One of the Scottish Government’s most senior medical advisers has said he believes coronavirus was almost eliminated last summer – just 24 hours after his colleague said Scotland has never been close to that point.
Professor Mark Woolhouse, chair of infectious disease at Edinburgh University and an adviser to the Government, told Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday that despite new daily cases dropping as low as just two in one day in July, Scotland did not get close to elimination of the virus.
Last June, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland was “not far away” from eliminating coronavirus, and she has since repeated the suggestion the country had nearly eradicated the virus before new strains were brought in through overseas and cross-border travel.
Citing a lack of testing, Professor Woolhouse told MSPs: “Scotland was not close to elimination at any stage during this epidemic.”
But national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch has now said he does not agree with his colleague, a fact he described as “healthy” at the coronavirus briefing on Friday, and he added other advisers also do not accept Prof Woolhouse’s assertions.
“We rarely play those scientific debates out live at parliamentary committees and live on TV, but that’s the nature of the pandemic,” Prof Leitch said.
While he conceded there was not as much testing being done last summer as there is now, Prof Leitch said there were only nine admissions to hospital in the week of July 18 and no patients were moved to intensive care between June 18 and July 7.
He also said there were no recorded deaths from Covid-19 in Scotland for a month between July 17 and August 18, while prevalence dropped to 1.1 cases per 100,000 Scots compared to 104 this week.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “Every single member of our chief medical officer advisory group and all of those who are actively engaged in the science of this, whether it be epidemiology or public health,… their views and opinions are really important to us and we pay attention to them all.
“However, like any other group of individuals, if you bring them all together they do not necessarily all share the same opinion and reach a consensus view.
“Often what we are trying to do is listening to the individual opinions but the consensus view as well in order to help inform us as we make those necessary judgments.”