RAF runway pair tested and isolated after Covid fears spread through community

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The Station Commander at RAF Lossiemouth has allayed fears that contract workers at the base had tested positive for coronavirus.

Group Captain Chris Layden has confirmed two people working on the refurbishment of the runway have been tested for Covid-19 and are isolating while they await results, following reports that they had already tested positive for the disease.

Residents in the MoD base and the wider community became concerned by rumours that the pair, who work for contracting company Volker Fitzpatrick, had tested positive for Covid-19. However, after investigation, it has emerged the positive tests were for antibodies, which is a different test to that for Covid-19.

Group Captain Chris Layden said: “As Station Commander I’ve been briefed that there have been two suspected cases of COVID-19 among the Volker Fitzpatrick workforce who are delivering the essential runway works here at RAF Lossiemouth.

“The workers concerned have immediately been isolated and are undergoing further testing, in accordance with NHS Scotland recommendations.

“They were displaying no symptoms but were identified through testing which Volker Fitzpatrick has been voluntarily conducting with the consent of their workforce.

“RAF Lossiemouth is continuing to deliver its vital work in the interests of national security, but we are stringently observing the necessary protocols, to protect both the military community and our wider Moray family.

“I am also assured that Volker Fitzpatrick are doing the same.”

What is an antibody test?

Antibody tests are used to detect antibodies to the Covid-19 virus to see if you have previously had the virus. The test works by taking a blood sample and testing for the presence of antibodies to see if you have developed an immune response to the virus.

These tests differ to virus swab tests, which test to see if you currently have the virus.

There is no strong evidence yet to suggest that those who have had the virus develop long-lasting immunity which would prevent them from getting the virus again. Therefore, the value of antibody tests is currently limited to answering the question of whether someone has had the virus or not, and providing data and a greater understanding on the spread of the virus.

MSP Richard Lochhead said many constituents had contacted him with concerns: “I met local community groups and discussed the situation as there has been much concern expressed in recent months in connection with the number of workers travelling to work at the base many of whom commute to other parts of the UK perhaps every couple of weeks.

“I have met the Director of Public Health for NHS Grampian today who explained to me that the tests carried out by the company are for anti-bodies and such tests indicate if a person has had Covid-19 (if the privately sourced testing kits used are accurate).”

Community concerns

MP Douglas Ross, also quelled fears: “It is important to stress they were both asymptomatic and were only tested as Volker Fitzpatrick, the contractors, agreed to introduce weekly testing of all their contractors in response to concerns from the local community.

“The two individuals have been staying in accommodation provided by the base, not local hotels or B&Bs.”

Heldon and Laich councillor Amy Taylor said: “The community has been extremely anxious about the ongoing construction work at RAF Lossiemouth due to the need for contractor employees travelling considerable distances into Moray throughout the lockdown period.

“The positive tests that have come back for two contractor’s personnel are antibody tests and that may well mean that the subsequent Covid-19 tests come back OK but it highlights the concerns of the community and the need for the MoD to take heed and take action.”

It is understood NHS Grampian are in the process of contacting anyone who may have come in contact with the pair.

Marc Hindley
Author: Marc Hindley

Marc has worked as journalist and photographer all over Scotland. He also runs a PR and digital marketing agency Canary Dwarf. He has lived in Forres with his wife and three children since 2001.