Scottish Government
Monday, 18 May, 2020

The Scottish Government called for responses regarding what role testing has played during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what we need to do to deliver effective testing processes.

Fellows of the College who are specialists in infectious diseases, epidemiology and public health have stated that the role of testing is critical, and agree with the WHO's consistent message to "test, test, test", especially for contract tracing purposes, until a vaccine or cure is available. Testing, though extremely important for the fight against COVID-19, is not a control strategy on its own, and must be effectively encompassed within a wider COVID-19 strategy.  A major potential benefit of testing is the detection of infection during the pre-symptomatic phase (24-48 hrs), but to realise this benefit test results must be rapidly available and be of sufficient sensitivity to detect infection early. 

Health care and social care staff are the top priority for testing given their exposure to people at high risk of severe complications from the infection and the danger of them both acquiring the infection and passing it on to their patients/clients. In addition to testing, resources must be put into public health to support the delivery of appropriate interventions (test, trace, isolate). A test result alone will not help: an intervention will have to follow. It is also essential that all test results feed into the NHS and national data, thus ensuring the NHS can provide appropriate care to the patient and from a public health perspective to follow up contacts and track and trace.