An NHS health boss said people taking the recommended two lateral flow tests before travelling will help protect the island communities.
As of Monday, April 26, travel between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will be allowed.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the changes yesterday in a coronavirus briefing.
Speaking on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, chief executive of NHS Shetland and Orkney Michael Dickson said the tests would be one of the many ways to help protect the communities when travelling back and forth between the mainland and the islands.
He added: “The islands are being really hard hit by Covid-19 and we don’t have facilities such as intensive care departments, so it stands to offer some assurance that you don’t have the virus before you go to an island.
Mr Dickson said that the tests are not “perfect”, but they are an “additional safeguard”.
“The recommendation is you take a test five days and three days before you travel to the island communities,” he added.
“That helps mitigate some of the issues about the accuracy, but on the whole, these are fairly accurate tests and can be deployed in this way.
“They are aimed at people who don’t have symptoms for this sort of testing and, again, if you do test positive you need to come forward and get a PCR test locally.”
The lateral flow tests are free, and can be
On making testing compulsory
When asked if making these tests compulsory would encourage more people to do it, Mr Dickson said there would always be a “challenge”.
He added: “You don’t expect people to do this when travelling between Aberdeen and Edinburgh, but we are expecting people to mandate it when they travel to the islands and to potentially act as a barrier.
“And there are a lot of people who are worried about the economy, particularly those parts of the economy that relies on tourism.
“I think it’s a fair balance.
“We encourage people to take the test before they travel and, again, it’s that opportunity that knowing you’re travelling to a vulnerable community that offers that assurance that you’re not bringing the virus into our islands.”
Opening up travel raises some concerns about the virus spreading.
When asked if there was a sense of apprehension among locals, Mr Dickson said: “There is a nervousness and it’s understandable. Whilst we’ve been hard hit, we’ve weathered this storm particularly well.
“The community pulled together so well during this whole period.
“So, there is a nervousness. But, again, people are pragmatic.
“We live in an island community, people travel backwards and forwards all the time for essential purposes.
“This is an extension of that and that’s why offering that opportunity to take the test before you travel is really important.”
NHS Western Isles appeals public to test
NHS Western Isles has released a statement urging travellers to take a Rapid Flow Test (LFT) before travelling.
A spokeswoman said: “Rapid Flow Tests (LFT) can be ordered for delivery to your home anywhere in the UK and they should arrive within 24 to 48 hours.
“Those travelling are asked to test three days before you plan to travel and then again on the day of departure.
“If you are positive, this would allow you to self-isolate and book a PCR test.
“Pre-departure testing is intended for anyone travelling from the mainland, to capture travel from higher prevalence to lower prevalence areas.”
With the expansion of the availability of the tests to everyone int he country from Monday, those who will journey to or from the islands are encouraged to test themselves.
She added: “Please note that if your LFT result is negative, this is not a guarantee that you do not have Covid-19.
“You must continue to follow national and local restrictions, including FACTS guidance.”
If someone were to develop Covid-19 symptoms, they must self-isolate and book a PCR test locally.
The statement said: “NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar would strongly encourage you to participate in this scheme in order to reduce the risk that you inadvertently carry coronavirus into one of our island communities.”
Tests can be booked by this website or by calling 0300 303 2713.