Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon urged to ‘shift away from blanket restrictions’

SNP ministers have been told to publish an interim report on the handing of the pandemic “as soon as possible” and usher in a “shift away from blanket restrictions” under plans drawn up by the Conservatives.

The Scottish Tories have published a roadmap to set out Scotland’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic – which includes scrapping the Test and Protect contact tracing system, continuing to reduce the self-isolation period and setting up a network of long Covid clinics to treat those with chronic conditions.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has labelled plans to scrap Test and Protect as “reckless”. 

He added: “It is a vital tool in helping us control transmission with testing vital for our future management of the virus.  

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon urged to axe ‘increasingly redundant’ Test and Protect system

“We would oppose any immediate withdrawal of universal testing offer.” 

The Tories have also called on the SNP Government to remove “blanket restrictions” and instead focus on “protecting vulnerable groups and personal responsibility”.

That strategy would mean a “two-tiered approach to public health advice” with a difference between “measures for vulnerable groups and the population as a whole”.

The Conservatives also want ministers to “progressively remove the remaining legal restrictions” and “replace them with advisory public health guidance” – starting with “an immediate end to mandatory facemasks in classrooms, the Covid passport scheme and enforced home working”.

The Scottish Government has committed to beginning a public inquiry into the pandemic this year. But the Conservatives are calling on SNP ministers to “publish an interim report of the Scottish Covid public inquiry as soon as possible to inform our recovery”.

The party said the move would help the understanding of “what went wrong during the pandemic and if these problems have been resolved if we are to properly prepare our public services for a future wave or another pandemic”.

Other measures set out in the blueprint includes “ending the staffing crisis in our NHS so that it is better prepared for future healthcare emergencies” and “investing in a national tutoring programme and school catch-up premium, to help children impacted by disrupted schooling”.

The ‘back to normality’ blueprint also formally calls on the Scottish Government to scrap its Covid Reform Bill which would make some emergency government powers permanent – including the power to close schools and businesses, enforce lockdowns and release prisoners early.

READ MORE: Scots health board forced to apologise after dozens receive out-of-date Covid jabs

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane, said: “As we begin to navigate our way out of the pandemic, we need to put personal responsibility at the heart of the Government’s approach to dealing with the virus.

“This policy paper sets out a roadmap for our return to normality and makes several key recommendations for our longer-term recovery.

“With the virus retreating, blanket emergency measures risk doing more harm than good to our health and wellbeing. We are calling on the Government to adopt a new, more targeted approach to Covid which protects the most vulnerable, while rebuilding our public services.”

He added: “We are urging the Scottish Government to start tackling issues that have been put on pause, such as fixing our NHS staffing crisis so that burnt-out frontline health workers can cope and giving extra support to children whose education has suffered during the pandemic.

“It is time to move Scotland as close to normality as possible for as many people as possible. That is the only way that we can recover fully from this pandemic.”

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