Islands MSP Alasdair Allan has been asked to look into issues which might specifically affect the Western Isles in the event of an epidemic of the virus COVID-19.
He’s written to the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney MSP, asking for assurances on the continuity of supplies of food and medicines to the Islands if there should be an outbreak of coronavirus in Scotland.
Dr Allan was responding to concerns raised by constituents, who had asked whether issues around food and medicine supplies, and especially around travel to and from the Islands, had been considered in the emergency planning.
He wrote to Mr Swinney on Wednesday (26 February), saying: “I am writing on behalf of several constituents who have contacted me to ask what measures are in place to ensure the continuity of supply for food and medicines to island communities in the event of a viral outbreak in Scotland?
“As you will be aware, the recent media coverage of the spread of the Coronavirus, with the 'highly likely’ event of a case in Scotland, has led those in island communities to raise a concern about potential risks to supply lines and island resilience.”
One of those who has raised the issue is Ruth Davey of Stornoway, who wrote to Dr Allan on Tuesday. She said: “What plans do the Scottish Government have to contain the virus, in particular here on the island, with regards to ensuring the continuation of food supplies and people coming in from the mainland?
“I know that maybe this is not something we all want to talk about but I’d like any details there are if the coronavirus becomes pandemic, which is not out of the question now as the experts are saying we are on the brink of it. I think we need positive advice now from you and the government. We can do the hand washing but that’s not stopping it.”
NHS Western Isles last week published a statement from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, who praised NHS staff for the work they were doing to prepare for a possible outbreak.
Dr Catherine Calderwood said: “Although we have yet to see a positive case in Scotland the NHS has been preparing for the possibility ever since the beginning of this outbreak.
“It is vital that people continue to follow the guidance given. Don’t attend your GP practice or Emergency Department in person. If you have symptoms within 14 days of travelling to the affected areas, phone your GP or NHS 24 (111) immediately for urgent health advice.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a public health emergency of international concern, and in response, the four UK Chief Medical Officers changed the UK risk level from low to moderate.
This does not mean that the risk to individuals has increased, and it does not mean that any additional precautions are necessary. The change reflects the need for governments and the health service to escalate planning and preparation in case of a more widespread outbreak.
The latest numbers of test results are published at 2pm each day on the Scottish Government website here. As of yesterday (27 February), 470 tests had been carried out in Scotland and all had tested negative.