Worry for island residents as Covid-19 cluster on Barra grows following allegations of an illegal Hogmanay party.

Residents on the island of Barra were advised by NHS Western Isles on Saturday, that the total number of positive cases now stands at 27 with 110 close contacts self isolating having been identified by Track and Trace.

By John A. MacInnes
Sunday, 17th January 2021, 9:37 am
Updated Sunday, 17th January 2021, 3:07 pm
Worry is growing among Barra residents, as is the Covid cluster on the island.
Worry is growing among Barra residents, as is the Covid cluster on the island.

These numbers, which look set to grow further, now account for a large section of the population on the island.

Residents are being asked not to use cash machines, and to only leave home for essential shopping if they have to in an attempt to slow down transmission.

The Gazette has received information that a common factor related to this cluster has been identified by the track and trace system and is alleged to have been an illegally held Hogmanay party on the island which breached guidelines on numbers of households meeting up indoors.

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A spokesman for NHSWI said: “An Incident Management Team (IMT) meeting was held on Saturday, January 16 to discuss the escalating situation with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak on Barra.

“These figures already represent a significant proportion of the Barra population and outlines the importance of compliance with restrictions and safety measures to ensure that the virus does not spread further throughout the community.

“NHS Western Isles wishes to stress the vital importance that individuals with symptoms, regardless of how mild, self isolate IMMEDIATELY and arrange a test. Please do not assume that any symptoms are that of a cold or other winter virus - it is absolutely imperative that anyone with symptoms self isolates and books a test to prevent any potential further spread of the virus.

“Be vigilant for all symptoms, in particular loss or change of taste or sense of smell (which has been a common factor in this outbreak). Please also be vigilant for any new respiratory symptoms or any new illness and arrange a test if concerned.

“We would also alert individuals across Barra to the potential risks of using items of high levels of contact (e.g. cash machine). We would advise the use of cards where possible. Where this is not possible, use hand sanitizer before and after using the cash machine, as well as disinfectant wipes before and after use where possible.

“We would remind individuals to avoid regular trips to the supermarket and keep shopping trips to a minimum and as necessary. Shop alone, wear a mask at all times and hand sanitise before and after shopping. Respect other shoppers/shop workers by ensuring you maintain a two metre distance from others at all times.

“To access testing, contact 01851 601151 or e-mail [email protected] Please leave a message on the answering machine with your details if you do not get a response and your call will be returned. Alternatively contact NHS24 on 111.”

A Police spokesperson said: “We have not received any complaints and would encourage anyone with any information to contact Police via 101.

“Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and guidance, and encourage compliance, only using enforcement as a last resort.

“We will continue with that approach, but we will not hesitate to use enforcement action where it is necessary.

“The Chief Constable has made it clear that we are asking people to take personal responsibility to do the right thing and remember the purpose of these measures is to aid the collective effort to stay safe, protect others and save lives by preventing the virus from spreading.”

The Gazette reached out to NHSWI for clarification, but at the time of going to press had not yet received a response.