Despite Freedom of Information Requests and questions raised in the Scottish Parliament, testing figures for Covid19 in Orkney have not been released.
It was back on 21st of May 2020 that Orkney MSP, LibDem, Liam McArthur raised the issue during First Minister’s Questions.
In reply Nicola Sturgeon said:
“Yes I will be happy to look at how we do that.
“I think it will be important to do that.
“I’m not going to give a straightforward commitment because I’m going to need to go and discuss the practicalities of that but I think in principal yes.”
Test and Protect is taking place but no data has been published Test and Protect Underway in Orkney
Reacting Liam McArthur said:
“ A fortnight ago, the First Minister agreed that providing information on the amount of testing taking place in each health board area was important.
“Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that this data was necessary for building public confidence in the ‘test and protect’ system and ensuring compliance with restrictions as they were eased.
“For some reason, she now appears to have changed her mind. Instead, we are to get weekly data on a Scotland-wide basis, that will tell people nothing about what is happening in their local area.”
Indeed this position of not publishing local data was confirmed today, 9th of June, at the First Minister’s Press Conference.
Nicola Sturgeon stated:
“I can confirm that we will publish initial data in relation to our Test and Protect system tomorrow.
“That information will include how many positive cases have been identified so far through Test & Protect, and how many of those have had their contacts traced.
“At this stage, this will be national data though we intend to break it down regionally in the weeks ahead and add more detail to it.
“It is also data that will, at this stage, reflect the early stage of Test & Protect.”
And she continued:
“One point that it is important to note at this stage is that the figures that we publish tomorrow will not completely match our daily testing figures that we publish at this daily update, because they will also include results from the drive-through centres that are situated in various parts of the country.”
NHS Shetland publishes clear information on how it is providing Test and Protect in its community. This graphic is for the week 26th May to 1st of June.
Liam McArthur continued:
“The argument that releasing local test data could compromise patient confidentiality is completely at odds with Scottish Government policy to date.
“When Orkney had its first confirmed case of Covid-19 and its first Covid-related death, Ministers were happy to let us know.
“Now it seems that the ground has shifted and the public is not to be trusted with information on a local basis. That is not good enough.
“This response from the First Minister is all the more surprising when we see the approach being taken by NHS Shetland. Helpfully, the health board there is publishing regular, localised information covering a range of different measures.
“That is the right approach and it is the approach the First Minister should be urging all health boards to adopt as we move forward with ‘test and protect’. I will continue to make that case until Nicola Sturgeon agrees to change her mind again”.
Communication is vital during a public health crisis.
At the weekend The Orkney News published the figures for reported suspected cases of Covid19 in Care Homes. Rise in Reported Suspected Covid19 Cases in Orkney’s Care Homes
All this data is available on the Scottish Government website. This information is not easily accessible but we made it so. For that we have been accused of causing ‘fear and alarm’. And despite the headline clearly stating that these were SUSPECTED cases and large chunks of information was taken straight from the Care Inspectorate’s official report – it seems there is a patronising attitude adrift in Orkney that islanders are unable to read and understand that.
Let us remember back to the start of the spread of this deadly virus when the Chinese authorities suppressed news of it . The doctor who raised the alarm and who later died from the virus – was vilified for expressing his concerns.
If we want our businesses to be able to open up again and to do so safely, if we want to ensure that we support our frontline workers, if we want to protect others especially those who are having to continue shielding until 31st of July- then we must have confidence that Test and Protect is working in our community.
Public trust in Orkney was already running low due to the travel arrangements of its Chief Executive Designate, Iain Stewart .
Today, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has called for Iain Stewart to go after it was revealed that whilst the rest of us were hunkered down in lockdown that he made a visit to Glasgow for personal reasons.
Liam McArthur said:
“Iain Stewart’s decision to travel back and forth between Orkney and his home in the Black Isle has caused widespread anger within the local community.
“At best, it appeared inadvisable given his role in leading NHS Orkney and its message for people to stay home and save lives.
“In response to the public outcry, Mr Stewart issued an apology in an ‘open letter to the people of Orkney’. For whatever reason, however, he chose not to make any reference to the earlier trip to Glasgow.
“While the detail of the visit may rightly be a private matter, the fact that the trip took place is of public interest. Unfortunately, Mr Stewart’s failure to be open in his open letter leaves his position compromised and untenable.
“The board and management of NHS Orkney have more than enough on their plate at present. It is time to draw a line under this sorry episode, but that can only now happen with the departure of Mr Stewart.”
Tomorrow, Wednesday 10th of June, the weekly figures from the National Records of Scotland(NRS) will be published. More details will also be published of testing taking place in Care Homes and of care workers.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame