CALLS have been made for better tracking of Covid patients and their contacts to ensure clarity over the effectiveness of Scotland's test and protect coronavirus tracking.

Linda Bauld, Professor of Public Health at Edinburgh University said there should be better reporting of surveillance data on Covid-19.

She was supported by the Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie who said ministers need to “catch up quick” with some other countries in tracking and reporting how the virus is spreading.

The Herald has previously revealed continuing questions about the reliability and robustness of data surrounding the tracking of Covid-19 in Scotland.

Ms Bauld, the Bruce and John Usher Chair of Public Health, says  that Scotland should ideally be making certain surveillance data more easily accessible or available.

READ MORE: 'Only NHS has access': Ministers insist Amazon is not getting data from a million users of Scotland's Test and Protect app

She calls for the Scottish Government daily Covid-19 statistics to be broken down by local authority - not solely NHS board - and wants improved reporting around age, sex, ethnicity and deprivation level for positive cases, those in hospital and deaths.

HeraldScotland: Professor Linda Bauld

For the Test and Protect system, she said there should be information about the time taken to trace contacts - and if possible whether notified contacts do self-isolate.I

In a briefing to MSP, she says there should be more on the outcomes of contact tracing, some information on cluster sizes including distributions.

Mr Rennie said: “Professor Bauld's suggestions reflect both common sense and learning from the best international practice.

“These would be clear improvements to the tracking and reporting of how the virus is spreading.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been calling for months for precise local and sector breakdowns, information on the impact of travel and quarantine, and data on why positive cases presented for a test in the first place.

“The benefits would be significant. Tracking all this would show how quarantine is preventing the spread of the virus, how quickly tracers are catching up with people, and let those who were shielding understand the prevalence of the virus in their area and make more informed decisions.”


He added: “Some other countries are way ahead of us in tracking and communicating how the virus is moving around. The Scottish Government need to catch up quickly. They could start by taking Professor Bauld's advice.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to the open and transparent publishing of data whilst protecting individual confidentiality and will keep the balance of transparency and confidentiality under review as the pandemic progresses to ensure we are providing the most useful level of information.

“The Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland publish a wide range of data on Covid-19 each day, at a national level and by health board area. In addition, every day, Public Health Scotland publish a range of data for each local authority area in Scotland in its dashboard.

“Meanwhile health boards and incident management teams also publish considerable local detail about outbreaks. Data on Covid cases at a neighbourhood level is also available each day to those public bodies who are directly responding to the epidemic in Scotland.”

In mid-August, Prof Bauld called on the Scottish government to release details on the number of people contacted by NHS Test and Protect.

Prof Linda Bauld believes the "missing" data was essential for researchers to check the system is working.

She said that failure to publish the data showed a lack of transparency on the government's part.

READ MORE: No trace: Concern as effectiveness of Scotland's coronavirus tracking cannot yet be demonstrated

She said the data at that point only contained the number of close contacts successfully traced and spoken to, but what it doesn't contain is the proportion of contacts not reached.

"I want to see all the dat to understand what's going on," she saidl.

The Herald on Sunday last week revealed how test and protect tracking was 'missing' over 400 positive tested patients while the number of people checked has slumped, raising fresh questions on how effective it is.

An important part of Test and Protect is to track all positive cases of coronavirus and their contacts to protect the public from spreading Covid-19 and prevent a second peak.

Official Test and Protect figures published by Public Health Scotland show that 25 out of 2941 who tested positive for Covid-19 between June 22 and September 5, were unable to be followed up.

But over the same period according to the Electronic Communication of Surveillance in Scotland (ECOSS) system developed by Health Protection Scotland to capture laboratory results there were actually 3356 people who tested positive for Covid over the same perio#d. That's 415 more.

It came a month after the Herald on Sunday revealed the Scottish Government admitted it was unable to demonstrate the effectiveness of Scotland's flagship Test and Protect system and that it was not expected to be in place till the end of that month.

Asked about the 'missing 415' the Scottish Government said that the Track and Trace data was "developmental" and that while CMS went live on June 22, NHS boards started using it in a phased approach. Boards had been previously been using a 'tracing tool' which "did not give the level of granularity required..."

All boards were due to be fully functioning on CMS from July 21.

The Scottish Government deny that there are 415 people with people with positive tests who could not be traced by boards.

Scientists say clear data on testing and subsequent contact tracing is crucial to be able to have a clear idea whether the spread of Covid-19 can be curbed.

Last month researchers from University College London (UCL) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, warned the current testing and contact tracing south of the border was inadequate to prevent a second wave of coronavirus after schools reopened.

This is because the contact tracing system must reach at least 68 per cent of people who have tested positive for coronavirus, and their contacts, in order to contain the spread.

At that point the system reached 50 per cent of contacts and only a small fraction of symptomatic cases were tested.

The researchers said the most recent data showed about 81% of positives being interviewed, about 81% of those reporting contacts and about 75% of those contacts being reached equating to 50% coverage.

The Scottish Government's Test and Protect policy kicked in on May 28 to ensure there was no further spread of Covid-19 and there have continuing calls to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.