Public health measures implemented by the Public Health Scotland (PHS) Incident Management Team (IMT) successfully limited the spread of the strain of COVID-19 that originated at a conference in Edinburgh in February 2020.

On the 2nd March 2020, PHS were alerted by international public health authorities that a person had tested positive for COVID-19, following their attendance at a conference in Edinburgh at the end of February.

As a result, PHS set up and led an IMT of highly experienced public health professionals, from NHS Boards in Scotland and national and international public health agencies, to ensure all conference attendees were contacted and given appropriate public health advice. This included advice regarding self-isolation and contact tracing of any attendee showing symptoms of COVID-19.

The IMT undertook analysis of molecular sequencing of the strains of the virus in Scotland, including the strain associated with the conference. At yesterday’s Scottish Government daily briefing the CMO outlined the genetic work being undertaken by scientists in Scotland. The CMO explained that genomic sequencing had shown that the specific viral lineage associated with the conference had been eradicated in Scotland by the end of March.

Whilst it was one of the first strains identified in Scotland, the Edinburgh conference was one of numerous introductions of different strains into Scotland around that time.

The CMO announcement came ahead of the publication by Glasgow University of genomic epidemiology relating to the Edinburgh conference. PHS welcome this study, the findings of which concur with its own work.

Dr Jim McMenamin, Incident Director for COVID-19, Public Health Scotland said:

"There is increasing confidence that the Edinburgh conference strain has not made a significant contribution to the overall burden of COVID-19 in the Scottish population. Evidence suggests the strain associated with the conference accounted for only a minority of the detections in Scotland."

"We are continuing to monitor Scottish, UK and international whole genome sequencing analysis to provide any evidence of reintroduction of the strain from other countries. This continues to demonstrate that there has been no detection of the strain of COVID-19 from the Scottish population in the period from end March to the beginning of June."

Angela Leitch, Chief Executive of Public Health Scotland said:

"The public health measures implemented by the IMT have been successful in controlling the spread of this specific strain. Their investigation of the incident and follow up action has helped to protect the health of our nation."

"We will publish the IMT Response Report in due course, but the work undertaken and shared publically this week shows that the actions taken by the IMT in controlling transmission of the viral strain were successful."

Last updated: 06 October 2022