Nicola Sturgeon rejects 'cover up' claim over first Scots Covid cases

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected accusations of a "cover up" over the first cases of Coronavirus in Scotland.

The First Minister insisted that patient confidentiality prevented her from going public about the cases at a conference staged by sportswear giant Nike in Edinburgh in February which were revealed in a BBC Disclosure documentary last night. The first Scottish case made public was a week later – a separate case in Tayside.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that the Edinburgh cases themselves were reported by her in the daily numbers published by the Scottish Government after they were confirmed.

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The SNP leader defended her handling of the incident at the daily Coronavirus briefing today.

Nicola Sturgeon rejected claims of a cover up

"I'm satisfied then and I'm satisfied now that all appropriate steps were taken" Ms Sturgeon said today.

She insisted that the Scottish Government was not aware of the outbreak while the Nike conference was taking place at the end of February.

"That is not the case," she insisted.

"The knowledge that there were cases associated with that event transpired when the cases associated with that event began to be confirmed and reported through the Scottish reporting system.

"All of the cases associated with the event and people in Scotland were reported through the normal daily figures that are still being reported now."

An incident management team was established by Health Protection Scotland, Ms Sturgeon added, and contract tracing was undertaken to protect public health.

"At the time I probed whether we should be putting more information into the public domain. The advice, which is advice I accepted, was that it was not appropriate.

"One of the reasons for that was patient confidentiality at a time when the number of cases remained as low as they were, to identify any case who had contracted the virus could have potentially identified the patients concerned."

And she hit back at opposition claims that the Scottish Government had sought to "cover up" the cases.

"That is complete and utter nonsense," she added.

"Why would have been trying to cover anything up? We were reporting figures on this. I stood up here every single day to be as open and transparent with you the public as possible.

"There is no interest in covering these things up, so that is nonsense."

Scots had previously been told that the first cases to emerge in the country were in Tayside from someone travelling back from Italy.

But an outbreak had happened in Edinburgh on 26 and 27 of February at a conference for the sportswear giant Nike. More than 70 employees from all over the world attended the conference at the Hilton Carlton Hotel.

But Labour MP for Edinburgh South, Ian Murray, said the cases raises "major questions" for the Scottish Government.

He stated: “Why was there a cover-up following the February outbreak, despite a clear risk to public health in Edinburgh?

“Why wasn’t lockdown introduced earlier, as was happening elsewhere, when the virus was spreading in our city?

“Why does testing for COVID-19 remain so pitifully low in Scotland, leaving us lagging well behind the rest of the UK?

“The findings of this explosive documentary deserve an immediate response from the First Minister. The buck stops with her.

“The bungling of this crisis by Boris Johnson and his team should not be a cover for the First Minister to absolve herself of proper scrutiny of her own government’s response to this crisis.

“We owe it to the families affected and the people of Edinburgh to get answers and to prevent further unnecessary loss of life.”

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