Rennie has compared the Scottish Government to rabbits caught in headlights by “dithering” over their response to a rise in Covid cases.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader made the remark as he warned that the latest wave of the virus is threatening to “overwhelm” the NHS and other essential services.
Last week, a record high of 4234 daily coronavirus cases were recorded in Scotland – though numbers have started to decline since then.
“The SNP Government are caught like rabbits in the headlights, dithering about what to do next.”Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader
On Tuesday, all non-urgent elective surgery at NHS Highland said Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, having reached capacity and being placed at ‘code black status’.
“This latest wave of the pandemic is threatening to overwhelm the NHS and other essential services,” said Rennie.
“If the SNP don’t act now wards will be closed, operations cancelled, care service will stop, bins won’t be collected and the police won’t be on the front line to keep us safe.
“Because the SNP Government have lost control of the virus so much of it is swirling around. As a result, thousands of people are self-isolating because they are close contacts of people testing positive.
Rennie said the rules on self-isolation need to change, as he insisted that the growth of the virus needs to be cut.
“We’ve seen the impact on Raigmore hospital and other hospitals across the country,” he said.
“As it seems the connection between the virus and hospitalisation and risk of death has been broken, the nature of the pandemic has changed once again.
“But the SNP Government are caught like rabbits in the headlights, dithering about what to do next. The current position is unsustainable. The growth of the virus needs to be cut and the self-isolation rules need to change.
“Inaction will mean that these vital services will be at risk of collapse.”
“The people of Scotland should not be put at harm due to the failings of the SNP government.”Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour has called for health secretary Humza Yousaf to take action over concerns at NHS Lanarkshire.
The party made the call ahead of a meeting of NHS Lanarkshire ‘Gold Command’, amid suggestions that a scaling back of elective care services will be considered.
“This is an incredibly worrying situation in Lanarkshire,” said Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Jackie Baillie.
“We can now see the direct impact that the SNP’s failure to control Covid is having on those in need of care and medical attention. If elective treatment is cancelled then waiting lists will grow ever longer.
“With NHS Lanarkshire at breaking point, Humza Yousaf simply must wake up and take action.
“The people of Scotland should not be put at harm due to the failings of the SNP government.
“It’s time the SNP woke up to the disaster unfolding on their watch and accelerated the vaccine programme to protect the Scottish people.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr MSP said: “The SNP have abandoned the day job at the worst possible moment, just as a third wave of Covid strikes.
“At a critical moment, there is a complete absence of leadership from the SNP Government. Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and Humza Yousaf have disappeared from view.
“It’s a dereliction of duty to all go on leave when things get tough. Scotland is the Covid capital of Europe yet the First Minister, Covid recovery secretary and health secretary are all missing in action.”
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “These claims are simply not accurate, and it is misleading to suggest the NHS is on the verge of collapse.
“We recognise the additional pressure NHS staff are facing as they work tirelessly to respond to the pandemic whilst continuing to provide vital treatment and safe patient care.
“We are in daily contact with boards facing the greatest challenges and are monitoring the situation closely.
“We have allocated an additional £380m to health boards to help with costs arising from the pandemic. This comes on top of the £1.7bn already provided to health boards and health and social care partnerships last year.
“Although pandemic related pressures have eased over recent months, as restrictions relax we are seeing a rise in non-Covid attendances and admissions.”
“The exceptional care that all NHS and social care staff have delivered throughout the pandemic and their efforts on testing and vaccinations are the bedrock on which we will build our recovery.”Humza Yousaf, Health secretary
Yousaf indicated that remobilisation of the NHS is one of the Scottish Government’s “number one priorities”.
He said: “We are encouraging people to consider options closer to home, by seeking medical advice online at NHS inform, by calling NHS 24, their GP practice, or by contacting their local pharmacy who can also help and prescribe treatment.
“While the increase in NHS staff absences over recent weeks is significantly lower than previous phases of the pandemic, this reflects the overall increase in infection rates across the population – and it is a reminder that each of us needs to continue doing all we can to slow the spread of the virus.”
The health secretary added: “The remobilisation of the NHS is one of our number one priorities and we will publish a national recovery plan for the NHS within the first 100 days of the new government.
“The exceptional care that all NHS and social care staff have delivered throughout the pandemic and their efforts on testing and vaccinations are the bedrock on which we will build our recovery.”