Figures released by the Scottish Governmant on Wednesday (22nd April) showed Dundee had the highest rate of confirmed Covid-19 cases per head of population in Scotland after recording 601 positive tests among its 148,750 residents, a rate of 404 per 100,000 residents.
At her daily briefing in Edinburgh on Thursday (23rd April), Nicola Sturgeon referred to NHS Tayside as an “exemplar” of coronavirus testing, as she revealed other health boards have been following its lead to increase the number of key staff able to return to work.
Dr Daniel Chandler, consultant in public health medicine, said the high number of individuals confirmed with the virus was “very easily explained” by NHS Tayside testing “many, many more” employees and key workers than other health boards. This was a result of the health board’s decision to begin proactively testing its own staff on March 17. Dr Chandler said those who had tested negative for the disease had been cleared to return to work, many of them in frontline health services.
Asked why it has taken so long for other health boards and the Scottish Government to catch up, and whether she would now commit to publishing accurate test numbers by region, the First Minister said: “We’re publishing more and more information. We publish the number of tests we do and I’ve been able to give figures of key workers tested. So, as we can, we will publish more detailed breakdowns of all that information.”
“All health boards are working to – and are – increasing testing of key workers but I would absolutely say NHS Tayside has been an exemplar in this and other health boards have been able to learn from the methods that they have been using. So I would absolutely give them the credit that they deserve.”
Health secretary Jeane Freeman added that testing capacity should be available in every health board across Scotland by the end of the week. The individuals, through our national labs programme, are in constant contact with each other and are indeed learning the lessons that NHS tayside are able to point to about the methodology they’ve used in order to produce those good results,” she said.
“Other health boards are now beginning to apply those, so we can see an increase in the use of the (testing) capacity we currently have, bearing in mind that we are increasing that capacity.”
NHS Fife’s rate of confirmed cases is less than 180 per 100,000 residents, which may be explained by a lower rate of testing.