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Coronavirus / Coronavirus latest – funding for Scottish seafood sector, council meetings cancelled

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.

Michael Dickson – COVID19 25 March 2020 Update

Shetland Islands Council has clarified the definition and categories of ‘key workers’ in a local context to help ensure that essential services can function while minimising the risks of travel and contact, and that key workers providing critical services can access the support they need, such as childcare.

Three categories of key worker have been identified at a national level:

  • Category 1 – Health and care workers directly supporting COVID response, and associated staff; health and care workers supporting life threatening emergency work, as well as critical primary and community care provision; energy suppliers (small numbers have been identified as top priority already); staff providing childcare/learning for other category 1 staff
  • Category 2 – All other health and care workers, and wider public sector workers providing emergency/critical welfare services (e.g. fire, police, prisons, social workers, etc.), as well as those supporting our critical national Infrastructure, without whom serious damage to the welfare of the people of Scotland could be caused
  • Category 3 – All workers (private, public or third sector) without whom there could be a significant impact on Scotland (but where the response to COVID-19, or the ability to perform essential tasks to keep the country running, would not be severely compromised).

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MANY PEOPLE following official advice to stay home because of the Covid-19 pandemic will be wondering how best to fill in their unaccustomed free time. Shetland News spoke to a few creative professionals to see how they are coping.

Full story can be read here.

The last three weeks have demonstrated once again the importance of fast and accurate local news.

Ever since the coronavirus started changing all of our lives, Shetland News journalists have been stretched to the limit to keep you informed through our website and social media.

Many of you have responded by joining our supporters’ scheme. Your help is much appreciated. If you haven’t signed on yet and wish to do so, you can do so by clicking on the image below and follow the instructions. We hope you are all doing okay in these troubled times.


The King Harald Street development is one of the sites where DITT had to stood down its workforce. Photo: DITT

Shetland’s busy construction industry also has come to a near standstill after the UK Government introduced tough new movement restrictions as part of efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Following prime minister Boris Johnson’s address on Monday night, most building firms stood down their work forces and have advised staff to stay home until further notice.

Director of Lerwick building firm DITT Peter Tait said the company had little choice but to cease work for the time being as safe distances between workers and general health and safety rules could not be maintained.

Bobby Elphinstone of Tingwall based E&H Contractors said they had been responding likewise while awaiting further clarification and guidance from the government as to how to pay the company’s workforce of around 30.

Full story can be read here.

Isles MP Alistair Carmichael said he was disappointed by prime minister Boris Johnson’s response to his questioning over the support for people who are self-employed.

After the exchange in the Commons, Carmichael said:

Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said: “The prime minister had the chance to make a very simple commitment to self-employed people and to give them the reassurance that they want, but he dodged it. That is worrying.

“In recent days I have heard from many constituents who are increasingly concerned about the lack of support from the government, and I will continue to put these points across until they are addressed adequately.

“No one is expecting to get through this crisis without any hardship at all, as the prime minister suggested. All that self-employed people are asking for is for the same treatment and the same assurances as people in employment have already been given. I asked for a commitment on behalf of my constituents and the prime minister did not give it.”

NHS Shetland has further restricted visiting times at the Gilbert Bain Hospital to help protect vulnerable patients from the coronavirus.

Following advice from NHS Scotland, health boards across the country have been asked to restrict hospital visiting to essential visits only. The new rules come into force with immediate effect.

The following visits are deemed essential:

  • A birth partner during childbirth;
  • A person receiving end-of-life care;
  • To support someone with a mental health issue, dementia, a learning disability or autism where having a carer not present would cause the patient to be distressed;
  • To accompany a child to hospital.

Full story can be read here.

THERE is a possibility that inter-island ferry services may be reduced further, according to Shetland Islands Council chief executive Maggie Sandison.

Four main routes – Bluemull Sound, Yell Sound, Whalsay and Bressay – are now on a reduced Saturday timetable as part of attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Sandison said on Monday that the council would be engaging further with island communities, with the chance that services could reduce again.

The full story can be read here:

Local foodbank co-ordinator David Grieve. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND Foodbank is continuing its vital service to the community albeit in far more challenging circumstances.

Food bank coordinator David Grieve said the Market Street facility is still open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons despite the fact that some staff, including himself, had to self-isolate due to health concerns or age.

Maintaining the service has only been possible thanks to a large number of new volunteers, Grieve said.

Working from home coordinating the work of the charity, Grieve said steps had been taken at the foodbank itself to ensure as much social distancing as was achievable.

Full story can be read here.

Councillor Alastair Cooper.

