GORDON Brown’s think tank has been accused of “baselessly undermining confidence” in Scotland’s Covid testing programme, after they claimed the detection rate was the worst in the UK. 

According to Our Scottish Future's analysis, only around 32% of cases are being picked up by tests.

The group compared daily rates for positive coronavirus tests to the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) estimates of the total number of people who had the virus.

Over a six-week period ending January 2, the ONS estimated a daily average of around 43,379 people in Scotland had Covid-19, including asymptomatic cases, based on statistical modelling of population samples.

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Over the same time period, Scotland's testing programmes picked up a rolling average of 13,650 cases.

Our Scottish Future says this means 32% of the total cases are being picked up - with the equivalent figure for England being 41% while Wales was at 70% and Northern Ireland at 81%.

Even though Scotland's contact-tracing system is generating more contacts than those in the rest of the UK, the think tank says the low detection rate and slow turnaround time for lab tests means the whole system is having almost no effect on slowing down the virus.

Each interview in Scotland yielded an average of 4.1 contacts - compared to England's figure of 2.4 - but Our Scottish Future said the low detection rate meant the impact of Test and Protect on the R number is less than 5%.

The National:

The paper says only a third of Scotland’s testing capacity is being used at the moment, partly because of “the fragmented and hard-to-access delivery system which sees responsibility and capacity divided between different local health boards, the Scottish Government, and the UK Government.”

The paper concludes: “Scotland’s Test & Protect operation is having no impact on the fight against Covid. Its low detection rate puts a ‘cap’ on the effectiveness of the rest of the Test & Protect operation. So long as detection rate is 30-40%, Scotland will be unable to meaningfully inhibit the spread of the virus through track & trace.”

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Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: "It's no wonder the virus is winning because, as this report shows, we are not seeking it out, and we are not finding it as often as we should do."

He added: "Unless you go out to find the cases in the community, then we are working with both hands tied behind our back.

"We need proper investigation of outbreaks and I despair that this is not being done at all well.

"Until we get testing and tracing right, then the virus will continue to spread."

A Scottish Government spokesman rejected the report’s finding. He said: "These comparisons are entirely inaccurate, and baselessly undermine confidence in our testing programme.

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"We find - and therefore isolate - more contacts per case than the rest of the UK which means we isolate more potential cases without the need for testing."

A UK Government spokesman said: "The UK Government is providing Covid testing and test processing in support of NHS Scotland.

"That includes more than 30 test sites in local communities and around 20 mobile units. The UK Government's test centres and our Glasgow Lighthouse Lab are operating efficiently.

"In addition, the UK Government has provided a million lateral flow devices to the Scottish Government."