Scottish Labour leader reveals uncle’s death with Covid-19

Speaking at First Minister's Questions, Richard Leonard said his uncle had died in a care home with the virus.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard revealed his uncle has died in a care home with coronavirus.

The party leader, speaking at a special First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, urged the Scottish Government to ramp up testing of care home residents and staff as he revealed his personal loss.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon offered Leonard her condolences and said the government will publish a paper on its testing strategy early next week.

Scottish ministers have set a target of reaching capacity for 3500 tests per day by the end of this month.

But the Scottish Labour leader quoted experts suggesting between 15,000 to 20,000 tests a day could be necessary to put an adequate testing regime in place.

Leonard said: “Families across the country are deeply concerned about the situation in our care homes, and I speak from personal experience.

“On Friday last week, I lost my own uncle to Covid-19. He was living in a care home.”

He continued: “The Scottish Government’s framework document, published last week, said that the government listened to the advice of bodies like the World Health Organisation.

“But they say ‘test, test, test’ – and there has been little testing of care workers.

“The government also said in that document that it listened to bodies like the European Union’s Centre for Disease Control.

“But they have said, and I quote: ‘Staff in long-term care facilities should be tested on a regular basis… twice weekly.’

“And we know that is simply not happening.”

The Scottish Labour leader said fewer than one in five care home staff have been tested for coronavirus.

His comments come after health secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed half of Scottish care homes have had a confirmed or suspected case of coronavirus since the pandemic began.

The First Minister replied that of the around 20,700 health and care staff and their family members who have been tested so far, nearly 30% of those have been care home staff or their families.

She added that was an increase in the proportion being tested compared to previous weeks.

Sturgeon said she did not want to underplay the situation in care homes but stressed it was “broadly in line with the international evidence”.

That’s because over-65s are by far the most susceptible to becoming seriously ill and dying after contracting Covid-19, she said.

The First Minister added: “Let me give my condolences to Richard Leonard for his personal loss.

“I think one of the difficult things for all of us in dealing with this is that the impact this virus is having means there are probably now very few of us who, either through our own families or friends or wider networks, don’t know somebody who has been affected in some way.

“I think we all understand that impact.”

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