Only one pub in Aberdeen has been asked to provide its list of customers to the NHS contact tracers who are investigating the city’s coronavirus outbreak.
NHS Grampian confirmed its team has only requested the contact details from The Hawthorn Bar, despite many other premises having been publicly linked to the cluster.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the revelation was “incredibly concerning”, and that there was “no point in a contact tracing system that barely bothers to contact trace anyone”.
He said it made a “mockery” of the stricter guidelines brought in for city hospitality businesses in the wake of the outbreak.
However, the health board defended its tracing work as “extremely thorough”, highlighting that more than 1,000 close contacts had now been reached.
The Scottish Government said it backed NHS Grampian’s approach.
A total of 198 recent coronavirus cases have now been linked to Aberdeen pubs.
The cluster, first associated with The Hawthorn Bar, led to the city being put into a fresh lockdown last week, with pubs and restaurants being closed and restrictions put on travel and gatherings.
More than 20 other north-east premises were initially named by NHS Grampian as having been attended by people who had tested positive, and experts went further this week and said that almost all pubs in the city could have been affected.
However, it has now emerged that The Hawthorn Bar remains the only premises to have been asked to provide a list of its customers to the team of contact tracers in the area.
Mr Ross described the admission as “incredibly concerning news”.
He said: “Aberdeen businesses and workers are losing money every day of lockdown and people are being held back from getting on with their lives.
“They will be devastated to hear that only one pub has been contacted by NHS Grampian for its list of customers who could have been infected by Covid.
“There is no point in a contact tracing system that barely bothers to contact trace anyone.
“If NHS Grampian and the Scottish Government do not hold up their end of the bargain, and they clearly haven’t, it makes a mockery of the stricter guidelines being brought in for the hospitality trade.”
The Moray MP, who succeeded Jackson Carlaw as party leader earlier this month, added: “The Scottish Conservatives fully support a robust public health approach focussed on saving lives and stopping the spread of the virus but everything needs to be working flat out to achieve this.
“Managing the second lockdown of Aberdeen is the biggest test for the SNP Government yet. I urge the first minister to personally get involved to fix this today. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon defended the Test and Protect tracing system on Wednesday as she confirmed the Aberdeen local lockdown would remain in place for at least another week.
She said: “Test and Protect has worked very effectively in Aberdeen.
“Without Test and Protect, we would not be dealing with – albeit a large and complex outbreak – but one that I hope is on its way to being contained. We would already be dealing with widespread community transmission.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “Our investigation into the Aberdeen Covid-19 cluster has been extremely thorough and we have, to date, identified 1,032 close contacts.
“This is done by our health protection and Test and Protect teams interviewing all detected cases, getting them to confirm where they went and with whom.”
She said that a “close contact” is a person who lives in the same house as the individual, or someone who had stayed overnight in the same house without physical distancing, or who has had face to face contact with them, any contact within 1m for any length of time, or any contact within 2m for more than 15 minutes.
The spokeswoman added: “Our teams have worked incredibly hard to communicate with all close contacts rapidly and we are incredibly grateful to them for their ongoing efforts ”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Requiring hospitality businesses to keep lists of customers is important in situations where people who are confirmed as positive for Covid-19 and their close contacts cannot readily be identified.
“In the case of the Grampian outbreak the local Test and Protect team has worked incredibly hard and have so far identified 1,032 close contacts.
“The vast majority of those have been contacted with tracing procedures in place for the others.
“This shows how hard and well our Test and Protect teams are working even in relation to a large and complex cluster.
“The decision to follow up with customers of any individual pub, restaurant or other business is for the local Incident Management Team, on the basis of their professional risk assessment.”
He added: “The health secretary has confidence in the approach being taken by NHS Grampian’s in-house Test and Protect team – and the measures that we put in place in Aberdeen last week and have now continued for a further seven days are part of the critical work to slow and then stop transmission before it becomes widespread within the community.”