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Coronavirus / Covid testing before travel an ‘additional measure’ in protecting islands, health chief says

Businesses in Shetland are ‘ready to offer a warm welcome back to our international visitors when the time is right’, tourism leader adds

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson has warned that testing alone does “not remove the risk of Covid” – with vaccination and FACTS guidance still key components of keeping people safe.

He was speaking after first minister Nicola Sturgeon encouraged people visiting Scottish islands, like Shetland, to undergo two lateral flow tests before travelling.

It comes as rules on travelling ease on Monday (26 April), allowing tourists to visit the isles and locals to head the other way to the Scottish mainland.

“Testing shouldn’t be the only consideration for those travelling, we still need to encourage vaccination and for us all to stick with the FACTS,” Dickson said.

“No one should be travelling if they have any Covid symptoms.

“We don’t want people to see the option of carrying out a test as a barrier but rather an additional measure that may help in the ongoing efforts to protect our community.

“We would like to ask those moving on and off our islands to do so responsibly and safely.”

Dickson reiterated that unlike for international travel, this test was voluntary.

“Covid has been very hard on island communities and anyone travelling to the islands must be sensitive to the protection level restrictions that are in place and take every precaution they can to prevent spreading Covid.”

People can order rapid lateral flow tests for delivery to their home anywhere in the UK and they should arrive within 24-48 hours.

The suggestion is that the test is done three days before travel and then again on the day of departure.

Should one of the party test positive they should self-isolate and delay travel until it is safe to continue their journey.

Liberal Democrat election candidate Beatrice Wishart, who called for Covid testing for travellers at departure points when she was Shetland’s MSP, welcomed the news.

“Evidence has consistently shown the importance of widespread and regular testing has at adding a layer of protection for communities,” she said.

Sights like this are on offer for people visiting Shetland from late April onwards.

Promote Shetland, meanwhile, is one of nearly 280 Scottish businesses and organisations virtually exhibiting at VisitScotland’s Scotland Reconnect 2021 event later this month.

The event aims to link Scotland with tour operators and travel agents from around the world.

Promote Shetland manager David Nicol said: “We hope to provide value at Scotland Reconnect 2021 by answering questions about Shetland, and readiness for tourism to return.

“Beyond this, we are also seeking to learn about the evolving requirements and expectations from the sector so that we can factor this into our own ongoing plans.”

Local VisitScotland development manager Steve Mathieson said: “VisitScotland supports tourism businesses in Shetland in their aspirations to internationalise and to attract more business and income from international markets as travel restrictions are eased in 2021 and as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond.

“The last 12 months have been extremely challenging for everyone but we had a good regional turnout to the inaugural event in November and feedback was very positive.

“Demand is building around the world and tourism businesses in Shetland are ready to offer a warm welcome back to our international visitors when the time is right.

“Scottish tourism punches above its weight on the world stage and we need to leverage this reputation to bring new investment, new events, new airlines and new visitors once visitors can travel freely in 2021/22 again.”