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Coronavirus / Health board chief: ‘We can’t come out of lockdown in isolation’

THE CHIEF executive of NHS Shetland has poured cold water over the idea of island communities acting as pilot areas for easing lockdown restrictions.

Michael Dickson said he is not sure exiting lockdown can be done in “isolation from the rest of the UK”.

The suggestion that areas like Shetland could be used as pilots for leaving lockdown have been raised by local politicians.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson. Photo: Shetland News

There have been mixed views locally on social media regarding the idea, with some highlighting the vulnerability of islands – such as the fact that Shetland has no intensive care unit.

The Scottish Government said on Tuesday that it will “continue to keep an open mind about the potential for geographical variation in our approach [to relaxing restrictions], guided by the evidence”.

“It’s difficult because we are an island community and we might be able to deal with a nuanced message far more effectively than the mainland, but we can’t come out of lockdown in isolation,” Dickson said on Tuesday.

“We’ve got to think about the fact that releasing lockdown means things such as planes start flying again, patients start travelling to Aberdeen for treatment.”

Dickson said that a “sort of normal service” will resume post-lockdown, but it will be “really different”

“I’m not sure we can do that in isolation from the rest of the UK, because we were first off the mark in terms of the earliest cases, I can offer no guarantees that that won’t happen again,” he said.

Shetland, meanwhile, has recorded no positive test results of Covid-19 since 20 April – despite new equipment arriving in the isles allowing tests to be processed more quickly.

Anecdotally there have been reports of more people and vehicles going around Lerwick in recent days, but Dickson stressed now is not the time for complacency.

“I think the longer it goes on the harder it is for people to stick to the rules,” he said.

“People do get restless and have had enough of being at home, and I understand that. But it is so important that right now people stay at home.”