There are big difficulties in getting Covid-19 test kits delivered to many homes in the Highlands and the Northern and Western Isles.
Geography means that many of these residents find it very difficult to get to a testing centre. This inability to get a test drives a coach and horses through Test and Protect, the absolute bed rock of virus control procedures.
Paradoxically, of all parts of Scotland the Highlands and Islands is the best placed part of the country for Test and Protect to work the best, because virus case numbers are the lowest. It should be possible, if it was working as well as it could, to completely eliminate local transmission of the virus.
Testing would still be needed to spot local outbreaks started by importation of the virus, but even then, freely available and speedy testing would mean that they would be picked up early and dealt with quickly.
Winter is nearly on us, when there is a reasonable expectation that the virus will find it easier to be transmitted. So time is not on our side. I know from personal experience that local NHS labs in the Highlands and Islands have excellent expertise in testing. Surely it is time to call in this expertise as a matter of urgency, with appropriate support and expansion, to fill the big gap in testing availability.
I look forward to action!
Prof Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen