THE First Minister is to consider allowing loved ones of terminally ill patients to be tested for the coronavirus so people do not have to die alone.

The move emerged after Scotland experienced its deadliest day of the Covid-19 outbreak so far, with 81 people dying from the disease in the past 24 hours and hundreds more patients in intensive care.

Exactly 100 days since the Chinese authorities first informed the WHO of the existence of the coronavirus, the total death toll in Scotland of people who had tested positive for the virus now stands at 447, with 1781 people in hospital with the disease.

However the actual figures of lives claimed by the virus will be higher as the information released by the Government does not include suspected deaths.

Every Wednesday the National Records of Scotland will publish all cases where Covid-19 is mentioned on a death certificate, including as a “suspected” or “probable” cause.

The First Minister signalled she would consider testing relatives of people who were dying following a request from Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

Speaking at a special online session of First Minister’s Questions yesterday, Leonard said “compassionate testing” could also help patients receiving end-of-life care to enjoy the time they have left.

The First Minister said she would look at the issue “very carefully”, adding: “We continue to use the test where we think that it is most appropriate to do so and where it will help us with the wider efforts against the virus. However, of course, I will always look at suggestions that are made and I am happy to come back to that issue once there is an opportunity to do so.”

Speaking afterwards, Leonard said: “I welcome the First Minister’s commitment to examine the case for testing relatives of those receiving end-of-life care.

“It is absolutely right that hospitals and hospices are taking all precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

“But we must also remember that, as far as we humanly can, we should avoid people dying alone, and avoid putting families in distress because they fear they will be unable to see their loved ones before they die.

“That is why compassionate testing should be urgently explored.”

The First Minister announced the latest Covid-19 statistics as she urged people to keep observing the lockdown over the Easter weekend, by staying in and helping to reduce the pressure on the NHS.

Speaking ahead of the virtual question-and-answer session with party leaders held on Thursday in lieu of face-to-face FMQs, Sturgeon said 4957 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up by 392 from 4565 the day before.

There are 212 people in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, an increase of two on Wednesday. Sturgeon added that 1781 people are in hospital with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

She added: “I know how hard it is for people to do that, it will seem even harder over this Easter holiday weekend, especially for families with children and indeed for the children themselves and for older people who would normally be spending time with their grandchildren.

“Please stay in touch with family, friends and loved ones in whatever alternative way best works for you.

“Reach out to and look out for people even as you stay physically apart from them, but please do follow the rules and stay at home over Easter.”

She added that the virtual session of FMQs might “in the scheme of things, seem like a relatively minor example” of how the coronavirus has changed life in Scotland, but that it was also “a striking example of that”.

The First Minister also said patients who feel they have been pressured into signing do not resuscitate (DNR) orders should contact their health board directly.

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie had asked for clarity on the use of the orders, which are agreed confidentially between doctor and patient.

Once signed, the orders mean that attempts will not be made by hospital staff to revive the patient when they stop breathing or their heart stops beating.

National clinical director Professor Jason Leitch yesterday rejected claims people are being pressured into signing the orders. Leitch said: “There is nobody being forced to sign do not resuscitate orders. There is nobody being forced to sign, what we would call, anticipatory care plans.”

Scotland in lockdown. Shops are closing and newspaper sales are falling fast. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of The National is at stake. Please consider supporting us through this with a digital subscription from just £2 for 2 months by following this link: Thanks – and stay safe.