Nicola Sturgeon still agonises over care home testing decision

The First Minister said that at the start of the crisis, the Government wanted to cut the number of delayed discharges from hospitals before they “filled up with coronavirus cases”, and did not believe testing people without symptoms was an “effective” precaution.

While acknowledging the “legitimate issues” about testing and care homes, Ms Sturgeon said: “To have kept older people, with no medical need to be in hospital, where they were would have been putting them at enormous risk as well.

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“You can apply hindsight, but we were trying to do the best things at the time.

“Back then we didn’t think that testing people without symptoms was something that was scientifically and clinically an effective thing to do.”

Asked on ITV’s Good Morning Britain yesterday whether she thought the elderly could have been better protected from the virus, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think any politician – and frankly any human being – should look at the situation now and not agonise over could we have done things differently, could we have done things better?

“So every day right now we’re trying to do everything we can and adapt our responses as we learn more about this virus.

“One of the easiest things in the world right now is for people to apply hindsight that we didn’t have at the time and say ‘you should have done everything differently’.”

Her comments came after former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson criticised the decision to “put people that may or may not be infected into an enclosed environment of incredibly vulnerable people”. Ms Davidson has called for an inquiry into the care home crisis in Scotland caused by Covid-19.

She also called for a UK-wide inquiry into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and said there would be “so many lessons that we have to learn”.

The Edinburgh Central MSP said the Scottish Government had made the decision to put patients in care homes without testing. “I think that whatever inquiries we have out of the back of this, there’s going to be so many lessons that we have to learn,” she said.

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“For example you’re talking about the situation in England where some people were put into care homes without having tested negative first before they were discharged from hospital, we’ve had the same thing in Scotland, but we’ve had it to a greater degree.

“We had the Scottish Government actively buying beds in advance in care homes, spending money, telling care for operators ‘we want to empty our hospitals and we’re going to do it without testing or having a negative test back of the people that we are putting in there’.”

Figures released by the National Records of Scotland on Wednesday showed 46 per cent of all deaths linked to coronavirus in Scotland have occurred in care homes.

Care homes that can no longer admit residents because of coronavirus could meanwhile receive a financial lifeline under a new deal drawn up by councils and the Scottish Government.