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Coronavirus / Coronavirus latest – Islands prepare for life under ‘lockdown’ as people told to stay home

In this regularly updated blog Shetland News will bring you all the latest local news plus the major national developments on the Covid-19 crisis

It has been said many times over recent weeks – these are unprecedented times, and they are likely to stay with us for many months to come. At a time of crisis when the natural reflex is to move closer together we are being told to keep our distance to delay the spread of the virus. Because of the terrible consequences of this new disease it is more important than ever before to be well informed.

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has called for urgent action to support self-employed incomes hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Carmichael joined a cross party group of MPs in writing a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak over the “lack of action” for the UK’s five million self-employed people.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has launched legal action against the government over the discrepancy in treatment between employees and other workers, arguing that the job retention scheme discriminates against the self-employed.

Carmichael said: “In Orkney and Shetland we have a massive number of people who are self-employed and who are now massively worried about what the future holds for them. Support for people in employment is welcome and generous but the self-employed cannot be left behind.”

Read the full story here

SHETLAND police area commander Lindsay Tulloch has urged islanders to comply with the latest restrictions on movement set out by prime minister Boris Johnson on Monday night, and warned that the local force would use emergency powers if they had to.

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But he added he would prefer for local people to adhere to the new measures designed to protect themselves and ultimately to save lives by slowing down the spread of the coronavirus.

Speaking on Tuesday afternoon, the chief inspector said: “I urge people to listen to the advice of our health professionals and stay at home to protect themselves from infection and ensure we are doing everything we can to support NHS Shetland in providing care and treatment for vulnerable, elderly and people most at risk from the virus.”

Read the full story here.

Fish industry bosses are seeking clarification about who is a “key worker” as fish markets and fish farms continue in business while seeking to minimise workforce exposure to Covid-19.

Industry sources said that a clearer picture would emerge on the impact of coronavirus possibly next week once the effects of the pandemic “stabilise”.

There is a split on trade between produce for the retail and domestic sector, which remains strong, and restaurant markets, which have collapsed.

In the meantime, the seafood sector wants people engaged in fish production and transport declared “key workers” who would continue to operate despite the general lockdown on movement.

Read the full story here

Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison says the SIC, as the licensing authority, was not aware of any pubs or cafes flouting guidance and staying open at the weekend following orders from the government on Friday evening to close.

There were reports of some pubs on the Scottish mainland staying open despite the guidance.

Read more here.

Shetland Charitable Trust has suspended its new funding scheme, which was offering almost £900,000 in extra grants to help tackle inequality and social exclusion in the islands.

A trust spokesman said that many of the new activities that were being proposed to the trust for the grant scheme would not have been able to proceed as planned due to the coronavirus crisis.

The trust, meanwhile, is preparing to pay out its core funding grants to local charities and community organisations at the start of the new financial year.

Trust chairman Dr Andrew Cooper said the payout was to proceed as planned and should help keep rural care homes, Shetland Recreational Trust, Shetland Amenity Trust, the Shetland Arts Development Agency and a host of voluntary sector organisations going during the coronavirus crisis.

The Scottish Government has announced the opening of the Coronavirus Business Support Fund, to support businesses and employers through potential disruption and loss of demand.

It is open to applications from 24 March and it will offer either:

  • £10,000 grants for small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief, or;
  • £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.

Further guidance from the Scottish Government is expected today. An application form for the fund can be accessed here.

Lifeline ferry company NorthLink is closing bar and entertainment offers on board its three passenger vessels in a bid to protect travellers and crew from the possibility of being infected by the coronavirus.

Photo: NorthLink Ferries

Over the weekend several islanders contacted Shetland News questioning why the bar and restaurant on board the vessels stayed open following the strict advice from the UK Government on Friday that pubs, cafes and restaurants should close and not open again on Saturday.

Contacted by Shetland News on Monday NorthLink would only say that they were following the rules and would review their service to work within the guidelines.

On Tuesday, following announcement of much tougher rules on people’s movements, managing director Stuart Garrett said the company was making “a significant number of changes made to the on board offering”.

The full story can be read here.

Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group ceased operations on Friday paying-off 22 staff with the duration of the shutdown uncertain.

Michael Tait of Shetland Mussels said that the workers were paid-off for a fortnight “initially” owing to the “abrupt” collapse of the restaurant trade.

Tait, who is chairman of Scottish Shellfish Marketing Group, said that the company “did not have much option” but to make the temporary lay offs.

The full story can be read here

The Scottish Government has confirmed that two more people in Scotland who had Covid-19 have died, bringing the total to 16.

The total number of positive cases now sits at 584. There are still 24 positive cases recorded in Shetland.

Here’s a video of the Shetland Peerie Netballers putting their own spin on the ‘toilet roll challenge’ – giving coaches and players a chance to connect even if they’re not able to be together in person.

