A REPORT which concluded that Inverclyde probably became the coronavirus capital of Scotland by chance has been branded a 'whitewash' by a senior councillor.

SNP group leader Chris McEleny has hit out at the findings of the study into how our district had a COVID-19 death rate nearly three times the national average.

He is now demanding to know why the report — published last week by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde — doesn't explain an assertion that the virus hit Inverclyde earlier than other areas.

It has all but ruled out chronic urban deprivation and a higher than average elderly population as reasons why Covid fatalities here reached such a terrible level, with over 110 deaths.

Councillor McEleny said: "I am disappointed in this report, which many people are rightly calling a whitewash.

"It's simply not good enough to conclude that Inverclyde has been hit harder than any other area due to chance, but then not list a single factor to substantiate what actually introduced the virus into community.

"I do not believe I have ever read a commissioned report that states bad luck as the conclusion of why something has happened."

The Telegraph told at the weekend how the report declares that the 'most likely' explanation for the excess deaths is that the pandemic 'took hold earlier in Inverclyde' compared with elsewhere.

Its authors John O'Dowd, NHS GGC clinical director, and John Burton, public health information manager, acknowledge that socio-economic deprivation 'has a profound effect on COVID-19 related illness and death'.

But they added: "This analysis is challenging to perform at a partnership level due to the smaller numbers involved."

The report — which had input from Inverclyde Council, Inverclyde Health & Social Care Partnership, Public Health Scotland and National Records of Scotland — states: "In the early part of the pandemic, the SMR [standardised mortality ratio] for Inverclyde is far higher than that of NHS GGC but the difference at this point was not statistically significant in comparison with NHS GGC rates.

"We can therefore see that with standardisation for age, sex and deprivation, whilst a higher mortality rate remains, the difference may have arisen by chance."

Councillor McEleny says this explanation raises serious questions.

He said: "If the virus did come to Inverclyde earlier than anywhere else then why was contact tracing not carried out to control it — which would then have told us how it came here earlier?

"If it was just chance that brought the virus to Inverclyde earlier then why was it handled in a manner that meant the mortality rate here is higher than anywhere else in Scotland?

"It is unacceptable to leave these questions unanswered."

Councillor McEleny added: "Five times more people have died in Inverclyde of coronavirus than all of New Zealand combined.

"It's not good enough to just say this is down to bad luck.

"We owe it to people who have tragically lost their lives to find out why exactly our area has suffered so much loss.

"Importantly, we need to learn lessons so that if there is a second wave of the virus or a future outbreak that we can have robust systems in place to protect people in Inverclyde — not just hope that 'chance' is kinder to us."