HELENSBURGH'S MSP has criticised the Scottish Government for an "astonishing lack of geographical knowledge" after it was revealed there are no plans for a permanent Covid-19 testing centre to be sited in the town.

A temporary assessment centre has been located within the Victoria Integrated Care Centre in East King Street since April however, following a parliamentary question lodged by Jackie Baillie last week, it was revealed that there will be no permanent testing facility in either Helensburgh or Dumbarton.

The Labour MSP has branded the decision and the response she received from the government "shocking" and has renewed her calls for local testing facilities.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said mobile testing hubs were provided in Helensburgh on both July 27 and 28, and an alternative to Dumbarton was located 5.5 miles away in Port Glasgow.

But that 5.5 mile distance is actually in a straight line - and Ms Baillie wasted no time in saying she was "astonished" at the lack of geographical knowledge of the Scottish Government – and added she can "only assume that they expect local people to swim across the Clyde to get there".

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Port Glasgow is actually 24 miles away from Helensburgh by road – and 16 miles from Dumbarton.

While Helensburgh is visited once a week by a mobile testing facility, the nearest permanent testing centre to both Helensburgh and Dumbarton, by road, is actually located at Glasgow Airport.

Ms Baillie said: “Our community has been hit particularly hard by the virus. We had a high number of deaths and infections, our social care staff who were working incredibly hard to protect patients had to travel to Stobhill and further afield to access testing.

“In one case a local constituent was told to travel from Dumbarton to Dunoon just to get tested, which is a considerable distance to go, especially if you are feeling ill.

“I find it shocking that the Scottish Government have no plans for local testing facilities in Helensburgh and Dumbarton. The army mobile units have been a great help in local areas, but we need permanent local testing hubs.

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“We know that local testing will be key to helping identify any outbreaks and reduce the spread of Covid-19, both within our community and in care homes.

“The fact that the Scottish Government didn’t know where Port Glasgow was relative to Dumbarton tells you all you need to know.

“It’s essential that we can act quickly to prevent local outbreaks and get people back to work if they are not infected, that’s why we need local testing facilities.

"It’s paramount that the Scottish Government open local testing hubs immediately so that there is easy access for the whole community.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As we move towards containment of the virus, it is important we remain flexible in our deployment of testing capacity so we can remain responsive to local needs as Covid-19 cases occur.

“That is why we have mobile testing units which visit different parts of the country on a regular basis to give people local access to in-person testing.

"A permanent drive-through testing centre is also available at Glasgow Airport.

“Alternatively, home test kits are available through the UK expanded testing programme and can be booked via the UK online digital portal, and are an option where people seeking a test are unable to attend a fixed drive-through centre or mobile testing unit.

“As with all Covid-19 related measures, we will continue to keep access to testing under regular review.”

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