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Coronavirus / Isles well placed to be case study for mass Covid-19 testing, says councillor

A LOCAL councillor believes Shetland could be well placed to act as a case study for the mass testing of people for coronavirus to help inform the government when it looks to relax its ‘lockdown’ arrangements.

SIC education and families committee chairman George Smith.
Councillor George Smith.

South mainland member George Smith called on Shetland Islands Council, NHS Shetland and local MSP Beatrice Wishart to raise the suggestion with the Scottish Government.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Smith said that it is “obvious that the UK Government – and the Scottish Government – are struggling with an exit strategy from the lockdown arrangements”.

He said the key to relaxing some of the measures in the short-term is testing of the population.

“Ultimately it will be a vaccine and/or drugs to treat patients,” Smith said on his councillor Facebook page.

“I think Shetland is well placed to be a case study for mass testing. Testing facilities are soon to be available here in Lerwick.

“We should be putting forward a case to the Scottish Government that there should be mass testing of the population of Shetland and contact tracing.

“This may require additional resources to be deployed here but it would give the government excellent information about the extent of the spread of the virus including how many people have had it but shown little or no symptoms.

“This information could then inform how to ease the current restrictions.”

Smith said the advantage of this being done in a place like Shetland is that “we are an island community and able to control to a large extent who comes into the islands and also with a population of 23,000 it is sufficiently large for a decent sample but not too large to be unmanageable resource wise”.

He has received support from some of his fellow councillors, with North Mainland member Emma Macdonald saying “it is clear we need to have some type of exit strategy eventually and Shetland would be well placed to be a test case for this”.

Lerwick councillor John Fraser added that Smith has made a “powerful case”.