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Ross-shire MSP Gail Ross issues plea to Scottish Government to boost Covid-19 testing capacity in area; North constituents concerned fragile communities exposed to coronavirus while schools and tourism in full flow

By Hector MacKenzie

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Gail Ross MSP: Appeal for action on testing capacity in the far north.
Gail Ross MSP: Appeal for action on testing capacity in the far north.

A ROSS-SHIRE SNP MSP has called on the Scottish Government to improve access to Covid-19 testing for people living in her patch.

Gail Ross said: "I’ve been receiving worrying reports from throughout the constituency that people cannot access testing and it has been confirmed that home testing kits, at present, cannot be used in remote rural areas.

“I have written to the Scottish Government today to ask that a priority is given to protect our remote and rural communities who cannot gain easy and timely access to testing at present.”

The member for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross acknowledged Scottish Government plans to create 12-minute testing response times, using new technology.

She has asked for clarification as to when this technology will be widely available, stressing that is needed by "our remote rural healthcare providers".

She has asked if there are plans in place to allow this testing to be incorporated into community settings, such as GP surgeries in rural areas.

She said she had been made aware of incidents elsewhere where people are being told that they will need to wait 100 days until a test can be made available to them, stating: "I do not feel that this is acceptable.

"Whilst I appreciate that home testing kit delivery does pose a logistical challenge to some, I am concerned that investment and careful planning are desperately needed to ensure that if local testing stations are not viable, home testing can be effective for our remote rural communities. There are a significant number of my constituents who are concerned that their fragile communities are being exposed to potential infection while schools and tourism are fully operational; without access to testing the knock on impact on both health and the economy in these communities could be severe and I would urge the Scottish Government to act swiftly to address the situation."

Last month, NHS Scotland agreed a £6.76 million deal to purchase new machines capable of turning around coronavirus tests in 12 minutes.

It was announced UK-based life sciences company LumiraDx would supply 300 rapid testing machines as well as a minimum of 500,000 tests.

Test strips for the small portable machines will be made at the company’s facility in Stirling.

The LumiraDx Platform instruments can be used anywhere and have been designed to meet needs in more remote locations making them ideal for local clinics or mobile units in Scotland’s rural and island communities, it was reported at the time.

Because the instruments connect to a cloud system, outbreaks of Covid-19 can be tracked quickly by health authorities playing a vital role in Scotland’s Test and Protect strategy.

Related: Another Highland secondary pupil contracts virus

A dozen new cases in NHS Highland area

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