coronavirus testing

How has Scotland done on coronavirus testing?

Much media attention has been focused on the UK Government’s testing record during the coronavirus lockdown, while Scotland has been undertaking a similar programme of testing for the disease.

In early April, the First Minister said during her daily Covid-19 briefing that the Scottish Government’s aim was to get to around 10 per cent of the UK Government’s then-100,000 daily testing target. This would equate to 10,000 tests per day.

As Scotland appears to be getting the number of deaths and cases of coronavirus under control, Ferret Fact Service looked at how the country’s testing programme has been carried out.


The number of tests in Scotland has not reached 10,000 on any day during the coronavirus pandemic, according to official figures.

Testing capacity has been significantly increased, with Scotland now able to undertake at least 15,000 tests per day. But the highest number of tests, combining tests done in NHS labs with those done in regional testing centres, was 6,519 on 16 May 2020.

Six-thousand or more tests have only been achieved three times during the testing period when Scottish NHS and regional test centres are combined. NHS lab tests have never exceeded 4,500 per day.


The number of people tested is different from the number of tests carried out, as people may have to be tested more than once. The total number of people tested in Scotland as of 2 July is 267,371. There have been 18,264 Covid-19 positive cases identified through these tests.

The Scottish Government also stated that “at least” 51,283 key workers or symptomatic family members had been tested as of 24 June.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant issues in care homes. National Records of Scotland statistics found that as of 21 June, more people had died in care homes than in hospitals, with 47 per cent of the coronavirus-related deaths registered in adult care facilities, compared to 46 per cent in hospitals.

Care homes

The Scottish Government has faced criticism over the level of testing in care homes across the country. On 18 May, health secretary Jeane Freeman announced that all care home staff would be offered tests “regardless of symptoms and regardless of whether there is an ongoing outbreak in the care home where they work”.

There are around 50,000 care home workers in Scotland, according to the Scottish Government.

The most recent published figures cover the week beginning 22 June, when 23,350 care home staff were tested. In the same week, 2,224 care home residents were tested.

As of 21 June, official figures showed 25,635 tests had been carried out on care home staff. This data does not include testing done by UK regional testing centres, and is higher than the number of individual workers tested, as multiple tests will be carried out on the same person.

The Scottish Government stopped publishing data on the number of tests in care homes on 1 July as it is considered “increasingly incomplete due to the number of testing routes now available”.

There are around 35,000 care home residents in Scotland, according to the most recent data.

Fact check: debunking myths about coronavirus

There are currently 138 adult care homes in Scotland with at least one case of suspected Covid-19. That equates to 13 per cent of care homes in the country. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, 689 care homes, 64 per cent of the total, have had at least one suspected case, while 536 have had more than one case.

There have been 6,621 people in adult care homes who have had a suspected Covid-19

The statistics show significant regional differences on testing between Scottish areas.

Contact tracing

The Scottish Government launched its ‘Test and Protect’ scheme at the end of May. The programme asks those with coronavirus symptoms to provide details of “all recent close contacts” to a team of NHS contact tracers. Contact tracers will contact the people who have been in close contact with an infected person, and then ask them to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Scottish Government set a target of recruiting 2,000 contact tracers by the beginning of the roll-out of ‘Test and Protect’. This was achieved by the beginning of June. Between 28 May and 28 June, 1,389 cases were recorded by contact tracers, and 1,871 people that had been in contact with an infected person had been traced.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at or join our Facebook group.

Photo thanks to HM Treasury, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

  1. What is also interesting about the Covid-19 testing statistics is how the number of tests drops every weekend. This is unlikely to be due to people not being tested around weekends, and more likely due to many of the labs being closed over the weekend. With the need for fast turn round on testing for contact tracing, shouldn’t all labs testing for Covid-19 be open on weekends, assuming they have testing to do?

  2. Strong implication here that the Scottish Government is not doing enough testing of people in care homes.

    Considering care homes are run by private corporations, why should our taxes go toward making sure they are running their services safely? This is clearly something that should be enforced on these companies from a policy level, which is not devolved to the Scottish Government.

    No more bailouts for private corporations. They get paid to look after their residents, they should do their job.

  3. I am currently in lockdown in Aberdeen, near to the airport.  When exercising, I pass by the UK NHS coronavirus testing centre at Wellheads Drive, Dyce.  This is next to the Heliport that serves the oil industry. I’ve been surprised how quiet the centre has been.  Wellheads Drive is closed to through traffic, presumably in anticipation of a large throughput of tests.  However, there did not appear to be anyone being tested on the afternoons I passed by.  The security man on the road was reading a book and other staff were chatting. 
    It seems a very elaborate facility if it is only testing offshore crew, ambulance drivers, prison officers etc. I gather Grampian NHS have their own testing facilities at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.  I wonder what the situation is at the test centres at Edinburgh and Glasgow?  Has anyone else flagged up that these facilities may be under utilised?

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