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Test and Protect identifies gatherings on Barra that broke coronavirus rules

Castlebay on the Isle of Barra,

The chief executive of NHS Western Isles has said Test and Protect has identified gatherings on Barra that fell outwith Level 3 restrictions.

The contact tracing system, deployed to establish close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases, has also identified travel from the mainland to the Hebridean isle after an outbreak on the island has grown to 39 cases.

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland that the outbreak is currently affecting around 15% of Barra’s population.

Barra islanders ‘let their guard down’ as Covid outbreak spreads

Mr Jamieson said: “Our Test and Protect system has been active all the way through and it is fair to say on Barra, there has been some mainland travel, which of course has only to be essential travel.

“We do know from the Test and Protect system that there have been some gatherings on Barra over the last few weeks that were outwith the Level 3 restrictions.”

Mr Jamieson said the rate of growth is “of concern” for the health board with some patients already airlifted off the island to hospitals in Stornoway and the mainland.

He added: “This is a rapidly developing outbreak for us and, in terms of the proportion of the population now affected, that is significant.

“The imperative to contain and suppress it couldn’t be higher.

“The system on Barra with the health and social care system is mobile and therefore there is a fragility within that.

“However, we have got a number of measures in place and that we have already put into motion to support those people who become progressively ill and indeed a small number of patients have been transferred to other hospitals already.”

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson

The health chief has said despite staff and residents having already been delivered vaccinations, plans are being implemented to limit the strain placed on Barra’s hospital, which is connected to the island’s care home.

He added: “Barra has a care home with 10 places in it and the hospital with five and they are in the same building.

“We are at the moment in a position where we are protecting that facility.

“We don’t have any plans to introduce those patients who need hospital care into that hospital simply because it is small, it is co-located with the home, and whilst all of the staff and care home residents since have been vaccinated, it is more a question about when peoples health starts to deteriorate with Covid-19, it is best that they are initially supported on Barra but they are quickly recognised and moved off the island.”

Mr Jamieson has praised the close links with the Scottish Ambulance Service and retrieval air desk to ensure that when patients require evacuation and uplift from the island, they are delivered it.

Mr Jamieson has said the outbreak on Barra is not linked with a further outbreak on the Western Isles, with three positive cases identified on Benbecula in Uist.

He added that the Benbecula outbreak has been contained.

Residents on Barra are currently being contacted via telephone and GP assessment on the island to ensure they are delivered the care and support required, however, Mr Jamieson praised the close-knit community believing support would be delivered if required.

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