More than 30 fishermen setting out from Fraserburgh have been mass-tested for coronavirus in a bid to streamline testing requirements and increase confidence within the industry.
Crew from three pelagic fleet vessels were given a rapid-result test for the virus before heading-off to fish for mackerel near the Norwegian coast.
It is the first time Fraserburgh fishing firms have banded together to organise testing of their crews in one go.
Aberdeen firm TAC Healthcare offered up PCR testing from a net shed, with all 34 crew testing negative and issued with paperwork in case stop-offs in Norway are required.
TAC Healthcare’s Elgin-born clinical director and consultant surgeon Ken Park said: “We have done all of these vessels before but singularly and on an ad-hoc basis.
“When the Covid outbreak started, one of the ships was worried about its boys returning from working in Denmark in May and whether they had it and could pass it on to friends and family.
“That was the first of the testing for crews and after that another vessel got in touch worried about one of their men having a connection to a positive case.
“They wanted tested before heading out.
“Since then we’ve made a few trips up to Fraserburgh to test fishermen before they head offshore.
“But this is the first time they have all come together seeing it’s the start of the mackerel season.
“It’s a really busy time for them and they cannot afford to have crew down.
“If one person was at risk the whole crew is at risk, in effect. They are all basically in a bubble.”
Within just 40 minutes yesterday morning, each had been tested, using a swab of the nose and throat, allowing them to be issued with a negative test, which will in turn appease fears of virus spread on board and satisfy immigration controls.
“We need to make sure the tests we do are as accurate as if we sent them to a lab,” Mr Park added.
“The PCR test is the gold standard and it’s like the sort of thing you see in crime investigations.
“They can detect a microscopic bit of RNA from the virus.
“Even one or two particles of the virus in one millilitre of fluid will be detected.
“This is the most sensitive way to do it as with this virus you are infectious before any symptoms show up.
“If you did have that on a fishing vessel and have people on board oblivious to their condition they could infect everyone on board.
“A few of the men I tested were obviously worried about cases in the community now around Fraserburgh, so this definitely provided peace of mind.”
Founded in 2013, TAC usually offers occupational health and NHS services but now has a fully-fledged testing centre at its Dyce premises, processing up to 1,000 tests each day.