Wishart presses for update on Island coronavirus testing capacity

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today (Thursday) sought an update on testing capacity in Scotland’s Islands as the Test and Protect strategy is rolled out across health boards.

During virtual Health questions, Ms Wishart noted that demand for tests will rise significantly with the move to the Test and Protect and strategy. Ms Wishart asked Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, for an update on how local capacity will be increased to meet this demand and given the hurdles to accessing testing in island communities.

The Health Secretary said that an agreement had been reached to use “satellite sites” in the Islands and to ensure that the necessary chemicals and testing kits are available on site. Ms Freeman committed to providing an update to MSPs.

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Northern Isles MSPs seek assurances on island rollout of test and protect

Northern Isles MSPs, Beatrice Wishart and Liam McArthur, have asked the Scottish Government to address the “unique hurdles” that islands communities will face as demand for testing expends with the government’s ‘Test and Protect’ rollout.

The Scottish Government’s contact tracing system will be rolled out nationally later this week. Where confirmed cases of covid-19 are identified, this system will trace contacts so that all those thought to be at risk can self-isolate in order to suppress the spread of the virus.

During her statement yesterday (Tuesday), the First Minister said that tests would be available: “at one of the drive through testing centres or mobile testing units. For some, there will also be the option of a home testing kit.

She also noted that “We will also continue to build testing capacity and make access to testing more locally accessible.”

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22 May: Covid-19 Update

National Updates

 Lockdown

 The First Minister has announced a four phase route map for the easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions. You can read the document here.

Current advice remains unchanged but we will move to Phase 1 of the route map on 28th May if the virus continues to be suppressed. Progress will continue to be assessed every three weeks.

Some of the key phase 1 provisions include:

  • You will be able to meet people from one other household, though initially in small numbers, and at 2 meters distance while you are outside.
  • You will be able to sit or sunbathe in parks and open areas.
  • Some non-contact outdoor leisure activities will be allowed to restart - such as golf, tennis, bowls and fishing - subject to appropriate hygiene and physical distancing.
  • People will be able to travel – preferably by walking or cycling - to a location near their local community for recreation.
  • Non urgent NHS treatment and surgery will gradually restart.

The First Minister also announced that schools are expected to open on 11 August with pupils learning part time in classrooms and at home. Teachers and school staff will return in June to prepare classrooms.

The advice for those who are shielding isn’t changing yet and the government will issue new guidance before 18 June.

More details on expected measures in different sectors are to come.

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Wishart urges HIAL to halt air traffic control centralisation

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has written to HIAL and Ministers to urge the company to halt plans to centralise air traffic control, after a tender for the works was issued before an island impact assessment has been completed.

Ms Wishart wrote in the letter that issuing a tender for the remote towers project before an island impact assessment has been completed “makes a mockery of island proofing” and noted that Ministers and HIAL should reassess the case for the project in light of the impact of coronavirus on the aviation industry. Ms Wishart also highlighted that there has been opposition to the move in all three island local authorities.

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Wishart asks for update on pause to cervical screening programme

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick has confirmed that the Scottish Government is “actively” looking at re-starting cervical screening and other paused programmes following a question from Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

 During virtual health questions, Ms Wishart noted that cervical screening often picks up on cell changes that need treatment before any symptoms show and that the pause to the programme is causing real worry to some women who have had their appointments cancelled. Ms Wishart asked what consideration has been given to re-starting the screening programme since it was paused on 30 March.

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Wishart: Tourism industry needs 12-month support plan

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has called for the UK and Scottish Governments to agree a 12-month support plan for tourism and hospitality to help the industries survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

At a meeting of Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee, Ms Wishart noted that tourism businesses might survive an average of 3 months without support and asked Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing, whether thought has been given with the UK Government to introducing a 12 month support package to tide the tourism and hospitality sector over to the next season.

In response, the Cabinet Secretary acknowledged that problems affecting the industry won’t be over in 3 months’ time or perhaps 12 months’ time but that the specific idea of a 12 month fund hadn’t been considered yet.

Liberal Democrats at Westminster have tabled a motion demanding a 12 month financial support package for the tourism and hospitality industry.

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14 May: COVID-19 Update

National Updates

Lockdown

The changes set out by the Prime Minister during his statement this week only apply to those living in England. Since health is a devolved matter, the Scottish Government continues to set the rules for lockdown across Scotland.

The First Minister announced yesterday that the only change to guidelines in Scotland is to allow people to go outside for exercise more than once a day. That exercise must still be close to home and should not be with anyone from another household.

National Digital Wellbeing Hub

A new national digital wellbeing hub has been launched today. It will help enable health and social care workers and carers to look after their physical and mental health.

It is specifically tailored to support the challenges being faced by everyone in health and social care, the hub will provide advice on self-care and personal resilience to help users to recognise their own ‘warning signs’. Information about services and resources available at national and local level within NHS Boards, Health and Social Care Partnerships (HSCPs) and local authorities will also be available. 

You can access the Hub here.

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Wishart: businesses still missing out on support

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has written to Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, to ask for local flexibility for coronavirus business support to help island businesses still missing out on funding.

In her correspondence, Ms Wishart highlights funding being made available to local authorities in England and suggests that a similar model could be introduced in Scotland. Up to £617m is being made available for English local authorities. The funding is aimed at small businesses with fixed property costs but “allocation of funding will be at the discretion of local authorities.”

 

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Wishart: Explore all options to increase Shetland’s testing capacity

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has today sought clarity about Shetland’s testing capacity, following concerns about samples being sent South and delaying results.

Ms Wishart noted the presence of machines in Shetland for testing fish diseases that are similar to equipment that was used to increase testing capacity in Faroe. Ms Wishart asked the Health Secretary what consideration is being given to using equipment in Shetland in a similar way, and urged her to ensure that all options for adapting and expanding local infrastructure are fully explored.  

In response, the Health Secretary acknowledged that “speed of turnaround” of the samples is “critical for the effectiveness of the approach”, and that using repurposing equipment from other industries was under “active consideration” to support the Scottish Government’s “Test, Trace, Isolate, Support” strategy.

The question followed an evidence session of the COVID-19 Committee today with Sir Harry Burns and Professor Linda Bauld where both witnesses stressed the need to scale up testing to tackle the virus.

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Lib Dems propose creation of multi-level school re-opening framework

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have proposed that the Scottish Government develop and agree a multi-level framework for the safe re-opening of schools, giving teachers, parents and business an expectation of what each phase after lockdown will look like.

New Zealand's 4-level alert system specifies the measures to be taken with respect to schools. They are:

  • Level 4: Educational facilities closed, with all schools engaged in some form of distance learning.
  • Level 3: Schools (years 1 to 10) and early childhood education centres can safely open with appropriate health measures in pace, but will have limited capacity. Children should learn at home if possible, if a parent/carer is available to look after them and provided there they have access to distance learning. Years 11-13 learn from home.
  • Level 2: Schools and early childhood education centres open for all children, with distance learning available for those unable to attend school, such as people self-isolating. Any facility connected to a confirmed or probably case of COVID-19 must close for 72 hours to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.
  • Level 1: Schools open, and must operate safely, with the same tracing and closure arrangements as level 2. 
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