South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth has welcomed moves to increase testing for Covid-19 in Dumfries and Galloway with the use of a mobile testing unit but has warned that overall testing capacity remained totally inadequate to implement the Government’s proposed ‘test, trace and isolate’ plan as Scotland prepares moves into the next phase of the pandemic.
Mobile testing for Covid-19 will now be available, while at the same time, testing for health, social care and Council staff continues to be delivered by the NHS at their testing sites in Dumfries and Stranraer.
Other key workers, those older than 65 years of age, and household members of these groups can be tested at one of the mobile testing units that are being staffed by the army throughout the region.
Having been in Stranraer over the weekend, the unit will now be available at the Mountainhall Treatment Centre in Dumfries on Wednesday this week, and then will be travelling around the region.
Anyone who falls into one of the categories above, and has symptoms of Covid-19 can book an appointment on the Scottish Government website (https://self-referral.test-for-coronavirus.service.gov.uk/).
However, Colin Smyth warned that testing capacity will need to be significantly increased following the First Minister’s announcement that lockdown will continue beyond the planned timeframe and that greater emphasis will be placed on developing a long overdue ‘test, trace and isolate’ policy.
The local MSP believes that ditching the test and trace strategy early on was a mistake and is urging the Government to explain how they plan to increase testing even more in the region to implement the strategy properly.
This transitional plan must set out how paused NHS services, such as crucial operations and outpatient clinics, can be restarted to support the nation’s wellbeing.
Colin Smyth said: “I welcome any increase in testing in Dumfries and Galloway and I would like to take this opportunity to once again praise our brilliant NHS, the Army and all those involved in testing. Without their vital work and dedication, our situation would be unthinkable.
“However, despite more testing being carried out, capacity in our region is still far too low.
“The Government were wrong in my view to drop the policy of test, trace and isolate that was in place at the start of the outbreak. But we know they dropped it because they did not have the testing capacity to implement it properly. Now that they plan to re-introduce the policy, far more will need to be done to increase testing capacity as all the international evidence shows that testing is key but the small number of units we have in the region is not enough.
“From the beginning of this crisis I have demanded the Scottish Government increase testing as a matter of priority and while Monday’s national announcement from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about the roll out of the test, trace and isolate system is a step forward, we can’t afford any further delays.”