Deputy First Minister John Swinney has defended the Scottish Government’s record on coronavirus contact tracing after new data revealed the system is performing worse than previously thought.
Public Health Scotland said a “coding error” was responsible for overestimating the number of people contacted within 24 hours of testing positive for the virus or the Test and Protect system being notified.
The figures, first reported by The Scottish Sun, show the system is performing up to five times worse than previously thought, with contact tracing taking longer than 72 hours to complete in some cases.
University of Edinburgh public health expert Professor Linda Bauld told the newspaper it is “concerning to see that publicly available data on Test and Protect has contained errors”.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called for an urgent statement to the Scottish Parliament on how the “suspect statistics” were published.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross criticised the “wildly inaccurate” data and said it “beggars belief that this has gone unnoticed for months”.
He added: “However, it’s not just about dodgy data, this risks harming our ability to fight the spread of the virus.
“We need answers and reassurance on this as a matter of urgency.”
Asked about the error on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “There’s been a coding error with the way in which the results have been entered into the data system, that has now been corrected and the data is being represented.
“But I think what is important is that we focus on the fact that the World Health Organisation states that at least 80% of new cases must have their close contacts traced and in quarantine within 72 hours of case confirmation.
“If you take last week, for example, 97.1% of all contact tracing of all positive cases was completed within 72 hours.
“So on the international standard that we work to we were far in advance of that performance.
“But unfortunately there was a coding error which has been discovered in routine checking by Public Health Scotland and that has now been rectified.”
He added: “We actually have a very effective contact tracing system in Scotland, there has been a coding error in the early stages of the gathering of that information but fundamentally the performance is really good and really sound.”
Public Health Scotland said the coding error has not affected any strategic or operational decision-making on the contact tracing programme.