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Coronavirus / Leitch says government is happy to talk through logistics of testing travellers

National clinical director Jason Leitch. Photo: Thomas Lamont

SCOTLAND’s national clinical director says the Scottish Government is “absolutely happy” to talk through the logistics of coronavirus testing for people coming into the Northern Isles.

A meeting is scheduled to take place tomorrow (Friday) in which local representatives will make the case to government ministers for testing at entry points to Orkney and Shetland.

National clinical director Jason Leitch said the technical ability for this type of testing has changed in recent months – and suggested that he is now more open to the idea.

He said the “public advice probably has moved a little”, but he reiterated that testing is not fool proof as it only tells you if you have coronavirus on that day, and not whether you are incubating the virus.

“We’ve got to be careful, and use it for what it is,” Leitch said.

“It would be a layer of protection that we’re absolutely happy to talk through about the logistics and what that would mean.

“But you can see even with the scenario that we’ve set up with airport travel – the number of exemptions, the number of people who seek to avoid that, it gets quite complicated quite quickly.

“So we’ve got to do it carefully and that’s why we’re having the conversation on Friday.”

The idea of testing people coming into the islands has also garnered support from the local branch of the National Farmers’ Union.

A petition started by the Shetland committee gained a total of 725 supporters.

Shetland Islands Council leadership has also raised the idea with the government since last year.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said having a robust testing regime at island entry points could “help to ensure that Shetland can be both open and secure” as restrictions ease.

“This could help give confidence to those who want to travel safely, while adding a layer of reassurance for islanders who are ready to welcome them,” she said.

“It could be a critical safeguard in amongst a wider system. I hope the meeting with the Scottish Government will be the first step towards the introduction of a testing regime which adds that layer of protection.”

Leitch, meanwhile, also said he was “delighted” by Shetland’s vaccination figures.

Latest numbers revealed that almost 9,000 folk have received their first dose so far.

In addition, Shetland has not recorded a new case of coronavirus since early February.