There have been 13 days without any new confirmed cases of coronavirus on the Outer Hebrides, the chief executive of NHS Western Isles, Mr Gordon Jamieson, said in a new broadcast on Twitter this evening (Thursday April 23). https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1253415662585692161?s=12

"I think that is a very good sign," he said.

He thanked everyone for their hard work in conforming to social distancing and staying-at-home which had undoubtedly contributed to the limits on the spread of the disease.

He also announced that local testing for the Covid-19 virus had come a major step closer with the anticipated arrival of a final crucial part of the equipment, probably tomorrow. This should provide a testing capacity on the Islands from Monday of next week, rather than having to send samples to the mainland. The local testing at this stage will be for the active presence of the virus, not for whether people have had it in the past.

In addition, there were major improvements to the air ambulance links to the mainland.  Twin Otter and Saab 340 aircraft were now both now in service and available to transfer patients in intensive care to the mainland using the Epishuttle.  These had been added to the "military assets" which were already available for transfers.

Earlier, Mr Ian Burgess, chair of NHS Western Isles, said: "It is with the deepest gratitude that I send this message to all the frontline and key staff working in the NHS, Care Homes, Third Sector, volunteers, our partner Emergency Services and all who continue to support our Island infrastructure at this time of COVID-19.

"This is a fast and ever changing challenge as we learn more about the virus. Therefore I and my fellow Chairs are duty bound to assure the Minister and Cabinet Secretary that we as a Board are maintaining good governance throughout this extended period.

"As Chairman of the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Ron Culley who, until the beginning of this month, was the Chief Operating Officer for our IJB. We wish him all the best with his move back to Glasgow and his new role.<

"I would like to pay tribute to our social care staff, community and volunteer organisations who are contributing in keeping us all safe from the virus. I thank the staff of our Care Homes who are keeping our residents safe from harm.

"We have always been a community that has risen to a challenge, ensuring our way of life and unique communities will come through this together.