Despite rumours, there is no final decision on 'test before travel' said the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has denied claims that it has given a commitment to introduce coronavirus testing at island points of entry.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 1:47 pm
CalMac are running a pilot programme with Transport Scotland.

Reports had circulated that Scottish ministers had given the commitment at a meeting that took place between island representatives and Mairi Gougeon, the Minister for Public Health and Sport and the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse on Friday.

But, in a statement the Scottish Government has said that “no final decision” has been taken on the issue.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While the Minister for Public Health and Sport and Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands held a constructive meeting with island representatives on Friday, no final decision was taken on island entry point testing as there are practical challenges that still need to be taken into consideration.

“Officials are working with Island Boards and Local Authorities to develop their proposals that address the testing requirements of their communities and we will continue to work with them to develop sustainable, effective testing policies that meet the needs of the communities involved.

“We sympathise with the concerns in island communities about the risks of asymptomatic people travelling from higher prevalence areas and inadvertently being a source of transmission in island contexts.

“We also recognise that there have been calls for testing people travelling to the islands to reduce this risk, however the medical advice on limitations around testing have to also be considered. Testing cannot tell us whether a person is incubating the disease, and so may go on to become infectious after the test.”

NHS Western Isles has said that it had seen a copy of the minutes of the meeting with ministers last Friday and said “it is not the case that there was any commitment given to take entry-point testing forward”.

NHS Western Isles' spokesperson added: “However it has been agreed to have further discussions about the best options around testing for island [Health] Boards, recognising the limitations of testing (i.e. testing cannot tell us if someone is incubating the disease) and that where testing of this sort has been introduced in other international areas, it is carried out in conjunction with self isolation.”

CalMac has confirmed that it was supporting Transport Scotland and NHS Scotland in a ‘Test and Protect’ pilot scheme on its ferry routes at Wemyss Bay, Rothsay, Gourock and Dunoon.

CalMac confirmed that the scheme is voluntary for travellers and is part of the Check In Scotland scheme.

Check In Scotland collects details of people who visit businesses, such as pubs, bars, and restaurants and is designed to work with Test and Protect contact tracing to alert those who may have come into close contact with someone at a business or venue who later tests positive for Covid-19.

In a statement Transport Scotland said that it was working with CalMac Ferries Ltd and Abellio ScotRail to explore whether the same technology used in Check In Scotland for the hospitality industry can be used on public transport.