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Coronavirus / Government reiterates ‘stay at home’ message in response to calls for traveller testing

THE SCOTTISH Government has responded to calls for coronavirus testing at entry points to Shetland and Orkney by saying the “best way to stop the spread” of Covid is to stay at home as much as possible.

The government faced calls from the Northern Isles’ three political representatives in December to consider testing people flying and sailing into Shetland and Orkney.

This also reflects opinion of many in the community who feel testing travellers is the best way forward.

Under current level three restrictions only essential travel is permitted into Shetland, such as for work which cannot be done from home.

On Friday developers of the Viking Energy wind farm and transmission link projects confirmed that all workers arriving into Shetland would be tested.

Shetland has experienced an outbreak of Covid which stemmed back to the North Mainland just before Christmas.

When asked by Shetland News for a response to the calls for entry point testing, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government – which holds the power to introduce it – said:

“To suppress the spread of Covid-19 it is essential that, with limited exception, there is no travel except for essential purposes – this applies to both Shetland and Orkney,” they said.

“Clearly the best way to stop the spread of the virus and for people to stay safe, is to stay at home and work from home as much as possible.”

They also pointed to police having powers to enforce any travel breaches, while they said the government has worked closely with transport providers to ensure adherence to the rules.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said entry point testing runs the risk of someone testing negative even though they may later turn out to be positive, and mixing in the community.

He also warned that people could also become complacent with guidance if they were to test negative.

Dickson said sticking to the FACTS guidance around face coverings, social distancing and hand hygiene is the key way to limit the spread of the virus.

The only way of ensuring people arriving in Shetland is Covid free is for them to isolate upon arrival, he added.

It comes after Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart and her Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur wrote to Scottish ministers before Christmas asking them to explore options for entry point testing.

They said there was a suggestion that testing people arriving into Orkney and Shetland “would add another layer of protection to island areas”.

The politicians, however, said they understood that testing “would not be a solution in and of itself to preventing the spread of the virus”.

Last week it was announced that international passengers would have to test negative for Covid before travelling to the UK.

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman, meanwhile, said this morning that all people in Scotland aged 80 or over should be vaccinated by the end of the month.

NHS Shetland is due to start using the AstraZeneca vaccine, the second to be approved for use in the UK, from this week.

A further five cases of coronavirus in Shetland were confirmed over the weekend.