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Screening for possible breast, cervical and bowel cancer has been suspended in Scotland for up to 12 weeks in what the First Minister Nicola Surgeon said had been a ‘very difficult’ decision.
A further six people in Scotland have died from the coronavirus with the death toll in the country now standing at 47, she told a live news conference in Edinburgh this afternoon.
The decision to temporarily suspend tests for cancer had been made on the basis of clinical advice from the Chief Medical Officer and a recommendation by NHS National Services Scotland, she said.
‘As you can imagine, this is not a decision we have taken lightly. However, it is important to maximise the ability of the NHS to cope within the coming weeks,’ said Mrs Sturgeon.
‘It’s not an easy decision and I want to repeat that, but the balance of risk supports the approach we are taking.
‘If you detect any symptoms of the conditions we normally screen for, if you notice a lump in your breast for example, then you should contact your GP immediately. We will restart the screening programmes we have paused as soon as we can. This is a temporary suspension and will be reviewed after 12 weeks or earlier.’
Elective surgery for knee and hip replacements has already been suspended to create more capacity in under-stretched hospitals.
In terms of coronavirus, she said there has been an increase in 179 cases since yesterday bringing the total to 1,563.
A total of 108 people are in intensive care with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, the briefing at St Andrew’s House, Edinburgh was told.
There had been six more deaths taking the total in Scotland to 47.
She also confirmed that the Glasgow SEC will become a temporary hospital within the next fortnight.
It will provide 300 extra beds with capacity for more than 1,000, although she emphasised that she hoped they would not all be needed.
‘I want to stress that this will be an NHS hospital staffed and operated by the national health service,’ she said.
There are 13,000 NHS beds across Scotland with 3,000 being made available for COVID-19 patients and plans to ‘quadruple’ intensive care capacity.
Meanwhile, Police Scotland has confirmed it issued 25 fixed penalty notices over the weekend for people refusing to abide by restrictions on gathering and social distancing, with Strathclyde Country Park seeing queues of traffic.