Coronavirus: Sturgeon ‘understands concerns’ over Nike event outbreak

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Media captionNike conference: Patient confidentiality versus public health

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she “understands the concerns” over the handling of a coronavirus outbreak at a conference in Edinburgh.

At least 25 people linked to the Nike event in February are thought to have contracted the virus.

Ms Sturgeon was again questioned about the response to the outbreak during her daily media briefing on Tuesday.

She said information was not made public at the time for “legitimate” reasons of patient confidentiality.

But she added that it was legitimate for people to consider whether that should have been the overriding consideration.

She said this was something that she and the Scottish government would “reflect on” and that the balance between patient confidentiality and making information available to the public would be considered as part of the test, trace and isolate strategy.

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Details of the outbreak at the conference in the Hilton Carlton Hotel were first revealed in a BBC Scotland Disclosure documentary.

The investigation discovered that one of the 70 Nike employees from across the world who attended the conference on 26 and 27 February already had the virus.

This person infected many of their fellow delegates. Of the 25 confirmed cases linked to the event, eight were residents of Scotland.

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The Nike event took place at the Hilton Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh in February

An incident management team was set up by the Scottish government to trace people who had come into contact with the delegates.

BBC Scotland has spoken to a tour guide who said he was not contacted by the team, despite spending about two hours with the delegates.

The guide, who wants to remain anonymous, said he spent about 15 minutes in a conference room with them before taking the group on a tour of Edinburgh’s Old Town.

“In hindsight, now knowing that conference is considered to be a particularly pivotal moment in the virus coming into Scotland, I am surprised that contact wasn’t made or some notification wasn’t given to people like myself who had some involvement with the group,” he told BBC Scotland.

“Certainly if had some sense there had been exposure or risk of exposure, it might have been something I would have acted on and taken efforts to monitor my health if nothing else.”

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Asked about the tour guide’s account at her media briefing on Tuesday, the first minister said she understood the concerns which were being raised.

Ms Sturgeon said she could not say exactly how many people were contacted following the outbreak, but that it had been an “international contact tracing exercise” by very experienced public health professionals.

“That incident management team will do anything it thinks is necessary to protect public health and it will have contacted people who fitted the definition of a contact,” she said.

“Had they believed there were further actions that they required to take to protect public health, they would have taken those actions.”

‘Listen carefully’

Ms Sturgeon said patient confidentiality was “not a made-up reason” for not making the outbreak public.

“It was the real reason and actually a legitimate reason when case numbers were so low and when the number of attendees from Scotland at this conference were also so low,” she said.

“To have named the event would have almost certainly have identified the patients.”

The first minister said the Scottish government would “listen carefully” to those who disagreed with its judgement on whether the outbreak should have been made public at an earlier stage.

“I accept that people will look at this and say, actually we think you should have reached a different judgement,” Ms Sturgeon said.

But she added: “Because there wasn’t a public announcement made about the Nike conference, I don’t want anyone to go away with the view that that means the public health and health protection issues around this were not properly dealt with in the normal way – because they were.”

BBC News

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