I THINK we can all agree that this is not the start to 2021 that any of us could have hoped for or envisaged.

I know that the last-minute change to Christmas restrictions impacted on long-awaited family reunions and the continued lockdown is tough.

However, there is one thing that has given us all some much needed hope that better times lie ahead – the vaccine.

It is extraordinary that across the UK more than 15 million people have now had at least the first dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccines.

That is no mean feat and the vaccinators and GPs, who are working around the clock to protect us, deserve our utmost thanks and gratitude.

Scotland’s roll-out of the vaccine has not been without problems, with many people not receiving invitations to attend a vaccination session when they should have done and the programme being behind schedule.

I understand that there were local supply issues, which have now been resolved, but national supplies are now a problem.

I know that once supplies were received, our local GPs and vaccine centres wasted no time in ensuring these vaccines went straight into arms.

However, vaccinations alone will not beat this virus.

It is vitally important that we have a robust and widespread asymptomatic testing strategy.

The emergence of new variants of the virus such as those originating in Kent and South Africa – and the threat that they pose to the effectiveness of our vaccines – should be the motivation needed to urgently ramp up Scotland’s testing strategy.

We already have the capacity but it is largely unused.

Other parts of the UK have large community testing programmes in place where anyone, regardless of whether they have symptoms, can be tested for the virus.

There is even door-to-door testing taking place in parts of England.

We know that many positive cases of the virus came from individuals who have no symptoms at all.

We can’t possibly contain it if we don’t know where it is.

The Scottish Government must stop prevaricating and take full advantage of our testing capacity.

It is simply nonsense that less than a third of our testing capacity is used, when all the experts tell us that a robust test and trace system is needed to stop the spread of the virus in the future.