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.
Ms Wishart said:
“It was very clear from the COVID-19 Committee’s evidence session that we need to scale up, speed up and increase the reliability of testing if we are to reduce the spread of the virus and begin to safely exit lockdown.
“Shetland tests sent to the Mainland for processing can take days to come back with a result. Whilst there are geographical challenges to overcome all avenues must be explored to improve the situation. As both Professor Bauld and the Health Secretary acknowledge, speed of delivery of an accurate result is critical.
“Faroe has been successful in re-purposing equipment and laboratories used to test fish to test for coronavirus. If that could be done in Shetland too, those options should be fully explored.”