Scotland

Coronavirus: Carlaw says public 'should have been told' about Nike outbreak

Jackson Carlaw Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jackson Carlaw said the decision had been a mistake

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw has said the public "should have been told" about a coronavirus outbreak at a conference in Edinburgh.

At First Minister's Questions, he said the decision not to release information about the Nike event in February was "clearly the wrong call".

Nicola Sturgeon accused Mr Carlaw of trying to politicise the issue.

And she stressed that public health experts had taken the decision for patient confidentiality reasons.

The first minister also revealed that scientists working with Public Health Scotland were looking at the molecular sequencing of the strains of the virus in Scotland.

"One of the strains they are looking at is the strain associated with this conference," she said.

"I'm advised that when that work is completed it will actually tell us whether these cases, the ones that were known about and reported, contributed to any wider outbreak - or, alternatively, if the public health management prevented onward transmission, as we believe will be the case.

"As that work is completed I'm sure we will be happy to make conclusions of it known to the chamber and indeed to the wider public."

A BBC Scotland Disclosure documentary told last week how 25 cases of coronavirus had been linked to the Nike conference, which took place in Edinburgh on 26 and 27 February.

Those infected included eight Scottish residents.

Mr Carlaw asked Ms Sturgeon if she accepted that keeping the outbreak "secret" had been the wrong course of action.

The first minister accused the Scottish Conservatives' leader of trying to make the handling of the coronavirus crisis "political".

She said the cases from the Nike conference were all reported "in the normal way through our daily figures".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon said 60 people were contact traced in Scotland after the conference

They had not disclosed where these individuals got the virus because it would "almost certainly" have identified them.

Ms Sturgeon said that the incident management team took "all appropriate steps".

"More than 60 contacts were traced in Scotland. I believe more than 50 were traced by Public Health England south of the border and at any time if that incident management team thought anything further was required, including public notification, they had the powers to do that."

Ms Sturgeon added: "Let's talk about these things seriously. Let's look at where there are legitimate issues and questions, but let's not engage in ridiculous language of secrecy or cover-up."

Mr Carlaw described the decision as "a mistake" and said: "Clearly this was the wrong call. The public should have been told.

"And if, as the first minister still seems to be saying, it wasn't a mistake, then why is our health secretary now giving active consideration to making a different call if this kind of thing happens again?

"People need to know what the Scottish government will do should the virus be found in this kind of public location in future.

"So can I ask if and when contact tracers confirm a positive case over the coming weeks and we discover that person has been in a public place, where close contact may have occurred like the Nike conference, will the public be told?"

Ms Sturgeon replied that there had only been 10 people from Scotland at the conference, and there were different considerations when you were further into an epidemic.

"That's why as we go into test, trace, isolate, yes of course we look at the circumstances in which, where there is a cluster of cases, that is made public.

"That is exactly the work that is rightly and properly being considered as part of the development of test, trace, isolate."

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