Long-awaited report into Nike Conference Covid-19 outbreak set for publication

A key ‘lessons-learned’ report into the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak at the Nike Conference in Edinburgh last year is set to be finally published in October.

It will come more than a year after the-then health secretary Jeane Freeman told Holyrood the report would be published within six months of a “debrief”.

Following a Freedom of Information request by a member of the public, Public Health Scotland have now committed to publishing the report in early October.

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The Covid-19 outbreak at the conference at the Hilton Carlton Hotel was initially kept secret, with the First Minister stating patient confidentiality tied the government’s hands on informing the wider public.

The report into the handling of the Covid-19 cases at the Nike Conference in Edinburgh is set to be published in October
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A BBC Scotland documentary later revealed the details of the outbreak.

Around 25 cases were later traced to the conference, with eight of those infected resident in Scotland.

Scotland’s first ‘official’ Covid-19 case was not until March 1, five days after the conference.

Ian Murray, Scottish Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, said the public deserved answers to questions posed by the outbreak.

He said: “The SNP’s handling of this whole debacle has been secrecy and cover-up.

"Promises were made by Nicola Sturgeon and her previous health secretary, and the people of Edinburgh have a right to know the truth without any further delays.

"The SNP's culture of secrecy has cost lives throughout the pandemic, but it also erodes public trust.”

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Incident Management Team (IMT) reports are intended to help public health officials learn lessons about how outbreaks were handled and provide recommendations to key public bodies such as health boards, government, and international partners on how to act in future.

These teams also lead the public health response to disease outbreaks.

Despite the notoriety of the incident, the report has yet to be published despite guidance stating a so-called “hot debrief” – in which officials do a brief lessons-learned exercise – “should be completed by IMT’s chair as soon as possible following the end of an incident”.

Responding to a written question on June 17, 2020, Ms Freeman said the IMT report would be published “within three to six months of the debrief”.

She said: “It is part of the IMT’s remit to consider what actions are required following any incident. Each incident is judged individually. On the Nike Conference incident, as all contacts had been identified and contacted, the risk to the public was deemed by the IMT to be low.”

The Scottish Government refused to state when the debrief had been undertaken.

NHS Lothian, the health board in which the outbreak took place, said in an FOI disclosure that two IMTs on the outbreak were led by the chair of Public Health Scotland, a national and international team.

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Neither group has published a report.

Responding, a PHS spokesman said: "We are in the process of drafting the IMT report, which involves working with NHS boards in Scotland, as well as national and international public health agencies.

"This is a complex, multi-national investigation resulting in a longer timeframe than would normally be the case.

"The report is due to publish in October."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As Public Health Scotland have made clear, the process of drafting the IMT report has been complex and lengthy as it has involved many international public health agencies. The report is due in October."

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