RECENT statistics for England from the Office of National Statistics indicate the gap in our defences against Covid-19 if we fail adequately to test asymptomatic people.

The ONS concluded that 34% of people who tested positive for Covid-19 from September 28 to October 11 had symptoms at the time of their test (self-assessed as to symptomatic status). In other words, an estimated 66% were asymptomatic when they had their tests, which proved positive for the virus.

In fact, for the majority of the extended period of May 10 to October 11, the majority of those testing positive had not shown signs of Covid at the time of their test; the exception was in August/September when close to or just more than 50% had been symptomatic.

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The Scottish Government is currently working on a programme to increase the amount of testing in coming months. Given the ONS figures, are we sure that this programme will prove sufficient?

Unless testing, tracing and isolation are adequate, the restrictions on behaviour may be in vain and a cycle of close-down/release may result, which is not a great prospect (quite apart from the likely toll on people’s health).

My conclusion is that we should be vastly increasing our test/trace/isolation capacity. The third element, isolation, is vital to its success. Without folk agreeing to isolate, the test/trace exercise is almost pointless. In turn, financial compensation for loss of earnings must be available to enable those traced to make the right decision to comply with isolation.

An adequate programme of test/trace/isolate should be costed for an extended period. Given the restrictions on the Scottish Government’s financial powers, the resulting “bill” should be discussed with Mr Sunak, who alone has the funding powers required.

Roddie Macpherson