Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has sought assurances from Ministers that efforts are being made to minimise the risk of coronavirus being carried on cruise ships arriving in Orkney.
During Portfolio Questions today (Wednesday), Mr McArthur highlighted the importance of the cruise liner market to Orkney’s tourism sector and asked what advice and support are being given to local authorities to help manage any risks effectively.
In response, the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Fergus Ewing, confirmed that the government is liaising closely with all local authorities about how to address the possible spread of coronavirus. He also reiterated the importance of getting correct messages across to the public.
Mr McArthur has also recently written to both the Scottish Government and Orkney Islands Council to establish what specific precautions are being taken to address any particular risks relating to cruise liners calling into Scottish ports.
Commenting after the exchange, Mr McArthur said:
“Efforts to contain the coronavirus have had to contend with rapidly changing circumstances. This has made it difficult to provide clear advice to the public on what they should and should not be doing.
“One area where there have been specific concerns, however, is in relation to the potential risk posed by cruise liner traffic, which is an important and growing part of our tourism sector. A number of constituents have been in touch with me recently, raising concerns and asking questions about the safeguards that are in place.
“I have already followed this up with Health Ministers and the Council, but wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the issue with the Tourism Secretary, Fergus Ewing given the impact we are already seeing on that sector.
“I welcome Mr Ewing’s assurances that the government and its agencies are in constant dialogue with local authorities, such as Orkney Islands Council, on this matter. As with wider efforts to respond to the threat posed by coronavirus, it is important that risks are managed effectively, decisions based on expert advice and clear messages communicated to the public in a timely fashion.”