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48 hour quarantine for NorthLink ferry

A SICKNESS bug that struck a coach party of holiday makers after visiting Shetland last week has forced ferry operators NorthLink to put one of their vessels in quarantine for 48 hours.

Monday night’s sailing of the Hjaltland from Aberdeen to Lerwick has been cancelled leaving 247 passengers stranded in the city until a daily shuttle service using the other ferry Hrossey kicks in on Tuesday morning.

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The Hrossey will carry passengers to Lerwick from Aberdeen on Tuesday morning at 9am, arriving at 7pm without stopping as scheduled at Kirkwall. It will then depart Shetland at 9pm on Tuesday evening. The shuttle operation will continue until Wednesday evening when normal service will resume.

The disruption has been caused by an outbreak of sickness and diarrhoea that affected the first member of the 27 strong coach party from Hereford one hour after they boarded the Hjaltland in Lerwick on Friday night.

Shetland Islands Council say it was unlikely to have been caused by anything the party consumed while in the islands.

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The party of mostly elderly people from the south of England had arrived in Shetland that morning on the same vessel.

The bug quickly spread and by the time the Hjaltland reached Kirkwall after five hours 11 members of the tour were confined to their cabins where they received medical assistance and advice.

By the time the boat got to Aberdeen 14 people had come down with the symptoms, but medical staff gave them the all clear to continue on their journey south while the other 400 people on board the boat were issued with advisory health leaflets.

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NorthLink chief executive Bill Davidson said the ferry skipper had immediately implemented the company’s cleaning and hygiene regime designed for such situations and the Hjaltland had been subjected to a further 10 hour chemical deep clean prior to sailing for Lerwick on Saturday evening, during which the cabins used by the Hereford bus tour were unused.

However on Sunday night three members of the Hjaltland’s crew were taken ill with similar symptoms, leading NorthLink to quarantine the vessel for a further 48 hours.

Mr Davidson said: “The illness which the bus tour group seem to have brought on board with them while unpleasant is not considered to be serious.

“Passengers are being informed of the new arrangements and to them we apologise.  However in light of the fact that fresh cases of illness arose within the crew, we thought it best to err on the side of caution and to take Hjaltland out of service.”

Shetland Islands Council’s environmental health manager Maggie Dunne said that the sickness had probably been caused by a virus prior to the Yeoman Canyon Travel bus tour arriving in Shetland on Friday morning.

Ms Dunne said: “We are still waiting for the test results, but it was likely to have been a virus they were carrying when they arrived in Shetland. The symptoms began quite quickly after they boarded the boat so it would not have been caused by something they would have consumed here.”

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