A PUBLIC health professor has warned that the Scottish Government’s strategy to escape the lockdown will encounter “a big problem” unless test results can be provided quicker. 

Professor Linda Bauld, chair of public health in the Usher Institute at the University of Edinburgh, issued the warning while giving evidence to MSPs at Holyrood’s dedicated Covid-19 committee. 

She said that on average, it is taking around 30 hours from tests taking place to results being issued to patients. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns Boris Johnson over 'potentially catastrophic' message change

She added: “Other countries are doing it in four hours. 

“If we want to start tracing and isolate, we are going to be too late with the tracing component.” 

The Scottish Government website says that when home test kits are used, “a Royal Mail courier will arrive the day after to collect it and take it to the lab” 

It adds: “The aim is that results will then be received via text within 48 hours.” 

The Scottish Government’s test, trace, isolate strategy document stresses that work will continue to “ensure that results can be provided as rapidly as possible”. 

It adds that “we need to ensure that people living in remote areas, and those who are not able to travel to drive-through facilities are able to access testing”. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Hugh Pennington: Mistakes made over testing, PPE and care homes

Currently, only those who have a car available in their household can undergo testing outside of home kits being sent out if they are in stock. 

The warning came as Sir Harry Burns, who was chief medical officer when Nicola Sturgeon was health secretary during the H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009, raised fears too much attention has being put on the number of tests being completed – with not enough thought about the quality of them. 

He said: “The quality control around this kind of thing, I'm not sure that it's there. 

"We need to be sure that the testing that's done is accurate and that it's giving you the appropriate information and then there is the appropriate follow up." 

He also stressed that there is “significant” evidence that those who unwittingly have Covid-19 can stop the spread by wearing face masks and warned that children should not “fester” inside, but should be able to get back to normal as we emerge from the lockdown. 

Nicola Sturgeon said she will “always listen to” Sir Harry, but disagreed with his judgement on the quality of tests. 

She added: “We are working on a testing strategy just now that has been developing as our testing capacity increases.  

READ MORE: Coronavirus: People could face 'repeated isolation' in test, trace, isolate scheme

“We are using a quality- assured test and we are doing that in ways that is driven by the clinical evidence.” 

Professor Bauld also warned that the potential health consequences of the lockdown could accelerate alongside the pandemic itself - with cancer screenings and other medical procedures being paused. 

She said: “We normally screen around 23,000 people a week - 100,000 people a month are no longer being screened in Scotland for bowel, breast and cervical cancer. 

 “Around 140 of those would probably get a positive result each month via screening programmes so if we imagine that is paused for two months that is 280 potentially late cancer diagnoses. 

 “Early diagnosis is basically what determines survival and treatment outcomes. Some of those patients will have poor outcomes and that is a direct consequence of the lockdown. 

 “To put into perspective, for the rates of deaths at the moment ,you are still seeing one cancer death for every two covid-19 deaths in Scotland. Cancer is still there, it is not going away and it needs to be addressed.” 

The professor also suggested that pupils, particularly those in transition years or those taking key exams, should be allowed to return to schools in the last couple weeks of term as a “natural experiment”, while outdoor rules should be relaxed. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Warning over deaths rise in coming years with cancer screenings halted

She added: “I think it would be plausible to consider whether some pupils could go back, even for a very short time before the end of term – so that the education is not totally disrupted.  

“I don’t think there are strong scientific reasons why we couldn’t do that for a very short period. In a way, it’s a natural experiment. 

“If we allow some groups to return in a safe way, we will then be able to see if we have the data, what the outcomes of that are. I’m not suggesting we take risks, I’m just raising it as an issue at this point.”