HM Coastguard will continue to provide support to NHS Western Isles this weekend, and every weekend until the outbreak in Barra is considered to be under control, it was announced this morning (Friday 22 January).

Coastguard Rescue Teams in Barra, Lochboisdale, Stornoway and Harris are using coastguard drivers and vehicles to help transport COVID-19 tests the 140 miles to Stornoway, when scheduled transport services are not available.

The tests are taken from Barra to the Ardmhor ferry terminal, then Lochboisdale Coastguard Rescue Team drives them north through the Uists to the Berneray ferry terminal.

The final part of the journey is completed by either Harris or Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams, collecting samples from Leverburgh and transferring them by road to Western Isles Hospital for laboratory processing.

HM Coastguard said the support would 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.

Murdo Macaulay, HM Coastguard 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.”

“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.

“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.”