Ian Murray, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary, has written to the First Minister asking when she knew of the outbreak, and if introducing lockdown measures when coronavirus was first discovered in Scotland could have saved more lives. When asked about the COVID-19 outbreak linked to the Nike conference at the Hilton Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh on February 26-27, Ms Sturgeon rejected suggestions of a cover-up as “complete and utter nonsense”.
A BBC Disclosure documentary suggested that one visiting attendee passed on the virus, with investigations finding at least 25 people linked to the event contracted the disease, including eight in Scotland.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s press briefing on Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon said the details were not made public because of concerns about patient confidentiality, which the Edinburgh South MP describes as “hard to comprehend” given the size of the city’s population.
In his letter, Mr Murray said: “It appears to me, and to the people of Edinburgh, that your government kept this outbreak from the public when it would clearly have been in the public interest to inform them.
“You said a few weeks ago that you wanted a ‘grown-up conversation’ with the public on COVID-19.
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of a coronavirus cover-up
Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of covering up an outbreak of coronavirus in Edinburgh
“I am therefore compelled to ask why you believe the people of Edinburgh are not grown-up enough to be told of a major outbreak of the virus in their own city centre?”
Mr Murray added: “There are many reasons why there is public concern about this cover-up.
“At the time of this outbreak in February, we were still several weeks away from lockdown.
“It is now apparent that your government was too slow to enter lockdown, but had this information been made public at the time then we may have been able to enter lockdown earlier and save more lives.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood
In a Tweet on Wednesday, the MP for Edinburgh South said voters had approached him looking for answers on the outbreak.
He wrote: “I’ve received considerable correspondence from constituents who are seeking answers to why they weren’t informed of the COVID-19 ‘ground zero’ outbreak from a conference at a hotel in central Edinburgh in late February.
“I have written to the First Minister seeking answers.”
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The funeral of Ambulance Paramedic Robert Black, 52, in Campbeltown, Scotland
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One angry woman said it was “shameful” that details of the outbreak were not made public in the interests of public safety.
She said: “Nicola should have told the leaders of the other nations what had happened.
“All information should have been disclosed and the implications of this has now reached four nations. Shameful.”
UK coronavirus map live
Another person said under no circumstances should Ms Sturgeon be “let off the hook” on the matter.
He said: “Please don’t let them off the hook on this.
“If this was any other Party responsible, Sturgeon would have her baying mob on the streets in outrage.
“Opposition Parties must take them to task.”
Mrs Sturgeon has denied claims of a cover-up
The first confirmed case of coronavirus in Scotland was in Tayside on March 1.
The case is believed to have been linked to someone who had travelled from Italy.
No link between the infected person and the Edinbugh conference has been established.
Mass gatherings in Scotland were not banned until March 16 and the lockdown came into effect on March 23.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “As the First Minister has said, all appropriate steps were taken to ensure public health was protected.
“The group at increased risk of COVID-19 were all identified and all contacts were traced, so public health authorities were satisfied that there was no further infection risk. NHS Lothian and Edinburgh City Council also worked closely with the conference venue to provide advice for close contacts of delegates and infection prevention and control considerations.
“All of the cases linked to this event were traced by their close contact with this case, or contact with conference delegates who tested positive after the event. Therefore it is not an example of community transmission, which would require a confirmed case, with no known history of international travel to a risk area, or link to close contact of such a case.
“As the Health Secretary made clear yesterday, the Scottish Government has been entirely consistent in its handling and publication of information relating to positive cases of COVID-19 in Scotland.
“All contact related cases were reported in a manner that would ensure the index case could not be identified, and this is the approach the Scottish Government has consistently adopted.”