The report published by Public Health Scotland for the week ending 4 July revealed that Scotland has fallen short of the World Heath Organisation (WHO) target of contacting 80 per cent of people who test positive for Covid and identifying close contacts within 72 hours. The latest figures show that 26.8 per cent of cases were not contacted in the time frame stipulated by the WHO.
It comes as Scottish NHS boards warned that hospitals are being overwhelmed and pushed “to breaking point” by growing numbers of people who need treatment for the virus.
Opposition politicians have called on the heath secretary to intervene as NHS Lanarkshire held a ‘Gold Command’ meeting in which the scaling back of elective care services was being considered. Meanwhile, NHS Highland placed Raigmore hospital on ‘code black status’ as it reached capacity amid rising Covid-19 cases.
The WHO criteria states that 80 per cent of new cases having close contacts traced and in quarantine within 72 hours of case confirmation. Meanwhile, updated figures for last week – to 27 June – also showed that the target was not hit during that period, with 34.9 per cent of cases not contacted within 72 hours.
Over the past week, contact tracers interviewed just 28 per cent of people within 24 hours of their positive case being logged, while 37 per cent of people waited over 48 hours.
The Test and Protect contact tracing system has been under strain since covid cases rocketed in Scotland over the past month. However, at a briefing on Friday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted that the system was “coping well”.
Last week, parents revealed that they had not been contacted about positive cases in their children’s class after the school term came to a close.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Test and Protect has been engulfed by this latest wave of the virus. It’s not meeting basic international standards.
"People have sacrificed a huge amount to buy the government time. This system should be able to withstand high case rates by now. Instead, some tracing activities have been turned off altogether and people are routinely waiting days for Test and Protect to show up. It's evidence that SNP ministers once again just weren't prepared and have lost control of the virus."
He added: "The absences and self-isolations that caused chaos in some schools towards the end of term are now threatening to overwhelm other essential services from our hospitals to bin collections. We need to see Test and Protect reinforced, the vaccine rollout intensified and an end to the dithering around the current unsustainable self-isolation system which is proving a big challenge for key services and workers."
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Annie Wells MSP, said: “It is clear that Scotland’s Test and Protect system is completely overwhelmed as a result of the recent surge in Covid cases.
“SNP Ministers need to be upfront about their failings and admit they took their eye off the ball. A robust Test and Protect System remains a critical tool in fighting the virus, but the SNP Government have failed to ensure it has all the resources it needs. It is hugely concerning that we are now falling well below WHO standards to close 80 per cent of cases within three days. That flies in the face of Nicola Sturgeon claiming that the system was coping well only a few days ago.”
She added: “That is all too typical of this SNP Government trying to continue to pretend everything is fine, rather than trying to address the serious problems the Test and Protect system is facing."
Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: "It's clear that the SNP has lost control of the pandemic. Test and Protect is in disarray and cases are spiralling. We cannot have the people of Scotland put in danger due to the failure of the SNP.
"The heroic efforts of our NHS and testing staff are being undermined by the incompetence of the SNP. It's time the SNP faced up to the scale of their failure and took action to mitigate the damage they have already caused."
Ms Bailie added: “This is an incredibly worrying situation in Lanarkshire. We can now see the direct impact that the SNP’s failure to control COVID is having on those in need of care and medical attention. If elective treatment is cancelled then waiting lists will grow ever longer.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Test and Protect system has continued to operate well as case numbers have increased in recent weeks. Given rising case numbers, the system has been contacting unprecedented numbers of people.
“As we announced last week, we are using a variety of methods to contact people, including using digital methods like SMS messages for lower risk cases and prioritising calls for higher risk cases. These changes will ensure that people are contact traced, and begin isolation, as quickly as possible.
He added: “We will have to manage living with COVID-19 for some time to come, even when we are able to move beyond Level 0."
The Covid-19 Statistical Report also showed that in the last week from 26 June to 2 July, the seven-day rolling average of COVID-19 related acute hospital admissions increased from 32.71 to 46.86 admissions per day.
A total of five out of every 100,000 vaccinated people were admitted to hospital in the past week and had a positive PCR test 14 days prior, on admission, or during
their stay in hospital, compared to 13 out of every 100,000 unvaccinated individuals.
Meanwhile, in the last four weeks, 55.4 per cent of covid-related acute hospital admissions were in unvaccinated individuals, of which 71.3 per cent were under 40.