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Coronavirus / Travellers to isles encouraged to take Covid tests before heading north

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Scottish Government.

ANYONE travelling to Scotland’s islands once restrictions lift on Monday (26 April) are being encouraged to have self-administered Covid tests before they travel, first minister Nicola Sturgeon says.

People are asked to take a lateral flow test – which involves taking a swab from the nose or throat – twice before heading to an island, such as Shetland.

They should take one three days before travelling, and on the day.

Sturgeon said from Monday 26 April, when tourist travel opens across the country, free lateral flow tests will be available for anyone in Scotland twice a week. They will be able to be ordered online for delivery to the home.

From today (Tuesday), anyone planning travel to the islands next week can order a free home test kit online.

If you are planning to travel to a Scottish island, select ‘yes’ when the site asks if you were asked to get tested by a local authority or by an NHS public health team.

Speaking at a Covid update this afternoon, Sturgeon said the islands – which have a lower prevalence of Covid – will be at risk of importation of the virus when all travel resumes.

She said the tests are “potentially an important way we can minimise the risk of bringing Covid into island communities”. Sturgeon added that more sensitive PCR testing could be used if a lateral flow test returns a positive result.

In her update Sturgeon was quizzed why this testing will not be mandatory.

The first minister referenced ethical considerations and said: “We obviously don’t want to make testing mandatory where we can avoid it.”

She said lateral flow testing is part of the government’s overall approach to keeping people safe.

Chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said he was “quite confident” that people travelling to the islands will be happy to take the tests.

Sturgeon also confirmed that further changes will come into effect when the country moves into modified level three restrictions on Monday.

As previously reported all travel between Shetland and the Scottish mainland will reopen.

Shetland Islands Council said from Monday people will be able to travel on public transport for non-essential reasons, including ferries to the islands.

Hospitality venues will be allowed to serve alcohol outdoors, which has been off limits since Christmas. However, no alcohol can be served indoors.

The attendance limit for funerals and weddings – and related events such as receptions – will increase to 50.

Shetland has been under level three restrictions since Boxing Day, with mainland Scotland under level four.

The hope is for the whole of Scotland to move to level two on 17 May, under which household visits would be allowed in limited numbers.

The expectation is for the country to then move to level one on 7 June, and level zero in late June.

Later in the summer should feel “something much more like normality”.