News round up: Isles virus testing; lockdown guidance and lifeboat call-out

NHS Western Isles begins approach to Test, Trace, Isolate and Support

In line with Scottish Government policy, NHS Western Isles has this week started a new long-term approach to addressing COVID-19, known as Test, Trace, Isolate, and Support.

The principles of this approach are to:

  • Test people in the community who have symptoms for 48 to 72 hours consistent of COVID-19, to identify cases of infection
  • Contact trace to identify close contacts of the case who may have had the disease transmitted to them.
  •   Isolate cases for seven days and contacts for 14 days, so that if they do develop the disease, there is less risk that they will pass it on to others.
  •   Support these people to remain in self-isolation, which may happen more than once if they have contact with another person who becomes a case.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson welcomed this new approach.

He said: “The Test, Trace, Isolate and Support approach is at this point our best chance of suppressing and preventing transmission of the Covid-19 virus. I would urge everyone to co-operate and comply with what will be asked of you. It is all intended to protect you, your loved ones, friends, and family.”

“If you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, you can check with NHS Inform what to do. If it is an emergency, dial 999 and tell the operator you may have Covid-19. For further advice, you should continue to contact NHS 24 on 111 who will advise you on how to access testing if this is appropriate.
Symptoms are specifically a new continuous cough and/or a fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater).

A new continuous cough is where you:

  • have a new cough that’s lasted for an hour
  • have had 3 or more episodes of coughing in 24 hours
  •  are coughing more than usual.

Isles lockdown guidance

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has urged people to stick to the lockdown guidance in Scotland and to refrain from visiting the Western Isles.

This comes as changes to lockdown in England were announced by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday evening. However, with the exception of a change allowing people to go outside more than once a day to exercise, all other lockdown restrictions remain in place in Scotland.

The key message in Scotland remains Stay at Home. Reasons for leaving your homes include:

  • To shop for basic necessities – but only once a day, at the most;
  • To take exercise, alone or with your household, not in groups;
  • Medical reasons or providing care or support to a vulnerable person;
  • To travel to essential work if it absolutely cannot be done from home.

All social events and public gatherings of more than two people – excluding households or for essential work-related purposes – remain banned.

Commenting on the reaction to the Prime Minister’s announcement Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I have received a lot of queries and comments following the Prime Minister’s address yesterday evening, and the confusion this has caused is deeply regrettable.

“We have already seen a national newspaper print a photo of the Hebrides beside a caption saying that people would be able to drive to beauty spots from Wednesday.

“The First Minister had to set the newspaper right on television today and remind them what the rules in Scotland are.

“While the Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to make such a decision for England, the guidance on lockdown in Scotland is largely unchanged. The travel restrictions to the islands also remain in effect and people should not be travelling to the islands for anything other than essential reasons.”

Kyle and Portree lifeboats called into action

The Kyle and Portree lifeboats were called into action on Saturday night as part of a search effort to track an overdue boat carrying two people.

The Stornoway Coastguard received a report of the overdue small boat from the Loch Na Cairidh area, close to the Skye Boat Centre at Strollamus.

The small RIB carrying two people left the area at 11 am on Saturday and was due to return between 5pm and 6pm that day.

However, concerns were raised at around 8.40 pm, and both the Portree all-weather lifeboat and the Kyle of Lochalsh lifeboat Spirit of Fred. Olsen were alerted and launched immediately.

The Kyle lifeboat began searching the coastline and small islands from Kyleakin heading north, while the Portree lifeboat began searching from Portree heading south.

At 10 pm with the light fading fast and still no sign of the missing vessel, the UK coastguard helicopter from Stornoway was called out and started heading towards the scene.

A few minutes later one of the crew onboard the Kyle lifeboat spotted a small light on the normally uninhabited island of Scalpay just off the Skye coast.

The lifeboat went to investigate and located the two missing people, who had gone ashore after suffering engine problems earlier in the day.

The crew checked that they were uninjured before taking them on board the lifeboat and transporting them back to Broadford on Skye, where local Coastguard teams were waiting.

The lifeboat then returned to Kyle where it was refuelled and made ready for service by 11.40 pm.

Speaking of the incident, a Kyle RNLI spokesperson said: “The couple had gone out searching for whelks when they had issues with their engine, so went ashore on Scalpay. This search shows that during these unprecedented times of lockdown with bans on non-essential travel, the RNLI is still on call 24 hours a day.”