New science body to advise government on coronavirus

A Scottish scientific advisory group is to be established to give the government additional expert advice after the number of people in intensive care in Scotland more than doubled in 48 hours and a further six people died.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a new scientific advice body for Scotland.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced that to supplement the advice being given by the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) a new Covid-19 advisory group will be launched in Scotland.

The First Minister said the move was necessary to understand the spread of the coronavirus across the country, and the new body would be headed by Andrew Morris, Professor of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Health Data Research UK.

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It comes as the latest figures show 51 people are now in intensive care – up from 23 on Monday. A further six people have died, bringing the total deaths from coronavirus in Scotland to 22.

She said: “At all times the Scottish Government’s actions have been guided by the best and most up to date expert scientific advice working closely with governments across the UK. But as the number of cases increase it is ever more important that we have the fullest possible understanding of exactly how the virus is spreading in Scotland and we need to be certain the decisions we’re taking are the most effective ones possible, and we need to know if there are more steps that are required to be taken.

“We are seeking to supplement the advice from the UK Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and establishing a new Scottish Government Covid-19 advisory group, chaired by Professor Andew Morris of Edinburgh University, supported by Professor David Crossman Dean of Medicine at St Andrew’s University and Chief Scientific Advisor for health at the Scottish Government.”

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, said there could come a time when not all suppression measures would be required across the country, so bespoke Scottish advice was needed.

She said: “The advice about suppressive measures has been all over the UK as that’s what was needed to stop transmision of the virus, but in time we will want to apply our own Scottish data to these advisory measures. Perhaps it will not be appropriate to have all of the suppression measures in all of the country as we progress through the transmission of this disease and as we see how the capacity of the NHS is holding up.”

She stressed that the group will supplement the advice coming to all four nations from SAGE. She added: “We are facing an unprecedented situation and it’s crucial we not only follow the latest scientific advice coming from SAGE, but establish what that means here in Scotland on a local level.

“It’s vital that we are well equipped to deal with all possibilities as this outbreak grows globally and this advisory group will play a key role in developing our understanding of the virus and its impact on Scotland.

“We will continue to work closely with the UK Government, Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive as part of a coordinated response to this virus.”