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Coronavirus / Tough new emergency measures, but not a lockdown yet

SHETLAND has so far not been put in a ‘lockdown’, council chief executive Maggie Sandison said on Friday – but she could not rule out further measures that would restrict and impact people’s mobility.

“As a community Shetland has responded really well to all the messages of social distancing and have started to isolate, but it is not a lockdown,” she said.

These further measures were introduced as she was speaking to Shetland News when prime minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs, cafes and restaurants were to close.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News
SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

Sandison said Shetland Islands Council and other local authorities were usually learning of new measures through the media rather than being told in advance.

“This will apply to Shetland as well,” she said, adding that take-aways were excluded from the ban.

Any additional measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus were likely to come either from central government or the Scottish Government rather than from the local authority.

“Certainly the potential for stringent lockdown measures has been trailed by the First Minister and the prime minister,” Sandison said.

“These measures now exist in legislation and can be applied at the right time in terms of the UK’s response to the pandemic,” she said.

Referring to suggestions that Shetland as a whole should self-isolate by implementing quarantine measures to those coming to the islands, and should have done so a long time ago, Sandison said it was now too late to do so.

“The emergency powers weren’t around at a time when this might have been a protective factor to the islands,” she added.

She added that for example the communities of Shetland’s smaller islands had asked the council to help restricting the number of visitors to Foula, Fair Isle, Papa Stour and Fetlar as a protective measure, recognising that the seats on the plane are going to be needed for the communities.

Flight operator Airtask confirmed earlier this week that it would only take bookings from island residents or providers of essential services “vital for island life”.

Sandison praised the local community for the way it had responded to an unprecedented situation.

“The manner in which people have responded to the public health messages has been incredibly impressive, recognising that we have the capacity to manage how the virus impacts on the community,” she said.

“Each of us has a role in this. We can all control and influence how the virus impacts on the community, so we can all be part of it by washing our hands, by self-isolating with symptoms and to do whatever is necessary to flatten the peak demand for NHS services.

“We will never ever stop people getting the virus but what we want to make sure is that not everybody gets it at the same time.”