Managing to keep the Shetland Peerie netballers and coaches connected in some sort of way through all this. If we can’t be together in person we’ll be together in a video! How cute!! ❤️🧻😊👌🏻

Posted by Alina Catherine Murray on Saturday, 21 March 2020

The RSPB is closing all of its nature reserves to visitors.

“This means we will close car parks, toilets and playgrounds to the public,” the bird charity said.

“These measures are on top of the existing closure of our visitor centres, cafes and shops.”

The RSPB has three nature reserves in Shetland – Sumburgh Head, Mousa and Spiggie Loch.

NHS boards across Scotland have created local hubs and assessment centres to streamline the way coronavirus patients are being dealt with in a bid to ease the “unprecedented demand” on GP surgeries and the health service in general.

Anyone with Covid-19 symptoms should not call their GP, and instead they should either find the required information online at or call NHS24 on 111 for further guidance.

They should under no circumstances turn up at the Gilbert Bain’s A&E department with the expectation that they will be tested for coronavirus.

People calling NHS24 with Covid-19 symptoms will either receive help and advice following an initial telephone assessment or, if necessary, they will be transferred to a local, Shetland based, community hub.

The full story can be read here.

NHS Shetland’s child and adolescent mental health service has suspended face-to-face contact for the foreseeable future.

This is likely to be for the next 12 weeks or at least unless advice changes.

The service said it aims to contact patients over the next few days to “look at how we keep in touch”.

More advice and information can be found online.

NHS Shetland’s public health consultant says swine flu cases being recorded in the isles earlier this year is “not anything out of the ordinary”.

Dr Susan Laidlaw said there was a peak of confirmed cases at the beginning of February, with lower numbers through to March.

A “very small number” of people required hospital treatment due to swine flu, which caused a global pandemic in 2009.

It comes at a time when NHS Shetland is opening up extra beds at Gilbert Bain Hospital to cope with expected demand from coronavirus.

The full story can be read here.

Hjaltland Housing Association will only be dealing with emergency situations. It said it will be operating a “very limited service”, with the following repairs classed as emergency:

  • Total loss of electrical power (not a power cut)
  • Burst water pipe or hot water tank
  • Blocked or totally unsuitable toilet (where there is only one in the property)
  • Blocked drain if there is serious leakage or risk of flooding
  • A tenant who is elderly, disabled or has young children or special needs is locked out
  • Tenant is locked in (cannot get out any door of the property)
  • Property is insecure following a break-in (broken window or door)

The housing association will also be suspending the allocation and re-let of properties until it receives instruction that it is safe to do so.

Further restrictions are being imposed at shops and supermarkets in Shetland following the latest government guidance.

The Lerwick Co-op said “please don’t come into store in groups or families and where possible shop alone”.

It also advised to “only shop when necessary, please don’t stop to talk to friends”.

Shetland Arts is to cancel all remaining events until the end of June 2020 as part of the effort to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

The organisation’s international summer school, Folk Frenzy, due to run from 2-8 August, has also been cancelled.

Shetland Arts chief executive Graeme Howell said: “We’re sad to cancel events planned for this spring and summer but given the current situation we have made this decision in partnership with our artists and promoters to safeguard all involved.

“We are continuing to teach our music and film courses online in partnership with Shetland College UHI and exploring ways to move other areas of our work online. In the meantime, we will be continuing to update our website, social media and YouTube channel with more great arts content to enjoy from your own home.”

Any customers with tickets booked for events between 2 April and 30 June or Folk Frenzy packages will receive an automatic refund, customers who booked with cash and without an account please get in touch with Shetland Arts on

North Isles member Robert Henderson is eager to see cheaper ferry fares for people working in Yell, Unst and Whalsay.

Shetland’s inter-island ferry service is being restricted to essential travel only in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus.

It comes after the Scottish Government said at the weekend that ferries serving the country’s islands – like NorthLink – should not take non-essential travellers.

Shetland Islands Council is also doing away with cash fares on the ferries in the meantime and implementing an accounts based system.

Full story can be read here.

The single most important action we can all take in fighting coronavirus is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives, the government says.

The UK Government introduces three main measures:

  1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.

For further and more details guidance please read this document on the website.

Loganair cancelled six flights to/from Sumburgh Airport on Monday due to a lack of demand resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.

Three were incoming and three were outgoing.

It comes ahead of the airline imposing an emergency timetable for April and May, with reduced services across Loganair’s network.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart. Photo: Shetland News

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said new restrictions on people’s movements “must be followed to save lives” to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed in a speech on Monday night that people in the UK should only leave their homes for:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household;
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.

As part of the measures all non-essential shops and community spaces are set to close. There will also be a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public, except if it is people who live together or it is for work purposes.

Shetland MSP Wishart said: “The unprecedented instructions from the prime minister and first minister (…) could not be starker and must be followed to save lives.

“The measures apply to us all. They will help prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed in the face of this pandemic and will help protect loved ones and the most vulnerable in our communities. If you’re not in frontline services, stay at home.”

This document – see link – provides guidance and detail on the businesses that will have to close following last night’s dramatic announcement by the UK Government.

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