• Ambulance rumours quashed
  • - Surge in cases warning
  • – Piping contest postponed –

Repeated claims on social media that Island patients affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 would be not be allowed to use air ambulance flights off the Islands have been rejected.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan raised the issue of air ambulances for island patients affected by the coronavirus COVID-19 with Cabinet Secretary for Health Jeane Freeman MSP.

The MSP had been contacted by a number of constituents due to widespread concern that people infected by COVID-19 might be prohibited from flying on air ambulances. 

Alasdair Allan also queried the issue with the Scottish Ambulance Service which has been able to reassure him that there would be no such ban, and that the air ambulance would always be an option for such patients.

Alasdair Allan MSP said: “While the Western Isles is yet to have a reported case of coronavirus, it is unfortunately only a matter of time before that happens and we all need to prepare ourselves. 

“I have raised the question about directly with the Scottish Ambulance Service as well as with the Health Secretary. A journey by ferry for affected patients would be extremely long and arduous, and this should only be considered as an option of last resort.

“I was reassured therefore by some of the information which the Cabinet Secretary was able to give in the chamber today about this subject.

“There is clearly going to be a need for as much information as possible in the coming days and weeks, and I have therefore sought more detail from the Scottish Government.”

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands Labour MSP David Stewart, who is also Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister, asked the Health Minister Jeane Freeman yesterday (Tuesday March 17th) to re-emphasise the need for self-isolation by confirming that Scotland had been anticipating the same “heavily concentrated burst” of COVID 19 cases as predicted in England.

In chamber at Holyrood, Mr Stewart said: “The chief medical officer for England predicts that nearly all the Covid-19 cases will hit in a heavily concentrated burst – 50 per cent in a three-week period and 90 per cent in a nine-week period.”

Ms Freeman said that the aim of new self-isolation measures announced by the Scottish and UK Governments was to bring down those numbers “as low as we possibly can over a long period and to do that in a way that will allow our NHS to manage those who will require their particular treatment”.

Mr Stewart said: “This is a fight for all of us and we can only do it if we work together in the face of this great challenge. We can only hope the massive ongoing effort to persuade people to self-isolate and to make it financially possible for them to do so will stagger the onset of infections as much as possible to reduce this swell so that our NHS will manage.”

And the P/M Donald Macleod MBE Memorial Piping Competition has been postponed until later in the year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The prestigious competition was due to be held in Stornoway on Friday, April 3.

The Lewis and Harris Piping Society announced the postponement yesterday (March 17) after discussion with NHS Western Isles. 

A junior Donald Macleod competition, due to have been held for the first time this year, has also been postponed until further notice. It was to have taken place on the Thursday, April 2.

Dr John Smith, chairman of the Lewis and Harris Piping Society, said: “The Lewis and Harris Piping Society have decided to postpone the Donald Macleod competition which was due to be held on the 3rd of April.

“We had become increasingly concerned over the national situation over the past weekend and yesterday sought the advice of the Western Isles Health Board’s public health department and their advice was that the competition should be postponed if at all possible. The advice was further reinforced by the advice by government later yesterday afternoon that unnecessary social contact should be avoided.

“We are naturally very disappointed as all the arrangements had been in place and the pipers had been given their tunes and were all set to come to Stornoway for the 3rd of April.

“We are also disappointed for the youngsters who had been selected to take part in the inaugural Pipe Major Donald Macleod junior competition on the Thursday evening.

“Our provisional plan is to look at a suitable date in the autumn – possibly late September, perhaps even late November.”

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust sponsors the competition to the tune of £5,000 and will also be sponsoring the inaugural junior competition, by donating commemorative quaichs to all participants, when the time comes.