Coronavirus: Scotland to set up its own expert group

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Media caption,
'We are behind London and need Scottish virus data'

The Scottish government is setting up its own expert group to advise on tackling the spread of coronavirus.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the team would "supplement" advice from the UK-wide Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

The move came as it emerged further six people with coronavirus in Scotland have died, taking the total to 22.

A total of 51 patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 are being treated in intensive care units.

There have been 719 positive tests for coronavirus, while 9,957 tests have proven negative.

Ms Sturgeon said the new advisory group would be chaired by Prof Andrew Morris of Edinburgh University, director of Health Data Research UK.

The first minister said: "At all times the Scottish government's actions have been guided by the best and most up to date expert scientific advice, working closely of course with governments across the UK.

"But as the number of cases increases it's ever more important that we have the fullest possible understanding of exactly how the virus is spreading in Scotland.

"We need to be certain the decisions we are taking are the most effective ones possible and we need to know whether there are more steps that require to be taken."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Customers practice social distancing as they queue to get into a Glasgow supermarket

Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood suggested that the move could ultimately see Scotland pursue different policies to the rest of the UK.

"The advice about suppressive measures has been all over the UK, because that's what we need to stop the transmission of the virus," she said.

"But in time we will want to apply our own Scottish data to some of these advisory measures.

"Perhaps it will not be appropriate to have all of the suppression measures in all of the country as we progress through the transmission of this disease and as we see how the capacity of our NHS is holding up."

Speaking at a briefing in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon also praised key workers who have children for finding creative solutions to childcare, saying that only 1% of people had taken up the childcare which was on offer.

It was earlier announced that household members of key health and social care workers' families are to be given priority testing for Covid-19 if they show symptoms.

This means that if household members test negative, the key worker can return to work immediately.

Image source, PA Media

Ms Sturgeon also said further guidance will be made available to employers.

"Fundamentally, most businesses should and will know whether they will be closed," she added.

She said the government was relying on them to be responsible "and put the health of their workers first".

The Scottish government and the Scottish Trades Union Congress have signed a joint agreement on fair work, as there was concern about some workers being put under pressure to continue working when it was not appropriate.

Although the UK government has said construction work could continue where it was safe to do so, Ms Sturgeon insisted building sites should not be open unless they were working on essential facilities like hospitals.