Hospital car park turned into COVID test centre

Soldiers carry out COVID-19 testing in the car park of Oban's hospital.

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Oban hospital’s car park has been on the front line of COVID testing this week.

Soldiers wearing protective masks have been manning a drive-through testing station for people worried they might have the virus.

The military-run stations can cope with 300 appointments a day but the number of tests carried out in Oban on Tuesday by midday were reported to be just 13.

The tests were only for symptomatic key workers, workers showing symptoms who could not work from home and anyone over 65 with symptoms, as well as household members from all those groups with possible coronavirus.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said there was no specific target of tests per location and that appointments had been available by postcode through the UK Government’s self-referral website.

The car park site was decided by local and regional resilience partnerships in collaboration with NHS National Services Scotland and HM Forces, he added.

Mobile testing units, initially set up to run five days in each place but constantly under review, are only to complement NHS health boards own testing to meet people’s needs, including island communities, said the government spokesman.

Advertising of the unit coming to Oban was the responsibility of the local health board, said the Ministry of Defence.

The Oban Times was told the previous testing station in Dunoon was more of a hot spot, experiencing more people presenting themselves with symptoms.

The soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland based in Penicuik, just south of Edinburgh, were staying at The Royal Hotel which has become a base for essential workers staying in the town.

On the unit’s first day on Friday, the Oban Times was told the soldiers could be in Oban for one week, possibly two depending on demand but by Tuesday evening the plan was to pack everything away ready to move elsewhere.

Official figures released on Tuesday by the Scottish Government showed  there were 322 confirmed cases of the virus in the NHS Highland region, taking in Oban, Lorn and the Isles.

NHS Highland will not give numbers of cases in the Oban area because it says patient confidentiality would be put at risk.

According to latest figures from the National Records of Scotland, in the lead up to May 3 the health board saw 88 deaths registered since the start of the outbreak  mentioning COVID-19 on the death certificate.

Out of those 88 deaths, 55 were in Argyll and Bute Council’s area. With a population of 86,260, Argyll and Bute is the second largest local authority by area in Scotland, including 23 inhabited islands.

Among the 55 local authority deaths, 21 were in care homes, eight were at home and 26 in hospitals.