Northern Isles representatives demand meeting to force consideration of testing at island entry points

Isles representatives, Beatrice Wishart MSP, Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP have today called for an urgent meeting with the Scottish Government so that serious consideration can be given to mass testing at entry points to the Scottish islands.

The call for a meeting comes after a written response was received from the Scottish Government, to the parliamentarians’ pre-Christmas correspondence, and which made no specific commitments or any details of work that has been done on the issue.

At the COVID-19 Committee this morning, the National Clinical Director, Professor Jason Leitch, stated in response to questions from Shetland’s MSP Beatrice Wishart that testing in importation is crucial in managing the pandemic, and committed to “consider it afresh”.

Ms Wishart said:

“While our guard must never drop, the prevalence in Shetland is currently low. It is now imperative that we protect Shetland from further outbreaks and testing on people arriving can provide another protective layer in that.

“As Scotland’s focus moves to slowly finding our way back to normal, the point of testing those coming to Shetland becomes more important. This is an issue that the Scottish Government should address seriously and not waive away with a single letter response.

“I hope the Scottish Government will meet with us quickly as well as seriously engage with other stakeholders on this issue. Letting this opportunity sail away would be mistake on the part of the Government.”

Commenting, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:

“While I’m pleased that the National Clinical Director has agreed to consider these proposals afresh, we can’t keep going back to square one on this matter.

“Prevalence of the virus remains thankfully low in Orkney, but we can’t afford to let opportunities to keep it that way just pass us by.  Mass testing at entry points was suggested to the Scottish Government before Christmas, yet, we’re still no clearer on whether or when it will happen.

“We know that these measures will help to reduce the risk of transmission.  Therefore, if testing technology allows for it to be a serious option, then the Scottish Government must act with greater urgency and start looking more closely at how it can be introduced.”

Alistair Carmichael MP added:

“We know to our cost in the isles that a new outbreak can spread quickly around the community – while cases are low it is the right time to consider measures to prevent another wave of the virus.

“With mass testing ramping up elsewhere it would be common sense to apply it to points of entry to the isles – if the Scottish Government believes that this is not a priority then they should tell islanders so directly.”

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