Nicola Sturgeon John Swinney Catherine Calderwood Jeane Freeman Britain Scotland virus covid-19 recommendations pandemic Government NHS Health Nicola Sturgeon John Swinney Catherine Calderwood Jeane Freeman Britain Scotland

Former Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman says country 'could have been better prepared' for Covid

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Scotland's pandemic Health Secretary has said the country "could have been better prepared" for Covid.In a stop-start hearing at the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, Jeane Freeman admitted there were areas in which NHS Scotland could have been more ready for the pandemic.But she added there was not a plan that "would have been able to cope" with the virus.Freeman also said Tory austerity measures had an impact on the health service and claimed that Scotland never ran out of personal protective equipment (PPE).She was attending the hearing remotely on Wednesday afternoon.

The first half an hour of the hearing had several breaks as Freeman's internet connection cut out several times during questioning.

Former Scottish Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood, who resigned after breaking her own Covid rules, had also been due to answer questions but her hearing was postponed on Wednesday morning.Former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and former Deputy First Minister John Swinney will speak at the inquiry on Thursday.Ex-MSP Freeman served as Health Secretary in the Scottish Government between 2018 and 2021.She was asked by lawyer Kate Blackwell if "lessons hadn't been heeded, plans hadn't been updated, assumptions remained unchallenged and Scotland was not as prepared as it could have been."Freeman replied: "There were certainly areas where Scotland could have been better prepared in terms of the underlying structure and the delivery of all those recommendations, but Scotland's like other countries around the world, was dealing with a virus, which was unknown and new."So in that sense, I don't believe there is a plan that would have been able, in and of itself, to cope with COVID-19."Freeman also said Tory austerity in the build-up to

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