The UK statistics watchdog has ruled Humza Yousaf’s claims increasing numbers of children are in hospital because of Covid were “inaccurate”.
In a letter published online, the UK Statistics Authority told the SNP Government the claims were “inaccurately presented.”
The organisation accepted Scotland’s health minister made a “genuine mistake” but warned it should not have happened and ministers should be better briefed.
The issue arose when Mr Yousaf said 10 children aged nine or under were in hospital “because of Covid”.
A leading children’s doctor quickly refuted the claims and it later transpired the quoted figures included patients without any symptoms but who test positive on arrival or during stays.
Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Annie Wells MSP said it was time for Mr Yousaf to finally apologise after the “humiliating slap-down.”
Ms Wells, who is the Scottish Conservative Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, said: “Top statisticians have confirmed his child Covid claims, which left thousands of parents worried for their kids’ safety, were inaccurate.
“It’s a disgrace that the SNP Government wouldn’t just come clean and admit Humza Yousaf got this wrong.
“Instead, they danced around questions about his dangerous scaremongering.
“The health secretary alarmed parents but once again, just like when he made false accusations of sectarian singing, he didn’t hold his hands up and admit the mistake.
“For once, Humza Yousaf should drop the arrogance, show some humility and finally apologise for getting this so badly wrong.”
Government slow to clarify
Shortly after the radio interview, the issue was raised again with Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
However Mr Swinney, who is also Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery, appeared to further fan the flames.
He suggested the virus could now be more dangerous to youngsters than earlier in the pandemic, causing huge alarm among parents and carers.
The Scottish Government’s own data, published two days after Mr Yousaf’s initial comments, showed the youngsters’ illnesses were not necessarily due to the coronavirus.
No clarification was made but Mr Yousaf later took to Twitter to express his “regret” at the alarm caused.
Yes, you can travel between Level 1 & Level 2 areas, but soft play is not open in Level 2 because we judge the risk too high.
Again, my main message was to urge caution, not to cause any undue alarm, I regret if that was the case.
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) June 3, 2021
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Health Secretary has already expressed his regret for any alarm his remarks may have caused – and the Statistics Authority has acknowledged this was ‘a genuine mistake’ made shortly after the Health Secretary had taken on his new role.
“The Scottish Government responded swiftly and published the figures quoted with clear definitions and notes to help understand the data.
“The Health Secretary was answering a question about whether a parent in level 2 should take their child to a soft play in level 1 and was simply highlighting the risks of people breaching Covid restrictions.
“The age group currently showing the second highest number of confirmed Covid cases is children under 14 – and we need to be extremely careful to avoid giving the impression that there is no risk to children from Covid.”