Isles representatives, Alistair Carmichael MP, Beatrice Wishart MSP and Liam McArthur MSP have called for the Government to explore options for mass testing at points of entry to the Scottish islands. Writing to the Scottish health ministers, the Orkney and Shetland MP and MSPs suggested that the deployment of testing at the Channel ports could guide the introduction of improved controls to prevent further coronavirus outbreaks in island communities.
Commenting on the letter, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said:
“If there is a case for mass testing at the Channel ports then surely it is also worth exploring to prevent further outbreaks in the isles. We ought to have a geographic advantage in stopping the spread of Covid but without wider testing on ferries and flights we have seen recurring outbreaks in Shetland. If the new variant is as serious as it appears then it could cause a lot of damage in a small community like ours – better if we can stop it before it arrives.”
Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said:
“As testing technology continues to improve, it’s important that consideration is given to how this could be effectively utilised, including for travel to and from island communities.
“While Professor Leitch made clear to me during a meeting of the Covid Committee this morning that he doesn’t believe we’re quite at this stage yet, he did accept the case for continuing to explore this option.
“On that basis, the Scottish Government should commit to keeping this proposal under review, including learning from the experience of the testing taking place in Dover. Anything that can help reduce the risk of transmission while allowing for the easing of restrictions deserves proper consideration.”
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael added:
“Island communities across Scotland could benefit from greater certainty and protection from outbreaks if we put in place testing at ferry terminals and airports. I hope that the Government will take these proposals seriously as it cannot be long before we see the new variant of Covid spreading quickly across the country. The isles often have geographic challenges relative to the rest of the UK – this is an opportunity to make use of our geographic advantages.”