Surveillance testing expansion to provide clearer picture of coronavirus spread

Surveillance testing for coronavirus will be significantly expanded to GP practices covering a total of 1.2 million people to give a clearer picture of the spread of the disease, authorities have announced.

The number of GP practices taking part in the “sentinel” surveillance system will be expanded from 41, covering 240,000 people, to 200 around the country this week to help experts track how the situation is developing.

The Scottish Government announced at the weekend that people showing coronavirus symptoms will no longer be routinely tested for the infection.

Only those admitted to hospital with flu-like symptoms and breathing difficulties, NHS staff and “key workers” will be routinely tested for Covid-19 as part of the updated testing policy.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the figures reported so far are likely to have underestimated the spread of the infection and the new policy could help provide a clearer picture.

Speaking at a briefing in Edinburgh she said: “People with symptoms in hospital will continue to be tested but also our GP sentinel surveillance system, which we use routinely to monitor flu, is being significantly expanded.

“At the moment it’s 41 GP practices across the country doing sample testing.

“These GP practices cover about 240,000 people in the population.

“We are expanding that system to cover about 200 GP practices which cover a population of 1.2 million.”

She added: “The information that we get from that will allow us to assess and report on the spread and profile of coronavirus.

“That will be a far more robust indicator than the figures that we’ve been publishing so far.”

She said authorities will continue to report the number of people who die.

People with symptoms of the coronavirus infection, which include repeated dry coughing and a fever or high temperature, are being told to self-isolate for seven days and only seek medical help if their condition worsens.