Empty shops on Scotland’s high streets could be turned into coronavirus testing centres, as the nation moves into the next phase of tackling the virus.
Health secretary Jeane Freeman was questioned on Wednesday by Holyrood’s health and sport committee, where she told MSPs several initiatives were being considered to make sure testing venues were as close to people as possible.
Ms Freeman acknowledged the current “drive-through” units were not accessible to everyone, especially those made ill from the condition and those without access to cars.
Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton, who sits on the committee, said he still had concerns measures were not being implemented quickly enough, to avoid those ill and suspected of being ill from having to use public transport.
As well as making centres closer to home, Ms Freeman said consideration was being given to taking up car dealership Arnold Clark’s offer to use vehicles to take people to testing centres, as well as out-of-use black cabs – which she said had the added benefit of already being fitted with visor shielding between passengers and the driver.
How are people expected to get to test centres without using public transport?”
Nothing had been arranged for certain, however, as the country expects to move to Test and Protect on Friday.
Ms Freeman said: “I am conscious telling people to go to the drive through test centre is limiting. Not everyone drives and people might be unwell and there might be some distance to go.
“We are actively looking at potential use of our existing Covid assessment centres, as well as looking at other community-based high street testing areas, but making sure those with symptoms don’t have to travel very far and make sure those working there too aren’t exposed.
“But we are also looking to take testing kits home and we are also looking at providing transport for individuals with the overall objective to make this as simple and straightforward for people to do by removing as many barriers as possible.
She continued: “We had a kind offer from Arnold Clark to use a number of their vehicles, which we have taken up.
“We have been offered use of black cabs which have dividers between driver and passenger, as well as with our ambulance service, but bearing in mind we are looking to start parts of our health service where transportation is required.”
Following the committee session, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “I am a bit concerned generally about the timescales and sequences on this.
“We do not have universal transport arrangements in place for people to get to testing centres, but it is expected to start imminently.
“How are people expected to get to test centres without using public transport?
“The high street proposal is a welcome one, but we need to move much quicker to get it into place.”