Covid-19 Testing to Dramatically Increase in Orkney

Alex Scarth

Following on from NHS Orkney’s announcement last week that testing was now being done on the Island, rather than sent to mainland laboratories, there is now significantly more testing planned with much faster turn around times.  

Previously, only patients admitted to the Balfour hospital or key NHS and social care workers could be tested. This made our local prevalence of Covid-19 look low. However many locals have come forward on social media to complain that they had been told they “likely had the virus” but that testing was not available to them.

Will the Scottish Government’s planned increased testing help to deliver more accurate statistics for Orkney?

NHSO, following advise from the Scottish Government, will now be swabbing symptomatic care home residents as well as new residents to care homes in the hope it will reduce the risk to our most vulnerable patients.

Patients being discharged from hospital will need two negative swabs before they can go to a care home bed.

Symptomatic care home staff, as well as other carers and NHS workers, continue to be able to get swabbed through the Covid Assessment Centre.

With Orkney being over ninety minutes from one of the four national drive through testing centres, increased testing will be achieved through testing kits being sent to patients and then posted to centralised laboratories. Though, NHSO, OIC, SAS, and third sector care staff will continue to be tested and processed locally.

The Government has also announced “Enhanced surveillances” swabbing, where health boards will be asked to swab set numbers of patients with mild or moderate symptoms to monitor disease prevalence. These kits will be processed centrally and not in the Orkney laboratory.

Will the increase in testing confirm the local suspicion that Orkney’s statistics do not reflect the true extent the virus is having locally? Or will it show that we continue to be lucky with low infection rates? Either way, as lockdown restrictions are lifted the risks will increase. The devastating effects the virus has had on our local economy and health will continue to affect us for years to come.

Local GP, Dr Sarah Stevenson, explained that: “Although numbers currently being seen locally are still low, we have been advised that we will not see our peak until mid May. Staff remain very thankful to members of the public who continue to follow the Government’s advice and maintain strict social distancing. Although numbers are low in Orkney, we must not start to be complacent.”

Covid-19 brings Orkney to a Halt

Scott Shearer

All of the citizens of Orkney, and the rest of the world, are currently stuck in their homes, because of the coronavirus crisis.

Credit to ‘’

Because of the current coronavirus crisis, Orkney has come to a complete standstill.  There are only few legitimate reasons to leave your home, these include: buying essential goods; exercise; going to work, only if you can not word from home.

Local, Carol Shearer commented that: ‘We are all happy to be home and safe’.

Ronnie Shearer, another local resident, commented that Coronavirus had meant that he had been forced to put up with his younger brother.

Coronavirus is not the first pandemic to have this effect: malaria, has killed almost half of all people who have ever lived on earth, meaning that over time, it has killed more people than any other cause.

Coronavirus is unlikely to kill as many as malaria. However, like malaria, it may continue to be a huge killer, especially in poorer areas of the world.

Coronavirus will likely continue to be a threat for some time. It has and will continue to impact the economy greatly. Shipping prices will increase, and more communications will be done remotely.  Money will likely be transferred increasingly more online, and cash may become obsolete.

UK Coronavirus has a Bigger Death Toll than Italy.

Gabrielle Shoesmith

 The UK now has the highest number of Coronavirus deaths in Europe, according to the latest government figures.

Illustration of the ultrastructure of the Covid-19 virus.

The UK has now got a bigger death toll than Italy and the worst death toll in the whole of Europe.  There have been 29,427 deaths in the UK, and 29,315 in Italy according to government figures.

Both Italy and the UK record the deaths of people who have tested positive for Coronavirus.  But each country  has different testing regimes, with Italy conducting more tests than the UK to date.


Captain Tom Moore hits £31 million for NHS on his Birthday!

Erin Sinclair

Captain Tom Moore has been awarded with the Pride of Britain Award for his impressive fundraising walk which has inspired millions across the world.

Captain Tom Moore

Tom has been walking round his house 100 times to raise money for the NHS. So far he has raised over £31 million. His starting goal was to get £1,000 before his 100th birthday on the 30th of April.

Today, the 30th of April, the RAF held a fly over to celebrate his big day. He received birthday messages from many celebrities, and has also received a promotion to honorary colonel.

Happy Birthday Tom!

Dogs Delighted at Deluge of Attention

Abbie Gray

Dogs all over the UK are overjoyed! Since the lockdown started, on the 23rd of March, people have been giving all of their attention and treats to their beloved companions. 

Poppy excited about getting a belly rub.

The dogs are all cheerful about this great increase in affection, but there are some downsides. People may be discouraged to go on walks with their dogs in fear of catching Coronavirus, leading to obesity in dogs rising greatly. Treats will also contribute to this, as people feed their dogs a lot more of them.

An event like this has never happened before, and it looks like it will be a while before we can get back to normal. This means happy dogs for a long time!

Disappointment as Summer 2020 is Cancelled

Holly McLellan

People everywhere are disappointed that events across the world are being cancelled as a result of the lockdown restrictions in place due to the Coronovirus, Covid 19. 

Images taken from events page, showing some of the disrupted events in 2020.

In Orkney there will be no Stromness Shopping Week, Dounby and County Shows, Folk Festival, St Magnus Festival along with all other annual events that take people, locals and visitors, to Orkney.

Stromness Shopping Week Chairperson, Savannah Taylor, spoke of cancelling this year’s event due to Covid 19. She said:“The shops in Stromness would lose one of the busiest weeks of the year. Shopping Week was first started to bring people to shop in Stromness as we are a small town and sometimes find it hard to survive on just people who live here”.

