A virtual meeting tomorrow (Friday 26 February) between MPs, MSPs and Scottish Government ministers is to reconsider the possibility of testing for coronavirus at island entry points in the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney.
It’s the latest round in a campaign led by Shetland and Orkney politicians, who have been lobbying for entry point testing since December last year.
Northern Isles representatives Beatrice Wishart MSP, Liam McArthur MSP and Alistair Carmichael MP have secured a meeting with government ministers Paul Wheelhouse and Mairi Gougeon, at which they plan to raise testing for all travellers before they enter island communities by air or by ferry.
The politicians called for the urgent meeting just a week ago, after receiving what they felt was a disappointing written response to their last request on the topic, sent in December 2020.
Beatrice Wishart said: “(The written response) made no specific commitments, or any details of work that has been done on the issue. This is an issue that the Scottish Government should address seriously and not waive away with a single letter response.”
National clinical director Jason Leitch gave a cautiously positive response to the idea of pre-travel testing for island visitors at last Thursday’s (18 February) meeting of the Covid-19 committee at the Scottish Parliament.
In response to a question from Ms Wishart, he said: “Testing in importation is crucial, whether that is for the Western Isles, Scotland, the UK or further afield, but it is only one part.
“It tells us only that someone does not have the virus on that day—it does not tell us about tomorrow or the day after— so we must be very careful.
“I am entirely comfortable with testing as part of a system, in the same way as we will be doing in schools and care homes as part of a safety system. However, we do not want to think of that testing as allowing behaviour change—it does not.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur said: “While I’m pleased that the national clinical director has agreed to consider these proposals afresh, we can’t keep going back to square one on this matter.
“Mass testing at entry points was suggested to the Scottish Government before Christmas, yet we’re still no clearer on whether or when it will happen.
“We know that these measures will help to reduce the risk of transmission. Therefore, if testing technology allows for it to be a serious option, then the Scottish Government must act with greater urgency and start looking more closely at how it can be introduced.”