Leader comment: Mounting questions over Scottish care homes

There are clearly mounting questions facing the Scottish Government today over the number of deaths in Scottish care homes from the coronavirus.

The First Minister was challenged in parliament yesterday over the lack of testing after revelations from staff at the Highgate care home in Uddingston where tragically 22 residents died.

Staff said there had been a death every day at the height of the outbreak but, despite residents being tested, staff had not been screened.

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That came after reports suggested the death toll in Scottish care homes may be double that in England.

There may be various reasons for that, the population demographic possibly being one or as Nicola Sturgeon suggested yesterday, different recording methods north and south of the Border.

To a large extent it does not really matter.

Those are questions for another day, and decisions and processes will, we are sure, be scrutinised at multiple inquiries once this crisis in over. Who did what when and why can be pored over later.

What we do know for sure is that there are a huge number of deaths from this virus happening now in care homes (57 per cent of all Scottish Covid-19 fatalities last week) and we must focus all efforts into understanding this and preventing as many future tragedies as possible.

While there may or may not be a disparity in the rate of deaths, we know Scotland is not alone in this, and that this is a virus which disproportionately targets the elderly and the vulnerable.

It would be entirely unrealistic to expect the government response, north or south of the Border, to this unprecedented situation to have happened without mistakes being made somewhere along the line. We are dealing with unknowns and an invisible killer.

It is also easy to look back and criticise decisions with the benefit of hindsight and knowledge of the eventual outcome.

But if there are still problems with testing or the lack of PPE in care homes then this must be the addressed as a priority, and the mounting questions require answers.

Mistakes can be forgiven in fast moving situations such as these.

Failing to learn from them, however, and not acting as swiftly as possible to tackle the situation, would be unforgiveable.

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