Coronavirus and cruise ships

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has questioned the Health Secretary over plans to deal with any incidents of Coronavirus on any visiting cruise ships.

Following a Ministerial Statement to Parliament on Coronavirus, the Conservative MSP asked Health Secretary Jeane Freeman what additional support would be available to smaller health boards like NHS Orkney and NHS Shetland if there were cases reported on board as has happened in other places.

Mr Halcro Johnston went on to ask whether there were plans to move quarantined vessels to areas where increased medical support was available.

Ms Freeman advised that support from one health board to another is already part of current resilience planning, and also that any decisions on moving vessels would be part of resilience planning considerations by the Transport Secretary, Michael Matheson

Speaking afterwards, Jamie Halcro Johnston said “Communities across my region welcome cruise ships from across the World, and are already attracting visitors.

“However, there are understandable concerns in some communities that large numbers of visitors coming into the islands might make it much harder to prevent or contain any outbreak of Coronavirus.

“Also, while no one would doubt the abilities or dedication of our local NHS staff, or that serious consideration hasn’t been given to how to deal with any outbreak, a cruise ship with cases on board, and with other passengers in isolation, risks putting a large strain on our local health resources.

“It’s important that communities like ours are able to call in additional support from the wider NHS to help deal with any increased treatment demands our local NHS boards in Orkney and Shetland, and our local health infrastructure, simply wasn’t designed to support.

“I welcome the reassurances from the Cabinet Secretary today; ones I hope will not need to be tested. She also advised that there is guidance available from both the UK and Scottish Government on procedures at our ports and harbours, and this is welcome

“What is increasingly clear is that it is vital we do all we can to reduce the potential spread of Coronavirus and that, where there are cases, the resources are in place for an immediate and full response”.