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Community / Community council calls for Covid testing of construction workers

Work on building the access track for the Kergord converter station pictured last year. Photo: Shetland News

TINGWALL, Whiteness and Weisdale community council has expressed its disappointment after receiving no assurances from Viking Energy and SSEN Transmission that construction workers will be Covid-tested ahead of travelling to Shetland.

Concerns were raised during a virtual meeting of the Viking liaison group on Tuesday evening.

Community councillors said bringing in hundreds of construction workers to build the Viking Energy wind farm, the converter station at Kergord plus cable infrastructure for the subsea interconnector, poses the “huge risk” of inadvertently introducing the virus to Shetland.

In a letter to Shetland News, the community council said: “Forty per cent of Covid infections are believed to be asymptomatic, so not testing is a huge risk.

Letters: Not testing construction workers a ‘huge risk’

“We are lucky in that Shetland is a bubble that is a bit easier to protect than other parts of the country and I think that SSE need to recognise that they have a responsibility to help protect that bubble.

“If SSE really do believe that the wellbeing of the local community comes first then they need to show a much stronger commitment to it.”

The companies behind the project have so far rejected demands to test those brought in, saying that all government guidance was strictly followed as the wellbeing of their workforce and the local communities were their number one priority.

This position was repeated at Tuesday’s meeting, and reiterated in a joint statement by SSEN Transmission and Viking Energy Wind Farm on Thursday morning.

It said: “All work procedures will be extensively risk assessed and measures put in place to ensure that all work is in line with the latest Government and industry guidance in relation to coronavirus.

“This includes travel to and from the construction site, welfare provision, social distancing procedures and additional hygiene measures and use of PPE.

“As the impact of coronavirus and associated guidance continues to evolve, and as construction activities gradually ramp up, we will keep this under constant review.”

At the height of the construction works, expected to be in 2022, as many 250 construction workers will work on the different elements of the £1.3 billion project.

The Viking Liaison Group brings together the main contractors and the four community council areas affected by the wind farm construction, and is meant to meet every three months.

At the moment these meeting are not open for the public to attend, but Tingwall, Whiteness and Weisdale Community Council said it is keen to have that changed to allow for maximum transparency.