The chairman of the Shetland Islands Council’s development committee has added his voice to the growing campaign to secure support for those who are self-employed.

In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Alastair Cooper urged him to address the situation “urgently” and commit support to self-employed incomes in the same manner the government has done for the employed

“Shetland has a high proportion of people who are self-employed, and given that the cost of living here can be up to 60 per cent higher than in central Scotland, it’s critical that the government acts to provide reassurance that they will be supported,” he said in his letter

The full letter can be read here

First minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed a further six people in Scotland with Covid-19 have died.

Global figures, meanwhile, show that there have been 435,000 confirmed cases across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The seafood sector is to receive an initial package of more than £5 million in financial support from the Scottish Government to assist businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Funding will be offered to over 650 seafood fishing companies, many of whom said to have “lost their livelihoods with the collapse of export and hospitality markets”.

An initial payment of 50 per cent of two months’ average earnings will be made to owners of all full time Scottish registered fishing vessels of 12 metres length and under. Support is also being developed for the onshore processing industry.

The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation welcomed the funding package for smaller vessels as a “good first step to support the industry”.

Chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “The markets that these boats sold into have largely disappeared due to the Covid-19 pandemic, depriving many fishermen of their livelihoods almost overnight.

“The Scottish Government’s announcement of this initial financial support is therefore a very positive and much-needed development.

“It is clear however from the regular reports we are receiving from our members that other markets, particularly for shellfish, have evaporated, and the whitefish market has contracted rapidly as a result of the pandemic. 

We will therefore be continuing to make the case to government for similar support for other parts of the fleet that are at imminent risk of hardship.”

Forty eight emergency hygiene packs have been delivered to the Gilbert Bain Hospital.

Red Cross’ Nicola Stove tweeted that they would be used to help people in crisis who have been admitted to hospital with no supplies.

NHS Shetland’s director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said the health board will “put them to good use”.

Highlands and Islands list MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has encouraged people to support local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many local businesses are still operating online, and more are setting up online shops to keep themselves trading,” he said.

“Buying products online or by phone from local businesses, as well as buying vouchers and gift tokens which can be redeemed later, is a great way of supporting them through these tough times and giving our local shops a big vote of confidence.

“We must do all we can to help secure the future of our small businesses wherever we live in the Highlands and Islands.

“They are part and parcel of our local communities and provide the backbone of the economy. We would all be much poorer without them.”


A new resource website aimed to be a central point of contact for the community’s response to the Covid-19 emergency has been launched.

The Shetland Stands Together website at https://www.shetlandtogether.uk created by Dave Hammond of Skeld Pier Trust in partnership with the Red Cross, includes a community notice board as well as maps listing vital resources such as the location of many defibrillators (not complete).

Hammond said: We’re working with various organisations to keep this information up to date hour by hour. The need for this came about through the Facebook page Shetland Standing Together so that relevant info and concerns can be addressed.

The people behind the website can be contacted via the contact form on this page: https://www.shetlandtogether.uk/contact.html 


The Scottish Government has published guidance for NHS Scotland to prioritise testing to enable health and social care staff to get back to work, based on the pressures local boards are facing.

Scottish minister for social security Jeane Freeman MSP: "Island proofing will become enforceable". Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Health secretary Jeane Freeman. Photo: Shetland News

As testing capacity increases, this will be extended to other key workers health secretary Jeanne Freeman has said.

“It is essential that frontline health and social care staff can remain at work. To help to save lives, we must continue to prioritise testing in hospitals. All remaining capacity must be used to ensure that critical staff can return to work as soon as possible.”

She added: “Boards are being asked to prioritise testing the symptomatic household members of health and social care staff – in cases where the staff have no symptoms but have to remain in isolation because a family member does.

“This will mean that where the household member tests negative, the health or social care staff member will not have to isolate for 14 days, and this will have the greatest impact in reducing working days lost.”

Activity at Lerwick Sheriff Court is also affected by the spread of coronavirus.

Scottish Courts is now consolidating the country’s sheriff court activity into ten courts across Scotland.

Shetland’s court business, other than undertakings, will be transferred to Inverness Sheriff and JP Court. Island custody courts will be dealt with on a case by case basis.

Courts have already ceased all jury trials, adjourned all but essential summary criminal trials, and adjourned all civil hearings involving witnesses.

The public counter at Lerwick Sheriff Court has already closed.

Shetland Islands Council has cancelled all council meetings between now and the end of May to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement, made last night, comes ahead of news that the UK Parliament is likely to close later today (Wednesday).

The SIC said that any matters requiring a full council or committee decision during this period would be progressed in accordance with existing delegated authority, council policy and/or legislative emergency powers.

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