Scotland “far better” than Westminster on COVID-19 public health campaign

The Scottish Government has been "far better" and more transparent than Westminster in its public health messaging to battle Coronavirus, a leading public health expert has said.

Prof Linda Bauld says contact tracing capacity must be increased

But more urgency is now needed in developing the "test, trace and isolate" approach which will be the cornerstone of the strategy to suppress the virus as the UK emerges from lockdown, according to Linda Bauld, Professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh.

The UK Government's flagship public health slogan - "Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives" was misunderstood by many, Prof Bauld said today, and resulted in people who were unwell avoiding hospitals.

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"Those of us who have been watching the UK briefings have seen those three phrases - stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives - right up front of the podium," she said.

"In the early days that was misinterpreted to mean `stay at home, protect the NHS ie,don't bother the NHS - even if you have chest pains or unusual symptoms. It was misinterpreted.

She added: "In terms of communication going forward, I must say I think the Scottish Government has been far better and more transparent than some other parts of the world, including Westminster, from my personal view."

As the UK emerges from lockdown, the "test, trace and isolate" approach to new any cases which continue to emerge will be pivotal to keeping numbers down, but Prof Bauld raised fears over the lack of resources so far being devoted to this strategy.

"We have been slow," she said.

"Questions are being asked about why we didn't build up our capacity over the last six weeks intensively, for example, so that we would be in a place now when Government - the Scottish Government and UK Government - start to announce gradual easing of lockdown to ramp up contact tracing.

" I was doing a troll yesterday just to see what was happening and you could see adverts in England for contact tracing staff. That's clinical staff that will supervise them and non-clinical staff who can be trained very easily to follow up people by phone.

"I've not see those ads in Scotland, but I am aware that it is a national and local response. So it will be Public Health Scotland and the health protection directorate leading at the national level and then the health boards having local responsibility.

"But we need to increase numbers quickly so we're ready to go."

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