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EXCLUSIVE: Scottish Labour calls for troops on the streets to fight Covid surge

Soldiers helped with testing during the pandemic.
Soldiers helped with testing during the pandemic.

Scottish Labour is urging the government to put military personnel on the streets to help fight the latest surge in coronavirus cases and make sure everyone who wants to be vaccinated can get a jab – even going door to door if need be.

The calls come amid a worrying surge in cases across the country, with Dundee and Tayside hit particularly hard. Although overall the number of new coronavirus cases in Scotland continues to drop – falling below 3,000 for the first time in a week – the extent of viral hotspots can be seen in our interactive map.

Dundee currently has the highest Covid rate in Scotland and one of the highest rates in the UK, at 816 cases per 100,000 people; while the number of people in hospital with Covid in NHS Tayside last week reached its highest point since mid-February, with numbers rising eight-fold within a month despite the progress of the vaccine programme.

Despite having the highest Covid rate in the country, Dundee still has one of the lowest vaccination rates. Only 79% of adults in Dundee have had at least one dose, compared to the Scottish average of 86%.

It’s against this alarming backdrop that Labour has called for the military to get involved in Scotland’s vaccine rollout efforts.

“Nothing should be off the table when it comes to getting the spread of the virus under control” says North East Scotland MSP Michael Marra.

“Ministers should look at deploying troops for door-to-door knock-ups to trace the virus and encourage people to get the jag.

“If necessary we should look at vaccinating people in their homes and on their doorsteps to raise the vaccination levels.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar spoke out in support of the Aberdeen Nine on a visit to the city's Victoria Park last month.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is doubling down on criticism of Nicola Sturgeon’s handling of the recent surge in cases, and wants to use a scheduled Holyrood recall later this month to hold the government to account.

“It is becoming clearer by the day that the virus is spinning out of control in Scotland. Right now we should be ramping up efforts to contain the virus, but instead the SNP cut corners on Test and Protect and let the vaccine roll-out stall.”

Glasgow MSP Sarwar claims the government has allowed test and protect efforts to slack off, by reducing the window for contact tracing from five days to 48 hours; making interviews less comprehensive; relying on SMS messages instead of phone calls; stopping all secondary contact tracing and halting checks on passengers arriving from Amber List countries.

“Parliament needs to be recalled urgently so Ministers can answer questions on this growing crisis

“We need a plan now for dealing with this. The government cannot afford to take their eye off the ball at this crucial moment” Mr Sarwar says in a statement.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who has been urged by Labour to put the military on the streets to help tackle Covid.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In response to the recent surge in cases the Scottish Government is opening up more walk-in vaccination centres from July 5; and has allocated an extra £380 million to health boards to meet additional costs.

The Scottish Government was approached for comment.

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