Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has stressed that all options must be explored to increase testing capacity in her constituency.
The Lib Dem politician has sought clarity about testing capacity in the isles, following concerns about samples being sent south and delaying results.
At Holyrood on Thursday, Ms Wishart noted the presence of machines in Shetland for testing fish diseases which are similar to equipment used to increase testing capacity in Faroe.
Ms Wishart asked health secretary Jeane Freeman what consideration was being given to using equipment in Shetland in a similar way, and “urged her to ensure that all options for adapting and expanding local infrastructure are fully explored”.
In response, the health secretary acknowledged that “speed of turnaround” of the samples was “critical for the effectiveness of the approach”, and that using repurposing equipment from other industries was under “active consideration” to support the Scottish government’s “Test, Trace, Isolate, Support” strategy.
An evidence session of the Covid-19 committee also met on Thursday, where witnesses Sir Harry Burns and Professor Linda Bauld stressed the need to scale up testing to tackle the virus.
Ms Wishart said: “It was very clear from the Covid-19 committee’s evidence session that we need to scale up, speed up and increase the reliability of testing if we are to reduce the spread of the virus and begin to safely exit lockdown.
“Shetland tests sent to the mainland for processing can take days to come back with a result. Whilst there are geographical challenges to overcome all avenues must be explored to improve the situation. As both Prof Bauld and the health secretary acknowledge, speed of delivery of an accurate result is critical.
“Faroe has been successful in re-purposing equipment and laboratories used to test fish to test for coronavirus. If that could be done in Shetland too, those options should be fully explored.”