The number of cases in an "escalating" outbreak on Barra has continued to rise, as health bosses call the situation "serious".

NHS Western Isles announced 12 new positive cases on Sunday, bringing the island's total to 39.

More than 100 close contacts are now also self isolating.

Meanwhile, two new cases were also identified in an outbreak on neighbouring isle Benbecula.

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Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus MacNeil has commended the strong community spirit of his island home in the face of the escalating Covid-19 outbreak on Barra.

As a resident on the island, Mr MacNeil has been on Barra since last year and conducted parliamentary business via modern technology from his home.

He said: “The island community is pulling together very well at this time. People are very helpful of one another – doing shopping, sending a lot of messages and staying in touch with those who are positive.

“Those that are positive are our friends, neighbours and cousins and it could be us in the next few days or weeks, we just don’t know.

HeraldScotland: Angus MacNeilAngus MacNeil

“One of the good things that has happened is people are letting everyone else know if they have tested positive or negative, this helps people work out quickly who has been in contact with anybody. This has been hugely helpful in giving us all an idea of where the virus is moving on the island.

“We are also very grateful for those doing the testing and getting the tests in to Stornoway and the testing being done in the lab that has given us the results to make the decisions on.

“There is a good island spirit, people pulling together and understanding the situation and with offers of support coming from organisations and individuals throughout the islands.

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“We know there is a global pandemic on the go and at some point it was probably inevitable that that the pandemic was going to come.  We now have to make sure, as other islands have done, that we banish the virus from our shores, hopefully sooner rather than later.”

A statement published by NHS Western Isles on Monday read: "This already represents a significant proportion of the Barra population and outlines the importance of compliance with restrictions and safety measures to ensure that the virus does not spread further throughout the community.

"NHS Western Isles wishes to stress the vital importance that individuals with symptoms, regardless of how mild, self isolate IMMEDIATELY and arrange a test. Please do not assume that any symptoms are that of a cold or other winter virus – it is absolutely imperative that anyone with symptoms self isolates and books a test to prevent any potential further spread of the virus. 

"Be vigilant for all symptoms, in particular loss or change of taste or sense of smell (which has been a common factor in this outbreak). Please also be vigilant for any new respiratory symptoms or any new illness and arrange a test if concerned.

"We would also alert individuals across Barra to the potential risks of using items of high levels of contact (e.g. cash machine). We would advise the use of cards where possible. Where this is not possible, use hand sanitizer before and after using the cash machine, as well as disinfectant wipes before and after use where possible. 

"We would remind individuals to avoid regular trips to the supermarket and keep shopping trips to a minimum and as necessary. Shop alone, wear a mask at all times and hand sanitise before and after shopping. Respect other shoppers/shop workers by ensuring you maintain a two metre distance from others at all times."

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: 1,429 new Covid cases in 24 hours with no new deaths

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson said the latest figures demonstrate a "significant increase" in the number of positive cases, but thanked the community for their efforts.

He said: I must appeal to you to take every precaution you can to contain and suppress this virus.

"It is spread through contact and I would urge you to keep all contact to an absolute minimum, and take all the other precautions that you have been doing on a daily basis.

"Thank you for everything you are doing to keep us safe as individuals and as a community."

'What happens when you let your guard down'

HeraldScotland:

In the Scottish Government's daily coronavirus, Chief Medical Officer Dr Gregor Smith said he and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had held "preliminary discussions" on how to "limit and contain" the spread of the infection.

He added that it would be looked at further ahead of tomorrow's weekly update on lockdown restrictions.

Dr Smith said: "What we are seeing in Barra is a good example of what happens when people let their guard down and come together."