When the committee decided to cancel, the decision was very difficult. Savannah said: “Shopping Week is something that brings so many people together and is something everyone books holidays off work for, so when deciding to cancel it I was worried I would be taking away a part of everyone’s summer.”

“Shopping Week brings people far and wide.  Families tend to come for Shopping Week as they are sure that there is always something to do for any age group.  We have many people coming down from Shetland as part of the Jarl Squad”.

Luckily, Shopping Week won’t actually lose money “as we did not put too much money out”, said Savannah.  “A lot of our events are free to run, but the hidden costs are the queen and attendants and flower girl and page boys, the insurance, the fireworks, the bands, bringing acts or entertainment.”

Savannah felt heartbroken following the cancellation of the event. “There is so much effort and work goes into it behind the scenes. I felt like the kids had nothing to look forward to as many of them said at least we have Shopping Week, and I had been the person to take it away.  I was worried about the businesses and what it would do to them, but at the end of the day everyone’s health is so much more important.”

Finally, she commented:”We hope to make 2021 even bigger and better than ever!”

Although the event  is lucky in not losing out on potential costs,  there will be a terrible effect on businesses, the tourist industry, shops, families who won’t get to have their visitors home, youths who won’t have the events and parties to go to, and children who won’t get the activities to go to.  Hopefully Savannah is right that 2021 will be bigger and better, in every way.

Suddenly… Nothing Happened

Raven Lea

Reports are coming in that yesterday, nothing happened.

The view of nothing happening.

Reliable sources confirmed today that nothing has been happening in small outbreaks all over the country.  They went on to say that, in their opinion, it was not anything to worry about.

Eyewitnesses have been contacting us with their stories.  One lady, who wishes to remain anonymous, stated: “I was just sat there, when it happened. Nothing, just happened. I didn’t know what to make of it.”

When asked to confirm these reports, government officials said: “We cannot confirm or deny this at the moment, but rest assured we will be looking into it. But when reports like this come in it is usually in the public interest to go along with it to maintain safety.”

The official said that more information can be found on the government website

In the past there have been sporadic reports of nothing happening, but never to such an extent.  During these outbreaks no one was injured and we are led to believe by following the current trends that there is a very good chance that nothing will happen tomorrow.

If you have any stories or pictures about nothing happening to you, please email them to our newsdesk.

Where ancient mammals really as small as we first thought?

Louise Stacey

An ancient, cat-sized mammal was found in Madagascar. Scientists have revealed that this mammal would have walked among the last of the dinosaurs.

Adalatherium Hui was the size of a domestic cat.

This cat-sized mammal is thought to have lived alongside the last of the dinosaurs roughly 66 million years ago. Until now, it was thought that all mammals from this era were small rodent-sized animals. But living on Madagascar, which by this point had broken of from the rest of Gondwana, the creature was able to grow larger than most other mammals of its time.

Scientists appropriately named this creature Adalatherium Hui which means ‘crazy beast’.  Scientist believe that Adalatherium would have burrowed in order to hide from predators.

According to David Krause, a vertebrate paleontologist, the discovery “bends and even breaks lots of rules.”


Local Primary 7’s Uncertain about Academy’s Plans

Fyfe Craigie

West mainland P7’s still not in the know. 

Stromness Academy from the Orcadian Newspaper website.

Covid-19 has closed schools nationwide. Little is known about what to do about the upcoming transition days.

Transition days happen in late June, giving the new pupils a chance to visit the school, be shown around, make friends with other primary schools and try out their subjects. Currently it is unknown whether this is going to happen at all, unless lockdown measures are eased or lifted during the summer holidays.

Headteacher Mrs Partridge has confirmed that transition activities will be very, very important, but no plans can be made till it is clear school will go ahead.

Schedules after the summer holidays may also be changed, giving the new S1’s a much harder timetable and work plan to cope with.

Mrs Partridge has said that school life will be different from our usual. The Scottish Government proposals have considered a staged return to normal school life, with staggered classes and/or limited numbers among the suggestion.

Keryn Craigie, a P7 student, said: “I am a bit more nervous about moving to the academy, and a little disappointed I miss my days. I miss my chance to meet people from other schools.”

Among the Primary 7’s there is a rather nervous feeling in the air, but with transition activities being considered perhaps it will put their minds at ease.

Old Hospital In Need of Key Workers

Grace Boonzaier

Remaining E. Fraser Electrical employees have reopened wings at the old hospital for coronavirus cases.

The Balfour Hospital.

E. Fraser Electrical is a electrical contractor business which deals with domestic commercial jobs, such as installations and breakdowns. The company is located on Grandon Road in Finstown. It has a staff of 30, of which 27 are currently furloughed and 3 are still working in public. The 3 key workers get the standard pay, but the 27 furloughed will get 80% overall.

The remaining 3 key workers will only work in an emergency or to complete essential jobs, such as to repair heating, or power, and big jobs like the old hospital. During this time, they are predominantly working for the NHS and the OIC. They needed to carry out essential work which was opening wings at the old hospital for coronavirus cases.

At the beginning of COVID 19 plans had to be put in place by the NHS to provide more facilities to cope with cases of the virus. This included opening the old health centre and parts of the old Balfour hospital, which has been closed since the new hospital opened. The old hospital’s power had to be refurbished by the Scottish Hydro as the old heating and other electrical items had been removed from the building. The morg had to be reopened in case of high amount of virus deaths.

One of the remaining workers at E. Fraser Electrical said: “I feel without repairs on essential equipment such as heaters the public would struggle.”

But explained: “It certainly feels different as the workforce is extensively reduced, day to day routines and less staff.”

He explained that PPE was required for him to continue his work safely: “When attending jobs it’s vital to wash hands before entering. Gloves must be worn all the time, and masks if dealing with other people.”