More contact tracers to be hired after 'woeful' progress from Scottish Government

The decision followed criticism of the recruitment efforts by Scottish Labour

More contact tracers are to be hired by the Scottish Government
More contact tracers are to be hired by the Scottish Government

An extra 25 contact tracers will be hired by the Scottish Government as part of an additional £1 million funding to train and recruit people to support quarantine measures put in place by the government.

The announcement comes a day after the Scottish Government were criticised by Labour MSP Monica Lennon who told the Daily Record the progress in hiring people for the National Contact Tracing Centre was “woeful”.

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In total, 63 people have been recruited to the NCTC, but the Scottish Government insist it has a pool of around 2,000 contact tracers to call on if required.

The Scottish Government have come under fire for a lack of enforcement of quarantine restrictions, with the chief constable Iain Livingstone saying just 200 people had been referred to police for breaching restrictions, and only 50 visited physically by officers.

Ms Lennon said: “63 new recruits is only three per cent of the original target. The NHS has a huge backlog and all existing staff should be free to get on with their jobs. Doubling up as contact tracers could put further pressure on our over-stretched health service. This is a failure of recruitment.

“As NHS boards across the country sound the alarm over winter preparedness, the Scottish Government needs to be making contingency plans for how it is going to properly resource contact tracing as we move into the autumn.”

As part of its work, the NCTC contacts all passengers arriving from a country affected by quarantine restrictions via email and then follows up a random sample of around 600 passengers each week, according to the Scottish Government.

The new £1 million will recruit and train up a further 25 contact tracers specifically aimed at supporting quarantine efforts.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: “As levels of COVID-19 remains low in Scotland, we need to manage the risk of cases coming into the country, particularly from countries where infections are more prevalent than here. Contacting people is vital to ensure those who are required to quarantine for 14 days are doing so.

“We originally committed to Public Health Scotland making contact with around 20% of travellers, up to a maximum of 450 per week. At the time this was considered to be a robust sample size given the number of flights and passengers affected.

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"As the number of flights into Scotland has increased, the National Contact Tracing Centre has been exceeding our target and contacting around 600 returning passengers per week.”

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf added that travellers should think “carefully" about making non-essential trips abroad.

He said: “People should be aware that there is a risk when they travel overseas right now and that they should think carefully about making non-essential trips abroad. Travellers arriving from a non-exempt country will be expected to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Scotland unless they come under one of the limited number of exempted categories.

“This additional funding will help the National Contact Tracing Centre reach more passengers who arrive in Scotland and who are required to quarantine.

“The Scottish Government will continue to work closely with Public Health Scotland and the National Contact Tracing Centre to increase resources and ensure performance can be maintained as demands increase in line with the lifting of lockdown.”

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