Almost 700 coronavirus tests carried out in Scotland

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Almost 700 people have been tested for coronavirus in Scotland, with all proving negative, as testing is expanded.

In total 698 tests had been carried out by Sunday, up from 630 on Saturday, the Scottish Government said.

However 12 new patients have been identified in England, bringing the UK total to 35.

The Scottish Government has said it is well-prepared to deal with a potential outbreak.

Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “Scotland is well-prepared for a significant outbreak of coronavirus but there is currently no treatment or vaccine. Early detection measures will be vital in helping to prevent the spread of the virus in the event of an outbreak.

“Hospitals and GP surgeries will now conduct tests on some patients with coughs, fevers or shortness of breath – regardless of whether they have travelled to a place where the virus is known to be spreading.

“Not everyone with flu will be tested, but this is a sensible step to take as a precautionary measure to give us an early warning of community transmission.

“People have a vital role to play in helping us contain any outbreak by following the latest health and travel advice and following basic hygiene precautions, such as washing hands frequently, not touching their face and covering their nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.”

The stepping up of the testing regime has been described as a precautionary measure, but it is thought it could help detection if there is an outbreak in Scotland.

Using existing NHS monitoring measures, a network of 41 GP practices will start sending samples for testing from patients who report symptoms such as coughs, fevers or shortness of breath.

In addition, pneumonia patients in critical care units will also be tested for the virus.

The number of people sickened by the virus has climbed to more than 86,000 globally and there have been more than 2,900 deaths, most of them in China.

The Scottish Government has implemented a range of measures including training Scottish Ambulance Service staff to support the transport of patients who may be infectious, and has delivered face masks to GP practices as a precautionary measure.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “In Scotland we have a proven track record of dealing with challenging health issues and while all tests have so far come back negative, it is highly likely that we will see a positive case soon as coronavirus continues to spread around the world.

“As part of our efforts we are working with the UK Government, Wales and Northern Ireland to publish a coordinated response in the coming days.

“Staff across the Scottish Government, its agencies and key partners are stepping up work to deal with the potential consequences of a coronavirus outbreak. This includes prioritising key activity to keep Scotland running should the situation change, but also to ensure that all sectors can play their part in managing the response.”

She added: “We will continue to ensure we are as prepared as possible for the likelihood of coronavirus cases in Scotland and will continue to work with health boards, local authorities and other governments across the UK in ensuring that plans and preparations are in place to respond.”

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