Patients leaving hospitals and prisoners awaiting release will not be tested for coronavirus as standard, the Scottish Government has reaffirmed.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon briefed the nation on Friday afternoon, hours after the first phase of lockdown restriction easing came into effect.
A cautious Ms Sturgeon pleaded for people to think of each other in “solidarity” ahead of the first weekend of relaxed social distancing guidelines, which will allow tens of thousands of families across the country the opportunity to meet one another from a distance.
We want people to enjoy our outdoor spaces safely and our officers will be robustly tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in our communities.”
Chief Constable Iain Livingstone
Although the figures show a downward trend in the number of cases being recorded overall, Friday’s statistics showed a small increase in those who have died from the virus from the day before.
Ms Sturgeon noted 15,327 people have tested positive for the virus across Scotland, a rise of 39 from 15,288 on Thursday.
A total of 2,331 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for the virus, an increase of 15 from the day previous.
There are 1,216 patients in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, a fall of 22 in 24 hours from 1,238 – 40 of those in intensive care, an increase of three.
Calls for prisoners to be tested
Opposition parties have called on the Scottish Government to implement routine testing in institutions like prisons and hospitals, due to the nature of the virus.
In places where people are within close proximity of one another, Covid-19 is more likely to spread.
Since the outbreak reached Scotland in March at least six prisoners have died of the disease.
Patients leaving hospital who have not been treated in a designated coronavirus ward are not routinely tested for the virus, either.
Ms Sturgeon said: “In terms of any routine testing we do, we will be guided by clinical advice.
“We will keep these things under review and we may change position, which we will announce when we come to those decisions.
“Test and Protect is for symptomatic (cases) but, of course, we will also continue to do routine testing for some groups.
“The principal focus of that in recent times has been on care homes but surveillance testing as well will be going over and above that.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary, noted there were “10,000 tests” in Scotland going unused “every day”.
He said: “Prisons have had outbreaks of Covid and prisoners have died from this virus.
“Despite this, the Scottish Government is just sitting on its hands watching hundreds of prisoners go back into society without making sure they are virus-free.
“There is no lack of testing availability – quite the opposite – there are over 10,000 unused tests each day.
“Each prisoner must be tested for Covid-19 prior to liberation, to make sure they don’t pose a threat to public health.
“Given everything we now know, surely the least the Scottish Government could do is test these criminals to make sure the public is safe.”
First Minister “still nervous”
Police will “use their own discretion” should parks, beaches and other popular “hotspots” become overcrowded this weekend, as people get ready to make the most of the warm weather and lockdown easing.
Ahead of Saturday, Police Scotland chief constable Iain Livingstone said: “We recognise that people have made significant sacrifices until now and while the temptation may be to head straight for one of our beauty spots, we would ask people to use their judgement and avoid going to places which are normally busy during the good weather.
“Complying with the legislation about meeting only one other household outdoors at any one time and following the Scottish Government’s guidance about avoiding travelling long distances will stop our parks, beaches, lochs and hills from becoming overcrowded and help ensure appropriate physical distancing is maintained, reducing the spread of coronavirus.
“We want people to enjoy our outdoor spaces safely and our officers will be robustly tackling crime and anti-social behaviour in our communities.”
Ms Sturgeon added: “I’m not trying, at all, to cramp anyone’s fun this weekend, I really do want everyone to enjoy these changes because all of you have more than earned it but I am asking you to please do so responsibly.
“If you are in doubt about whether your plans are within the rules or not, err on the side of caution.
“However harsh these rules might feel right now, and I know that they do, abiding by them will never, ever be as harsh as grieving the loss of a loved one.”