Scot Gov missing an opportunity by not implementing testing for island travellers

Isles representatives, Beatrice Wishart MSP, Alistair Carmichael MP and Liam McArthur MSP have today urged the Scottish Government to give serious consideration to mass testing at entry points to the Scottish islands after the Scottish Government said no plans were currently in place. 

In a response to a letter sent by the Isles representatives before Christmas, the Scottish Government made no commitment or consideration to testing for people travelling to the islands. 

The response comes a week after the National Clinical Director, Jason Leitch, said that the islands like Orkney and Shetland should be protected from importation from the Scottish mainland.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: 

“Both the Scottish Government and the UK Government have now started quarantine and testing measures at airports. Testing at the island entry points works to a similar logic. 

“Two weeks back the National Clinical Director agreed that we should be protecting low prevalence of the virus that we are currently heading towards. Therefore, I find it perplexing that the Scottish Government hasn’t provided a detailed response to this issue in our letter.

“As we start to learn about lifting lockdown measures the need for testing on top of a successful vaccine rollout is incredibly important to keep numbers low and any new variants out. The Scottish Government should seriously look at what we have been asking and come to a swift conclusion.

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:

“Two weeks ago, both the National Clinical Director and Cabinet Secretary, Michael Russell indicated during a meeting of Covid committee that options for mass testing at entry options to the islands was being considered and explored further.

“It’s therefore disappointing that the Transport Secretary is now unable to offer any confirmation that the proposal will be taken forward.  This is a missed opportunity to implement testing measures that could help reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for the easing of some restrictions in lower risk areas.

“I will continue to urge Ministers to rethink their decision and not simply go through the motions before rejecting these sensible proposals.”

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said:

“Scottish ministers have been quick to criticise other governments over lax travel rules – it is frustrating that they do not show the same level of interest when it is island communities within Scotland that are looking to reduce the spread. When the National Clinical Director agrees that options to reduce transmission to the isles should be looked at, it is hard to see why the Government is so disengaged from the issue.

“We have been suggesting for months that the Government look seriously at point of entry testing, which could be beneficial from both a community and scientific perspective. If ministers keep sitting on their hands then eventually there may be no benefit left to have.”

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