SCOTLAND has been urged to improve its Covid checks to include border controls as it emerged that the nation is only testing at up to a third of its ability as it hits a second wave of the virus.

It comes as questions have been raised over apparent slumps in Scotland's technical ability to test for Covid and continuing failures to meet the First Minister's target of contacting one in five of those required to quarantine after travelling to Scotland from high-risk countries.

On August 17, the First Minister in a Covid-19 briefing said the current weekday capacity in Scotland was just over 40,000 tests a day. And she said they were working to increase that to 65,000 tests a day.

But in an October 2 Freedom of Information response, the Scottish Government said the overall normal weekday capacity is approximately 24,000 - 16,000 less - as the nation enters a second wave of the virus.

According to official figures, the average number of daily tests being carried out in Scotland over the eight days to October 6, was just 15,776.

The Scottish Government in response has been unable to explain the apparent drop in the nation's capacity for handling Covid tests and did not comment on how it had not reached the 65,000 tests-a-day capacity aim outlined by Nicola Sturgeon.

READ MORE: Unreliable 'name and shame' Covid-19 test tracking in Scots care homes abandoned

Respected Scottish think tank Common Weal fears a herd immunity strategy is in place and has hit out at the Scottish Government's resistance to its recommendations of mass testing in local communities and a localised 'traffic light' system for Covid management to keep the virus at bay. It is now suggesting testing stations at borders, on roads and at airports.

Last month Nicola Sturgeon said extra resources were being put in place to ensure contact tracers can reach the target of carrying out checks on 20% of Scots required to quarantine after overseas travel and and said the target should be achieved by October 5.

According to the latest figures, 26,883 people arrived in Scotland from outside the UK in the week to October 4, of which 9,203 from high risk countries were required to quarantine.

The NHS's National Contact Tracing Centre sought to contact a sample of 822 (3%) of those but official figures show they were not able to contact one in four of those (213), with 51 others classed as "in progress".

Travellers from countries not on an approved exemption list are required to self isolate for 14 days to prevent the spread of Covid-19 from overseas hotspots, with those in defiance of the rules facing a fine of up to £5000.

HeraldScotland: Coronavirus testing

Earlier this week, it emerged Public Health Scotland had employed 25 contact tracers to check compliance with overseas travel quarantine restrictions.

Meanwhile problems continue with accurately tracking care home testing - despite a new reporting initiative.

Last month, the Herald on Scotland revealed technical difficulties had dogged a vital electronic reporting tool to ensure Covid safety in care homes as laboratory issues were resulting in fewer tests to staff and delays in results of up to ten days.

Care homes were meant to be fully participating in the care home safety huddle tool, which allows the ministers to see any Covid-19 issues, as well as any other staffing problems by August 24. It is to take the place of Excel spread sheets.Coronavirus :

READ MORE: Scotland actually tests only one-third of capacity, new figures show

Scotland’s health secretary, Jeane Freeman announced on May 18 that all 53,000 care home staff would be offered weekly tests to help cut infections in homes, the site of around half of Scotland’s Covid deaths.

Data covering September 18 to September 24 has revealed that 37,951 (72%) were having weekly coronavirus tests. At the start of July around 64% were being tested.

But notes associated with the official figures reveal that there has continued to be both double counting and undercounting in some cases as complete data was not collected from all care homes, an issue that has stretched back to June.

It said that the information was often collated from "different sources" including NHS systems, the social care portal and testing via alternative routes.

"This process is difficult and there is a risk of both double counting and inappropriate exclusion. It is also likely that not all testing from other routes is captured..," it said.

There were also at least 21 homes with active confirmed cases in the week, but information on whether homes had suspected cases "was incomplete in some health board returns".

In July, the Herald revealed that the tracking of how many coronavirus tests are being carried out on residents and staff at Scotland's care homes partly aimed at 'naming and shaming' underperforming NHS boards was abandoned because it had become unreliable.

HeraldScotland: Coronavirus testing

Ministers decided to no longer publish the number of tests carried out on staff and residents saying that the data provided by health boards was considered "increasingly incomplete".

Robin McAlpine, director of Common Weal said people have been looking at England and telling themselves the handling of Covid-19 could have been worse.

But he said this is an "unhealthy and unmerited false comfort" and that the nation should accept that "we've been among the worst in the world at handling Covid".

"What we are doing clearly isn't working and there is a very real risk that a herd immunity strategy could prematurely shorten the lives of many, many people and we have no idea how bad that might be.

"Either we continue down this circuit-breaker route and we brace ourselves for rolling lockdowns and the corresponding economic chaos or we try something new. If there is a better bet than randomised testing and a localised traffic lights system I'd be very interested to hear about it.

"The usual approach to containing a virus is to identify and isolate people with symptoms as quickly as possible, but that isn't going to be enough if you can have this exponential spread of the virus before anyone has symptoms. The only way to deal with that is still to isolate people who have the virus as quickly as possible but you have to try and catch them before there are symptoms.

"That is why mass testing is so important.

"I think we should be managing Covid on the basis of something like school catchment areas – big enough to identify outbreaks but small enough to minimise the disruption if places have to go into restricted measures.

"But to do that there needs to be some kind of consistency in response and that is sorely lacking in Scotland. Saying we're making it up case at a time might sound like a dismissive analysis but it is almost literally what we're doing.

READ MORE: Coronavirus crisis: Scotland's 'missed' daily tests double after 'test and protect' capacity boost

“I think there has been far too much emphasis on presentation and I’ve never been convinced there was anything close to a coherent long term strategy.

"We’ve squandered months and months of time when the foundations of a proper long-term strategy should have been put in place and I’m now a bit worried that without one we are sleepwalking into a situation where herd immunity becomes the strategy by default.


Airlines and holiday firms have demanded blanket Covid testing at airports in Scotland to save their industry.

Jonathan Hinkles, boss of Glasgow-based ­Loganair, urged the UK Government to introduce quick tests at exit and entry points.

In Germany, compulsory tests are carried out at airports for anyone arriving from a high-risk country. From Thursday, people arriving in Italy from the UK must take a test.

And Mr McAlpine added: "The borders issue is an important one. It's almost as if there has been a tacit agreement not to talk about them. The unionist parties seem to see those borders being unchecked as some kind of emblem of Britishness and the Scottish Government seems afraid to be criticised for 'anti-Englishness'. But having some sensible checks in between areas with different Covid strategies is not independence by stealth, it is a sensible public health measure.

"This is even more the case with the airports. You will never beat this virus if it can fly itself in willy nilly. Policy is made and influenced by the tiny proportion of people who take the vast majority of flights and they seem to have prioritised 'openness' over public health."

READ MORE: Scots care body registers 'lack of faith' in Covid testing system as lab issues lead to checks chaos

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We will continue to work towards the target set out in our testing strategy of building laboratory processing capacity to approximately 65,000 tests per day and beyond between NHS Scotland laboratories and the Lighthouse Labs network in Glasgow, as we prepare for winter.

“Our current lab capacity for NHS labs is just over 10,000 per day and circa 18,700 UKG capacity – total almost 29,000 per day in Scotland.

“We are using on average 70-75% of UK Government and 50-55% of NHS capacity on a daily basis. While we are working to increase capacity in Scotland we must retain sufficient capacity to manage emergencies, cancer care, urgent operations, outbreak management, winter pressures etc. "There is significant work underway to maximise capacity in Scotland to cope with demand pressures and a second wave between now and December and beyond. This includes the regional hubs, which come on stream in a phased approach between November and December.”