Coastguard Rescue Teams support NHS Western Isles with transportation of COVID-19 tests

HM Coastguard is providing support to NHS Western Isles as part of the ongoing response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Coastguard Rescue Teams in Barra, Lochboisdale, Stornoway and Harris are using coastguard drivers and vehicles to help the NHS with the transportation of completed COVID-19 tests.

Coastguards are supporting by picking up and carrying tests from Barra to the Island’s ferry, with the Lochboisdale Coastguard Rescue Team specifically involved in transporting tests by road to the Berneray ferry terminal.

The final part of the journey is completed by either Harris or Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams as they collect samples from the ferry in Leverburgh and carry out the final road transfer to Western Isles Hospital, Stornoway, for laboratory processing.

The journey, in total, is about 140 miles in distance from Barra to Stornoway – including two ferry crossings.

These transfers will take place every weekend until the outbreak in Barra is deemed under control by NHS Western Isles.

This support is to ensure that NHS Western Isles are able to conduct widescale testing at weekends, by quickly processing completed tests and results and reducing further transmission of COVID-19, through NHS Test and Trace and contact tracing.

HM Coastguard is also supporting the vaccination clinic at Stornoway, with the assistance of coastguard rescue officers from the Coastguard Rescue Team in Lewis.

Murdo Macaulay, HM 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.”

Murdo added: “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 to deliver our dedicated search and rescue service and serve our local communities as always.”

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, said: “Coastguard teams have been invaluable in the Western Isles’ response to COVID-19 from day one, as key members of our Pandemic Response Group. 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, to ensure it runs effectively and smoothly for those attending for an appointment. This multi-agency working has been critical and our partners in the Coastguard have been willing, enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with. We are very grateful to them and thank them for their ongoing support and input.”

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