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Covid-19 alarm after RAF Lossiemouth runway workers' anti-body tests

By Lorna Thompson

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TWO runway workers at RAF Lossiemouth have tested positive in anti-body tests which indicate they may have had Covid-19.

VolkerFitzpatrick, which is undertaking the £75 million contract to resurface runways at the base, confirmed the results through its own weekly testing regime.

The workers involved are now awaiting results of NHS tests.

Runway work was halted today for a deep-clean of the site.

VolkerFitzpatrick confirmed the results when contacted by Moray MSP Richard Lochhead.

Mr Lochhead said the confirmation was a "wake-up call for the MoD", after he repeatedly raised locals' concerns in recent weeks of the increased Covid risk posed by temporary workers coming in and out of the area.

There are at present around 100 workers on site, many coming from other parts of the UK.

Mr Lochhead said today: "I was informed by a constituent on Monday evening that two men working for a main contractor had tested positive under the company’s own testing regime. I immediately called the company who confirmed this and I afterwards informed NHS officials about the cases.

"I have since been informed by NHS Grampian that the tests carried out by the company are anti-body tests which means that individuals may have had Covid in the past but they have now undergone NHS tests and await the results for those.

"It’s important to emphasise that there is no evidence of any workers being infectious – but the fact these tests if accurate point to past infection will cause anxiety locally.

"NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect policy depends on anyone with Covid or symptoms of Covid to come forward and get an NHS test and, if positive, all the people that the patient has come into contact with recently are asked to self-isolate. This development reminds everyone to follow NHS advice which is the best way to stay safe.

"The NHS have investigated and I hope the workers who are now self-isolating make a quick recovery if they are any issues.

"Above all, we need transparency and a precautionary approach from the MoD and contractors.

"The MoD and the main contractors working at RAF Lossiemouth have been warned repeatedly about the risk of bringing Covid into the local community from elsewhere in the UK because so many workers are commuting. I’m sure the steps taken to reduce risk are making a difference but nevertheless this is a wake-up call for the MoD and the buck stops with them.

Anti-body tests indicate two runway workers at RAF Lossiemouth may have had Covid-19.
Anti-body tests indicate two runway workers at RAF Lossiemouth may have had Covid-19.

"Since Covid, it’s been a bit of an uphill battle to get the MoD to take the community’s concerns seriously and UK ministers must consider what more can be done to keep Moray safe. Until we have a vaccine, they should review and oversee the situation.

"I am now in discussions with the authorities and local community representatives to explore if anything more can be done to keep the public, service, families, contract workers and the local community safe."

One site worker told the Northern Scot today that employees were contacted at around 10pm last night and told not to arrive on site today as a deep-clean would be taking place.

The concrete finisher, who has been working 10-day shifts at the site since May, said they were told to remain at their digs today but that further information was scant. Workers were informed later today that the site would be back in operation tomorrow.

The worried worker said: "How do you deep-clean a site that size?"

Mike Mulholland, of Lossiemouth Community Council, stated he and many other local people had been expressing concern for many weeks now about workers travelling up to Moray from the Central Belt and England.

He said: "There have been dozens of people coming to and fro. It doesn't take a genius to predict what could happen.

"We were assured at great length about all the precautions which were being taken inside the base.

"We were also told that the work was important for natural security.

"But that was never what we were complaining about.

"What we wanted to know was why these workmen were not being housed on the base?

"Instead they are staying in local hotels, in bed and breakfasts, and caravans all the way from Nairn to Fochabers.

"At one point, some of them were even sleeping in their vans at the West Beach car park.

"On top of that, why were they being allowed to travel home at the weekends?

"With all the resources that this project has had, we want to know how this could be allowed to happen.

"Someone has made an extremely poor decision. It's very risky and they must know that.

"Nobody seems to have taken account of the safety of the community – and that is very, very disappointing.

"We – and I speak for the community groups right across the coast – feel badly let down."

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