Pilot mass testing schemes in coronavirus hotspots across Scotland will inform plans to carry out asymptomatic checks “much more routinely” in the new year, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The First Minister said asymptomatic testing is being offered in communities where the levels of Covid-19 “continue to be of concern and are higher than the national average”.
The scheme is being piloted in five locations in west and central Scotland and is operating for between three and 13 days, depending on the site.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing on Monday, Ms Sturgeon said: “The lessons that we learn from these trials will then inform our plans to expand community testing much more extensively and much more routinely early in the new year.”
She added: “Our mobile testing unit opened in Clackmannanshire in Alloa Town Hall on Thursday.
“Further sites have opened today in Dalmarnock, in the east end of Glasgow, in the south side of Glasgow, in Stewarton in East Ayrshire and Girvan in South Ayrshire.
“We’ll also open the first site using lateral flow tests in Johnstone in Renfrewshire on Wednesday of this week.
“The lateral flow tests produce much more quickly than the conventional PCR test. That potentially makes them very useful.
“All positive cases though that are identified through lateral flow testing can then be confirmed by a PCR test.”
Speaking after confirming Scotland recorded three deaths of coronavirus patients and 369 positive cases in the past 24 hours, the First Minister said: “We do hope that identifying more people who are positive will help us ensure that they are not spreading the virus and that’s why we are currently focusing these trials – these pilot programmes – on areas with high prevalence.
“So if you live in one of these areas, I would encourage you to come forward for testing.
“You give yourself the chance of finding out if you have the virus if you don’t yet have symptoms but you’re also helping that collective effort to try to break the chains of transmission.”
Ms Sturgeon also announced an expansion in eligibility for the Scottish Government’s £500 self-isolation support grant from next week.
Under the current rules, employed people on benefits who have been asked to self-isolate can claim the money if they lose income as a result.
The First Minister said from Monday December 7 eligible parents unable to work because a child has to isolate will also qualify.
The expanded criteria will also include those who local authorities believe would qualify for Universal Credit if they applied.
Ms Sturgeon said: “We don’t want anyone to feel that they’re having to choose between self-isolating and feeding themselves and their family so I hope today’s expansion of the support grant will help more people do the right thing if they or their children are asked to self isolate.”
Giving a further update on the daily coronavirus figures, Ms Sturgeon said had been a “technical issue” with the reporting systems overnight meaning the figures reported may be “slightly lower” than expected.
The First Minister said the daily test positivity rate is 6.1%, up from 5.2% on Sunday.
Of the new cases, 133 are in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 49 in Lanarkshire, and 48 in Lothian.
There are 1,041 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, a fall of eight in 24 hours.
Of these patients, 75 are in intensive care, down by one.