A WARNING has been issued that Scotland is falling behind the rest of the UK on testing – with concerns raised over the closure of a lab ahead of anticipated surges in the virus.

Scotland is now testing fewer people a day for Covid-19 than the UK average – while it has been revealed that a testing lab at Edinburgh University has shut, partly due to a lack of testing samples.

At First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon announced that 668 positive cases of Covid-19 were reported in the previously 24 period – 10.8 per cent of people who were tested. There were 154 people in hospital as of yesterday from coronavirus – an increase of 70 in the space of a week.

The First Minister warned that the R number, the infection rate, is “currently above 1 and possibly as high as 1.7”.

But the Scottish Greens have suggested that the SNP has made a conscious decision not to roll out widespread testing, which they have called for over the last few months, including at university campuses.

On Wednesday, the Scottish Government confirmed it is exploring the use of surveillance testing at university campuses but will focus its testing capacity on students who have symptoms of Covid-19.

Scottish Greens health spokesperson, Alison Johnstone, said: “The level of testing in Scotland is clearly a policy choice. Why else would a lab have been closed during the summer, even when we knew that the return of schools and universities would lead to a spike? When universities in England are rolling out asymptomatic testing, there is a serious question why this isn’t happening in Scotland.

“There are obviously trains of transmission that begin with a carrier with no symptoms, but the Scottish Government’s current testing regime means that they are not tested. The First Minister says Test and Protect is working, but it is designed to reduce infections. Instead, we are seeing cases rising.

"The reality is Scotland is not testing enough people, which is why the Scottish Greens have proposed upscaling NHS Scotland’s efforts to move to mass testing of the population. The alternative is a damaging endless cycle of lockdowns while we wait for a vaccine.”

The First Minister said the Scottish Government has “massively increased the numbers and the groups that we are testing” and defended the decision for the Edinburgh lab to be closed.

She added: “The laboratory was activated during the early stages of the pandemic because we did not, at that point, have the NHS capacity. The laboratory was activated while we were building that NHS capacity; it was never designed to be a permanent provision.

“The daily capacity in NHS Lothian has more than doubled since the lab was activated—that is, since the beginning of April. That means that labs such as that one can return to the important research work that they had been doing and which they want to return to.”