Covid will 'not be eradicated' in Scotland, says chief medical officer

Eradicating Covid entirely is not possible, Scotland's chief medical officer has warned – but said elimination should be strived for in a bid to keep the virus at a low level.

Dr Gregor Smith and Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 committee on Wednesday that testing and regular vaccinations were likely to be a feature of life for 'some years' to come.

Dr Smith said: “It’s my view that we won’t eradicate coronavirus. But what we can do particularly on a regional basis, and gradually expand that internationally, is to drive these numbers down to as low a level as possible, so that it has as little impact on communities as possible.

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"If we can do that, we can manage the outbreaks just as we do when we manage measles. That’s where the public health infrastructure, which we’ve now built up very strongly, comes into play.”

A jogger passing coronavirus-related graffiti in Glasgow. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
A jogger passing coronavirus-related graffiti in Glasgow. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Dr Smith said it was “highly likely” and “almost inevitable” that a vaccine update programme and ongoing testing would continue.

The committee was also told that workplace testing could not be rolled out to other frontline services such as Police Scotland due to a limited supply of lateral flow tests.

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said testing could not be a 'magic wand solution'.

She said: “Why can’t we just give these twice weekly to everyone in the population? We don’t have the capacity to do that.

"We’ve got good supplies of lateral flow devices, but they are not unlimited supplies. We have to work out the priority of the perceived and actual risk people are at and priorities in terms of opening things up.

"Healthcare staff, schools and some really high risk working environments have been where we have focused on thus far. But that doesn’t mean this far and no further.

"We want to, as far as the cap we have allows us to do, to extend the use of testing as it is, together with vaccination, as one of the biggest, most effective tools we’ve got in our toolbox, other than just staying at home all of the time, which is not sustainable.”

Dr Smith said people who were regularly tested often do away with other precautions such as hand washing, arguing that it was a difficult balance.

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