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‘Completely unacceptable’: Jeane Freeman not planning on sending coronavirus home testing kits offshore

A plea has been made for more Covid-19 tests for oil and gas workers.
A plea has been made for more Covid-19 tests for oil and gas workers.

A plea for more coronvirus test for oil workers has been made after Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said there were no plans to send home kits to oil rigs.

North East MSP Liam Kerr issued the call after being contacted by offshore workers, who are worried that drive-in testing centres, like the one at Aberdeen Airport, are insufficient.

The plea was made after 11 Premier Oil staff in the North Sea’s Catcher field had to be flown from the Rowan Gorilla VI Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit to Aberdeen due to concerns over an outbreak of Covid-19 on board earlier this month.

Eight workers were thought to have displayed symptoms of coronavirus, while three staff who were in close proximity to the suspected cases were also removed.

Trade body Oil and Gas UK said last month more than 12,000 staff were working offshore during the early part of lockdown and concerns have been raised over the availability of suitable tests for those in the industry.

Ms Sturgeon instructed health secretary Jeane Freeman to provide Mr Kerr with more information on her plans for the testing of oil and gas workers.

In a letter to the Tory MSP, Ms Freeman said: “Allocation is on a first come, first served basis and it is not currently possible within the UK testing programme to send a bulk of home testing kits to a single location.

“It would therefore not be possible to send home testing kits offshore.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

Mr Kerr said: “It’s clear there are still big concerns among both workers and their employers over the safety and wellbeing of the workforce while offshore, especially when the adequate testing is not available.

“This is another example of why more options need to be made available for oil and gas workers, to give them the assurance that everything that can be done is being done.

“Social distancing offshore is very challenging, which is why there needs to be a system in place that allows workers to be monitored while they are working on these platforms.

“Nicola Sturgeon is constantly brushing these concerns from the oil and gas sector aside. She and the SNP Government have repeatedly said discussions have remained ‘ongoing’ in finding a way to support oil and gas but failed to indicate what these initiatives could be – it’s completely unacceptable and answers need to start being given.”

North-east MSP Liam Kerr.

In her letter, Ms Freeman said Health Protection Scotland (HPS) had published a 20-page document  giving guidance on the matter and noted that oil and gas employees were “key workers”.

The Health Secretary said the document “set out how helicopter companies, duty holders and medics can manage and prevent an outbreak of Covid-19 on oil and gas installations.”

The Health Secretary added: “Oil and Gas UK, the industry trade body, worked with HPS to produce the document, which goes into points including PPE requirements, quarantine measures and dealing with cases that develop while helicopters are in transit. The guidance also issues advice for the management of any cases offshore, including transportation and protocol once arriving on land.”

Ms Freeman added that home tests were available through the UK Expanded Testing Programme and those eligible could book them through the UK online digital portal.

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