THIS is not the start to 2021 that any of us hoped for or envisaged. I know the last-minute change to Christmas restrictions impacted on long-awaited family reunions, and the continued lockdown is tough.

However, there is one thing that has given us all some much needed hope that better times lie ahead – the vaccine.

It is extraordinary that across the UK over 15 million people have now had at least their first dose. That is no mean feat and the vaccinators and GPs, who are working around the clock to protect us, deserve our utmost thanks and gratitude.

Scotland’s roll-out of the vaccine has not been without problems, with many people not receiving invites when they should and the programme being behind schedule.

I understand that there were local supply issues, which have been resolved, but national supplies are now a problem.

READ MORE: Covid vaccine: Third of NHS Highland adults receive first dose

I know that once supplies were received, our local GPs and vaccine centres wasted no time in ensuring these vaccines went straight into arms. However, vaccinations alone will not beat this virus. It is vitally important that we have a robust and widespread asymptomatic testing strategy.

The new variants of the virus such as those originating in Kent and South Africa – and the threat that they pose to the effectiveness of our vaccines – should be the motivation needed to urgently ramp up Scotland’s testing strategy.

We already have the capacity but it is largely unused. Other parts of the UK have large community testing programmes in place where anyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms, can be tested for the virus. There is even door-to-door testing taking place in parts of England.

We know that many positive cases came from individuals who have no symptoms at all. We can’t possibly contain it if we don’t know where it is.

The Scottish Government must take full advantage of our testing capacity. It is simply nonsense that less than a third of our capacity is used, when all the experts tell us that a robust test and trace system is needed to stop the spread of the virus.

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