Test and Protect still below WHO target, Yousaf admits

Humza Yousaf said the system came under 'extreme pressure' due to a spike in cases.

Test and Protect still below WHO target, Yousaf admits PA Ready
The health secretary was speaking on a visit to Arbroath.

Test and Protect is still shy of the international performance standard but is expected to improve further, Scotland’s health secretary has said.

Humza Yousaf said Scotland’s contact tracing system had come under “extreme pressure” due to the recent spike in cases.

On a visit to a drop-in vaccination clinic in Arbroath, Angus, he also denied claims from opposition parties that the system had “cut corners” in order to improve turnaround times.

As Covid cases surged at the end of June and in early July, Test and Protect fell below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) standard of having 80% of cases closed within 72 hours of an initial infection being confirmed.

The most recent figures, for the week ending July 11, showed the turnaround times had improved but fewer contacts were being identified per case than earlier in the pandemic.

Yousaf said: “There’s no doubt there’s been extreme pressure on the Test and Protect system, there’s no getting away from that.

“It hasn’t performed to the standards we would have liked it to perform, completely understandable given the record number of cases.

“The action we’ve taken has seen an improvement now in terms of contact tracing numbers.

“Still shy of the WHO 80% mark, we’re getting very, very close to it.

“I would expect when next week’s figures come out there’s an even better improvement than the week before.”

He said the government is constantly looking to improve performance in the system and there could be “perfectly understandable” reasons for the lower number of contacts identified per case.

Yousaf continued: “We’ve got a more transmissible variant, and therefore I would expect the performance of Test and Protect hopefully to improve when figures come out next week.”

On Wednesday, Labour and the Conservatives accused the government of “cutting corners” in order to meet the WHO target.

Contact tracers are now using a shortened interview script focused on high-risk cases and are using text messages to reach other contacts.

Yousaf claimed opposition parties have been making “mischief” around the issue, adding: “Any decisions, for example, to shorten scripts – it’s not me that writes the script or decides what the script looks like, it’s really determined by Public Health Scotland.

“What we do we do for good clinical reasons.

“Test and Protect continues to evolve as time goes on throughout the course of the pandemic.”