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Coronavirus: Coastguard crews transport Barra Covid-19 tests over land and sea

Coastguard crews on the Western Isles wait to board a ferry with coronavirus tests.
Coastguard crews on the Western Isles wait to board a ferry with coronavirus tests.

Coronavirus tests from Barra are being transported by Coastguard teams over land and sea for them to be analysed.

The island and neighbouring Vatersay were placed into Level 4 restrictions this week after an outbreak of more than 40 Covid-19 cases.

Several Coastguard teams in the Western Isles have now joined the efforts to ensure tests can be analysed in Stornoway – about 140 miles away.

Coastguard crews teaming up to stop spread of coronavirus

Teams are transporting the samples by road to meet two ferry crossings before delivering them to labs at Western Isles Hospitals.

Murdo Macaulay, coastguard operations area commander for the Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber, said: “We take great pride in supporting our local communities during this challenging period and we will continue to do all that we can to help the NHS.

“Our volunteers are working really hard to help make what can be quite a difficult logistical challenge, in terms of transporting tests between Islands due to distance and infrastructure, far more manageable and done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

“We are committed to working to helping the NHS, as a fellow category one responder, but this support does not affect our capability and availability of our HM Coastguard Rescue Teams based on the Western Isles.”

Health chief says outbreak is finally ‘going in the right direction’ as two new cases of Covid are confirmed on Barra

The support is required to ensure NHS Western Isles can continue to carry out widescale testing at weekends, allowing quicker contact tracing.

The weekend transfers being done by coastguard crews will continue to be done until the coronavirus outbreak on Barra is deemed under control.

It is understood about 10% of the island’s population is currently self-isolating due to the spread of Covid-19 in the communities.

To help support them, the coastguard has also helped deliver two vanloads of food parcels and other necessities to the island, where they will be distributed among those staying in their homes.

A coastguard spokesman said: “We have assisted the local authority in delivering essential supplies down to Barra from Stornoway.

“It was anything the council needed down there – food supplies and food parcels and things for people that were self-isolating.

“We took two vanloads and trailers down from Stornoway to the ferry and Barra, then that was met by the Barra team before being transported to the people who needed it.”

Coastguard helping coronavirus response across Western Isles

Meanwhile, Coastguard crews are also continuing to support a vaccination clinic being run in Stornoway.

Gordon Jamieson, chief executive of NHS Western Isles, said: “Coastguard teams have been invaluable in the Western Isles’ response to Covid-19 from day one.

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western Isles chief executive

“They have continued to provide expertise and valuable support over the past 10 months of this pandemic, most recently transporting Covid-19 tests quickly and safely from Barra to Stornoway, and supporting our first mass vaccination clinic in the sports centre.

“This multi-agency working has been critical and our partners in the coastguard have been willing, enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with.”

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