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Coronavirus / Coronavirus outbreak being closely monitored by local transport sector

COMPANIES and organisations with links to transport in and out of Shetland say they are monitoring the situation with coronavirus.

Scotland’s first instance of Covid-19 was announced on Sunday (1 March) after someone from the Tayside area caught the virus after visiting  northern Italy.

Around 40 cases have been reported in the UK so far and globally more than 3,000 people have died – mainly in China’s Hubei province where the outbreak stemmed from.

NHS Shetland confirmed last week that protective masks had been given to some members of staff, while the NHS has also issued general advice.

Shetland’s busy transport links will see thousands of people come in and out of the isles in the weeks and months ahead, and a range of companies and organisations are keeping a close eye on the outbreak.

NorthLink Ferries, which links Shetland to Orkney and Aberdeen, said that it is “actively monitoring” the situation regarding the virus.

Serco’s operations director for NorthLink Ferries Captain John Strathearn said: “The wellbeing of our passengers and staff is our top priority and we are taking all necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety.

“We are actively monitoring the situation and continuing to follow the relevant guidelines and advice from public health officials.”

Lerwick Port Authority harbourmaster Captain Alexander Simpson, meanwhile, explained that the master of any vessel is required by law to report on the health of crew and passengers prior to a port visit.

The port is set to oversee another record-breaking year for cruise ship visits.

“If there is any issue declared the vessel is placed into quarantine and is a process from there which is followed according to our emergency plans,” Simpson continued.

“The port authority is continuing to monitor UK Department for Transport advice, including general precautions for staff and guidance on the assessment and management of arrivals into the UK.

“For any vessel arriving with passengers and crew on board who may be showing symptoms of the virus, the port authority would take advice from the relevant authorities, including local health officials.”

Away from the sea, Sumburgh Airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL) said it was closely monitoring the situation.

“HIAL is liaising with the Scottish Government and all relevant authorities regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak and our airport teams are adhering to public health guidelines,” a spokesperson said.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles, meanwhile, said: “We are following advice and guidelines from the Scottish Government, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the health authorities.

“Our priority, as always, is the wellbeing of our customers and staff.”

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See also: Are the right precautions in place? (Letters, 2 March 2020)