SNP health minister criticised for ‘appallingly misleading’ child Covid claims

Humza Yousaf shares regrets over use of figures – saying he did not mean to cause ‘undue alarm’

Adam Forrest
Friday 04 June 2021 18:21
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<p>Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf</p>

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf

Scotland’s heath secretary Humza Yousaf has apologised for causing alarm after claiming young children had been hospitalised “because of Covid”.

The SNP minister was accused by his political opponents of making an “appalling misleading” statement about hospitalisations, claiming he had spread panic among families.

“My main message was to urge caution, not to cause any undue alarm, I regret if that was the case,” Mr Yousaf tweeted on Friday.

On Wednesday the health secretary claimed that 10 children in Scotland – aged zero to nine – had been admitted to hospital last week “because of Covid”.

But it later emerged that the number included young children who had Covid-19 last week, but may have been hospitalised for unrelated reasons.

“This language from Humza Yousaf has now been proven to be completely misleading by his own government’s data,” said the Scottish Tories’ health spokesperson, Annie Wells.

“His comments were alarming and a terrible example of scaremongering during a health crisis … he’s started his new role with an appalling misleading statement.”

The Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said parents “have enough to worry about right now over lost school days, SQA assessments and economic uncertainty without causing undue alarm”.

Mr Yousaf – moved from his role as justice secretary to the health brief following the SNP’s recent Holyrood election victory – had used the hospitalisation figures as he warned families against travelling between different parts of the Scotland.

“The risk of someone who travelled from a level two area into a level one area and who took their children into a soft play area could lead to the hospitalisation of children,” he told BBC Radio Scotland on Wednesday.

After the minister’s comments raised alarm, medics moved to reassure families by pointing out that children’s wards had not seen any significant rise in admissions due to Covid-19.

Dr Steve Turner, registrar for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “We are not seeing any evidence of an increase in paediatric admissions with Covid. A very small number of admissions who test positive for Covid is what we’d expect.”

On Friday first minister Nicola Sturgeon warned Scotland is at a “critical juncture” in the coronavirus pandemic as she said cases have more than tripled in the past month.

The SNP leader urged caution as Covid restrictions are due to ease across some parts of Scotland on Saturday.

Speaking at a Scottish government’s latest coronavirus briefing, she confirmed Scotland has recorded two deaths of coronavirus patients and 992 new cases in the past 24 hours.

She said there are “strong indications that vaccines are weakening the link between rising case and hospitalisations” – but warned this link has not yet been completely broken and hospital admissions are rising.

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