Discrepancies in the number of Covid-19 cases reported in Scotland in recent days are due to tests being diverted away from the UK Government’s Lighthouse Lab in Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister told the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday that the step was taken to ensure the laboratory, based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, did not reach capacity.
Some of the diverted tests were from drive-in testing centres, where the number of positive cases found is usually higher – meaning the number of new cases may have been skewed due to some tests being taken elsewhere.
Sturgeon previously warned Sunday’s figure for positive cases should be treated with caution “due to a processing delay within the UK lab system” but a UK Government spokesman denied there were any testing capacity issues.
The First Minister said Scotland has recorded one death from coronavirus and 993 positive tests in the past 24 hours.
On Sunday, 316 new positive cases were reported – 11.2% of newly tested individuals – which is significantly lower than in the previous weeks, having not been around this low a level since the 356 reported on September 27.
Sturgeon told the briefing the diversions were due to stop on Sunday and new cases should be included in Monday and Tuesday’s figures.
She said: “This is one reason why, when we consider the number of positive cases, we always look at trends over a number of days rather than at any single day at a time.
“Our Test and Protect teams will be working to identify contacts of positive cases as soon as the information about them comes into our case management system.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said on Sunday night that claims of a testing capacity issue are “categorically untrue”.
He said: “There is no capacity issue at the UK Government’s Glasgow Lighthouse Lab.
“The Glasgow Lighthouse Lab is highly efficient, with the capacity to analyse tens of thousands of samples a day.
“Rerouting tests to other laboratories is a routine practice to ensure timely processing.”
The First Minister also told the briefing the Scottish Government’s strategic plan for tackling coronavirus will be published at the end of this week.
She intends to discuss the outline of the framework with party leaders on Tuesday ahead of a proposed Holyrood debate at the beginning of next week.
The FM said household restrictions will remain in place beyond October 26, when temporary rules on hospitality come to an end, while discussions are ongoing about further restrictions beyond these.
Sturgeon has previously said a tiered alert system, similar to that put in place in England last week, will be part of the Scottish Government’s approach.
She said people “overwhelmingly” stuck to Covid-19 restrictions over the weekend, thanking those who heeded rules on gathering in each other’s homes on Saturday and Sunday.
Sturgeon had urged people not to gather indoors to watch Saturday’s Old Firm game between Celtic and Rangers, as well as not travel to England to watch the match in a pub.
Giving a further update on the daily figures, she said 47,708 people have now tested positive in Scotland, up 46,715 from Sunday.
Of the new cases, 362 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 294 in Lanarkshire, 122 in Lothian and 57 in Ayrshire and Arran.
There are 754 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, up 40 in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 61 are in intensive care, down two.
The overall death toll of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days is now 2610.