Independent inquiry into Nike conference virus outbreak not ruled out

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will not rule out an independent inquiry into the handling of the Nike conference coronavirus controversy, but denied it was a ‘mistake’ not to make the outbreak public knowledge.

Nicola Sturgeon has not ruled out an independent inquiry into the handling of the Nike coronavirus outbreak.
Nicola Sturgeon has not ruled out an independent inquiry into the handling of the Nike coronavirus outbreak.

At the daily briefing the First Minister also said the public should still have confidence in the public health system, despite revelations that no contact-tracing was carried out on others who were at the same venue or of Edinburgh tour guides who took delegates on walks of the Old Town and rejected claims that there was a political “cover-up” of the event.

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She said that the “incident management team” had the responsibility to do “everything necessary to protect public health” as it was also revealed six of the eight confirmed Scots Covid-19 cases connected to the Nike conference were attendees, while the other two were secondary contacts.

Overall there were 25 confirmed cases globally after 70 delegates gathered in Edinburgh in February.

Ms Sturgeon said: “If the experts think more people should have been contacted, or different people should have been contacted, there was nothing stopping them doing that because they judge what is required, as far as possible, to reduce the risk of onward transmission.

“It’s a very well established system in Scotland. The public should have confidence in it. As we go into Test, Trace and Isolate there will be different considerations about how we balance patient confidentiality and public interest because there will be different considerations at that stage than there were at the start when numbers were so low.”

Asked if there would be an internal, or an independent external inquiry, into the actions of the incident team, she added: “I’m not ruling anything out, I recognise the need for public assurance.

“However because information wasn’t put into the public domain didn’t mean there wasn’t a rigorous public health management of it but I will of course continue to consider if further steps need to be taken.”

Ms Sturgeon also denied that it was a “mistake” not to make the outbreak public, but said she accepted that different people would come to different judgements.

“I’m trying to be open and accepting of that,” she said. “There are very few aspects of dealing with this that are absolutely black and white and clear cut, and a lot of it is judgement. I accepted that at the outset and I accept now that sometimes we will get judgements wrong, and I’m not saying that I think that was the case in this case, but even in situations where I think the judgement is right, people will take a different view.

“We can have these debates and accept people will come to different judgements, but what I do take exception to, and I say this very bluntly, is the politicised accusation that comes from some quarters, not all, that this was some kind of cover-up, and I pose the questions ‘what for? why? what possible motivation?’

“Dealing with this has made me look at certain things differently and we will all get the chance to reflect on that. But you can come to a different judgement about an issue without always having to believe the worst about your opponents’ motivations. I’ve been guilty of that in the past, maybe it’s something I’ll try to get a bit different in the future. Yes people are entitled to think we should have made a different judgement, but accept that we’re trying to make these judgements in good faith.”

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