Following a day of rumour and counter-rumour in the construction industry, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was forced to issue a denial that work would resume on building work on major projects next Monday.

Construction firm staff with a variety of projects were talking of work resuming then, with intense social distancing controls, such as visiting consultants from the mainland having to be tested for coronavirus - and coming up negative - before flying to the Islands.

However, following enquiries from the industry, CnES stated this evening: "Following the issue of guidance by the Scottish Government on 1 May 2020 specifically referring to the construction sector, the Comhairle and HHP would wish to confirm that construction activity associated with the Lochmaddy Pier, the Stornoway Primary School, the Lewis Residential Care (Goathill Development) and the Goathill Affordable Housing projects continues to be suspended."

The Council insisted that "Scottish Government has confirmed that the guidance, originally issued at the beginning of April, remains in place until further notice. 

"Accordingly, the works at the above projects, which are currently not categorised as “essential” under the prevailing circumstances, remain suspended on the same basis.

"Measures have been put in place by the respective Contractors to ensure the sites continue to remain safe and secure for the duration of the suspension.

"In the meantime, the Comhairle and HHP continue to plan with contractors and other partners for a site restart once restrictions are lifted sufficiently to allow this to happen.

"Both organisations will seek to commence works as quickly as possible thereafter but only when they are satisfied that it is safe to do so and that suitable precautions are in place."

Earlier the possibility of kickstarting the local economy by giving housebuilding the green light was suggested by Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron.

Mr Cameron, the Conservative party Shadow Finance Secretary, said:  “The safety of the public must come first and the UK and Scottish Governments are rightly being very cautious about relaxing the lockdown.

“But, looking ahead, we also need to be thinking about how we can start reviving the economy, bearing in mind that here in the Highlands and Islands we are facing the loss of an entire tourism season.

“House-building is already coming back to life south of the border, subject to strict guidance about social distancing, and I would like to see serious thought given to this sector.

"Construction sites in our region tend to be smaller and it may be easier for such workplaces to operate under social distancing guidelines.

“We really want to avoid disparities in the rate of economic recovery across the United Kingdom where we possibly can.”

Angus MacNeil, the isles MP has again redoubled his call to change the policy to test, track and trace rather than go with lockdown alone. Commenting Angus MacNeil said: “We should be testing, tracing and isolating in the islands now as our confirmed Covid-19 numbers are so low and we can keep them low with test, trace and isolate. It is argued that Test Trace Isolate can't work in other places because the reinfection rate is so high. Fortunately in the Hebrides we still have the ideal situation to stay ahead of the virus by testing and tracing.

“The policy of lockdown alone without knowing what Covid-19 is doing in our communities, is not a sustainable policy. We have already seen in Skye what lockdown alone, without testing, has resulted in. A sad and shocking 54 case outbreak and this is only what has been found at a care home, who knows what the wider numbers will be.

“We surely now have to move to a position where we are chasing the virus and not waiting for the virus to come to us. Testing, tracing and isolating is the alternative, it will determine whether we have coronavirus around us and what we need to do to make sure we get rid of it. Or it will tell us if we can lift lockdown.  At the moment we are blind and we do not want to wait until we have an outbreak as we have sadly seen in Skye, we do need to change the policy now. I have written to the Health Secretary and await a response.

“We have outstanding offers from the Faroese government and a private company to add to our testing capabilities. I have been trying to find out from the NHS Western Isles whether they are using the current testing capacity to its maximum and if not then why not. They are currently telling me they are “awaiting guidance” with regards to a testing policy change.

“Everything else is in place, we just need a pen lifted to change the policy so that the Health Board will bring about a change to testing in the islands so that we can all have some confidence as to what is going on with coronavirus.

“Sitting tight for coronavirus is a risky and failing policy, we can’t continue with this any longer.”