The Scottish Government has issued a travel warning and criticised the “irresponsible behaviour” of those travelling to the Highlands in a bid to isolate from coronavirus.
People with second homes and camper vans have reportedly been travelling to the area in recent days despite warnings to stay at home.
The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford posted on social media saying he had been contacted by the Nevis Range Centre in Fort William who “had to turn away around 30 camper vans”.
Blackford said: “I have been contacted by the Nevis Range Centre in Fort William who tell me that they have had to turn away around 30 camper vans, which had travelled from various parts of the UK, who were intending to use their car park as a refuge.
‘Those in camper vans please go home.’Ian Blackford
“I urge everyone to do the right thing; follow the Government advice and please do not travel here.
“If these warnings are not heeded and people need to be stopped from travelling, then I am afraid that is what will have to happen.
“Those in camper vans please go home.”
It comes a day after Scottish finance secretary Kate Forbes – MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch – said the continuing flow of traffic which appears to be “escaping the cities is not helping”.
Rural economy and tourism secretary Fergus Ewing is now urging people to stop travelling to the area, and indeed at all, in a bid to avoid the outbreak.
He said: “I am furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highland and Islands. This has to stop now.
“Let me be crystal clear, people should not be travelling to rural and island communities, full stop. They are endangering lives. Do not travel.
“Panic buying will have a devastating impact on the livelihoods of rural shops and potentially puts unwanted pressure on NHS services in our rural communities.
“The Scottish Government’s advice is that essential travel only should be undertaken.
“We have been in touch with CalMac and industry leaders to discuss what further measures may be required to deal with this issue.”
As part of those further measures, CalMac also issued a statement on Saturday evening saying the company would halt all food and drink sales on its ferries.
Managing director Robbie Drummond said: “The safety and health of our staff and customers is our absolute top priority and this move to stop having people queuing for food and drink and handing over foodstuffs is designed to protect them.
“We know that our food and drink offering on board is very popular and can be a vital part of the journey for many.
“However, in light of global events there is now way we can justify continuing this and potentially putting the safety of passengers and staff at risk.
“I hope that our passengers understand the need to put these measures in place and promise that we will continually review them as the situation develops.”