Fire stations are being trialled as new locations for Covid-19 testing in parts of rural Scotland.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the move – which is being piloted in Lochgilphead, Argyll and Bute, and Thurso in the Highlands – could help give people “more consistent” access to coronavirus testing.
From Wednesday January 6, people who live in either walking or driving distance of the fire stations in the towns will be able to call NHS Highland and request a test, if they have symptoms of the virus.
Testing at the fire stations will be available for three-and-a-half hours each day Monday to Friday as part of the pilot scheme, which runs until January 29.
People will be able to take a test themselves at both sites and leave it there for collection by a courier.
Alternatively, they can collect a test for someone else and return it to the fire station for courier collection.
As well as making the fire stations available, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) will provide logistical support by ordering tests and storing samples prior to them being collected by courier.
Freeman said: “Although there are currently a range of options for people in remote and rural areas to get tested, these options are not always convenient or on their doorstep.
“With this trial, our aim is to give people with Covid-19 symptoms in these areas more consistent access to testing and to see whether this approach could be adopted across other remote and rural areas of Scotland if successful.
“Our advice remains the same – if you develop Covid-19 symptoms (new continuous cough, fever or loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste), you should immediately self-isolate and book a test. This is especially critical against a backdrop of rising cases.
“I am grateful to the SFRS, Argyll and Bute Council, Highland Council and NHS Highland for their excellent partnership working in making this trial possible, and for their ongoing support throughout the pandemic.”
Assistant chief officer Stuart Stevens, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s director of service delivery, said: “Our fire stations at Thurso and Lochgilphead are ideally placed to facilitate the distribution, collection and storage of test kits within a safe and secure location, providing a service far closer to home for those who may unfortunately be experiencing Covid-19 symptoms.
“Both stations will maintain the capability to respond to emergencies.”
He added: “It is imperative that everyone in Scotland has access to consistent testing and particularly within our more rural and remote communities.
“We will continue to support the Scottish Government, our partners and communities wherever possible through this challenging time.”