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Rural fire stations in Ross-shire set to play part in Covid testing after Highland trials; Ullapool, Lochcarron and Gairloch amongst sites confirmed as Scottish Fire and Rescue Service boosts Scottish Government effort


By Hector MacKenzie

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COVID testing is set to be rolled out to a number of rural fire station sites in several Ross-shire communities following the success of trials elsewhere.

The Scottish Government is preparing to expand access to a further 21 stations in rural areas of Scotland after the success of trials at Thurso and Lochgilphead fire stations.

Testing began in Dunoon and Campbeltown on Tuesday. The remainder of the sites, including those in Ross-shire, which will either provide on-site testing or tests that can be taken away and returned via priority post box, will open over the next few weeks.

The areas which are to benefit from more convenient access to testing include: Ullapool, Lochcarron, Gairloch, Dornoch, Portree, Broadford, Fort William, Kingussie, Grantown-on-Spey, Fort Augustus, Acharacle, Lairg, Tongue, Rothesay, Tarbert (Loch Fyne), Cove (Loch Long), Arrochar, Dunoon and Campbeltown.

The remainder of the sites, which will either provide on-site testing or tests that can be taken away and returned via priority post box will open over the next few weeks.

People within driving or walking distance of these locations who have Covid symptoms will be able to book test slot at the stations by calling NHS Highland on 01463 706015.

If people drive to the site they can take the test themselves on-site and leave it for collection by a courier that day, alternatively people can also collect a test kit for someone else and bring it back for courier collection. Some sites will operate a pick-up only model where tests can be returned the same day using a nearby priority post box.

In addition to hosting the testing sites, the SFRS will provide logistical support, including test ordering and storage of samples ahead of courier collection.

Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon said: “I’m pleased to announce the expansion of our fire station testing programme, which will make it far easier for people in these areas to get tested. I am very grateful to the SFRS, Argyll and Bute Council, Highland Council, and NHS Highland for their support to make this expansion possible, following the success of our initial trial.

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring people with COVID symptoms can easily access a test no matter where they are in the country, and we will continue to work with the UK Government and local partners to improve access to COVID testing in remote and rural areas.”

Assistant Chief Officer Stuart Stevens, director of service delivery for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said:"We are pleased that the success of the initial trial in Thurso and Lochgilphead now means that many more fire stations can assist rural communities to access Covid-19 tests closer to home.

"Our staff have shown a real commitment to providing this service, whilst maintaining a capability to respond to emergencies, and I want to personally thank them for their ongoing efforts.We will continue to support the Scottish Government, our partners and communities wherever possible through this pandemic.”

Highlands and Islands MSP Maree Todd said: “This expansion is a significant step forward in improving rural access to Covid-19 testing.I’m pleased to see so many of the remote areas I represent included in the latest expansion. This will make a huge difference to my constituents who would otherwise have to travel to access a test.

“We know how vital testing is in identifying clusters and local outbreaks, so convenient access to testing plays a crucial role in ensuring those with symptoms come forward for a test. This will be important as we move forward out of this lockdown.A massive thank you to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, NHS Highland, the Highland Council and Argyll & Bute Council for their support in rolling this out.”

People within driving or walking distance of these locations who have Covid symptoms will be able to book a test slot at the stations by calling NHS Highland on 01463 706015.

The typical symptoms of COVID-19 are:

A new continuous cough and/or

A high temperature or fever

A loss of, or change, in normal sense of taste or smell (anosmia)

However, people with COVID-19 can present with a wide range of symptoms including headache, sore muscles and joints, tiredness, sore throat and cold-like symptoms. Anyone that becomes unwell should isolate immediately and seek a test.

Several of the Ross-shire sites are expected to be operational by the middle of March.


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