Six people have tested positive for coronavirus in an outbreak at a test and trace call centre in North Lanarkshire.
An investigation has now been launched by health officials after US firm Sitel confirmed on Sunday that its call centre in Motherwell has suffered a ‘local outbreak’ of infections.
NHS Lanarkshire said it was aware of a number of ‘potentially linked cases’, and Sitel said it is “urgently investigating” the outbreak with Public Health Scotland.
Dr David Cromie, NHS Lanarkshire consultant in public health medicine, said on Sunday: “We became aware this morning of a number of potentially linked cases of coronavirus in Lanarkshire.
“We instigated some immediate measures to reduce risk and are currently investigating the situation.”
An employee at the call centre has reportedly told Monica Lennon that physical distancing had not been maintained during work breaks and in shared spaces.
The Labour MSP for Central Scotland tweeted: “Have received information from a constituent who works at the Sitel contact centre.
“Said there was a desk between call operatives but social distancing not maintained during breaks and in shared spaces.
“I asked if they felt the working environment was safe. They answered no.”
The news comes as Scotland recorded 23 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, marking the highest increase in almost a month. Three of the recorded cases were in the Lanarkshire health board area.
An NHS Test and Trace spokeswoman said: “We are aware of a local outbreak of Covid-19 at the Sitel site in Motherwell. This is being managed by Sitel and colleagues in NHS Lanarkshire, who are following appropriate test and protect action in line with Scottish Government advice.
“We take the safety and wellbeing of our staff very seriously. Everyone at the site is currently working from home while a deep clean takes place, and will be offered a test within the next 24 hours.”
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, told BBC Good Morning Scotland: “I’m not surprised to hear about a cluster because that’s the way this virus behaves; it’s done that in all the other countries that we have good records for, that getting on for half the cases do occur in outbreaks and some of them can be quite big.
“This is clearly not a particular surprise that we have a cluster of cases in Scotland because we know the virus has not gone away but it’s a bit disappointing we’ve got these two days where we’ve got more than 20 cases because for quite a long time now we’ve been seeing most parts of Scotland recording no new cases at all.”
He added that it is too early to tell whether the jump in cases is due to the easing of lockdown measures, and said that carrying out more testing will also pick up more cases.