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Coronavirus / Phase one of exiting lockdown: what it means for local activities

Ready to tee off: Shetland Golf Club chairman Davie Thomson (left) with golfing partner John Collins on Friday afternoon. Photo: John Waters

AS SOME non-contact outdoor sports are allowed to resume as of today (Friday), golfers in Shetland were the first to enjoy some of the new freedom that comes with the first phase of the ‘new normal’ rules.

Chairman of Shetland Golf Club Davy Thomson said the course at Dale has been busy with club members keen to get back into the swing of things since early on Friday.

Following strict national guidelines, the golf club will be open for members on a pre-booked basis only for at least the first month, he said.

Players are required to adhere to social distancing rules and groups can only come from two households while the clubhouse, changing room and toilets remain closed.

Golf clubs are required to keep records of those playing on its grounds in case the health authorities need to track and trace people who have been infected by the coronavirus.

Asta Golf Course in the Tingwall valley will follow suit on Monday 1 June.

For the first time since the lockdown was introduced at the end of March to suppress the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus, people from two different households are again allowed to meet outdoors while keeping to the two metre social distancing rule.

Other relaxations allow garden centres and waste disposal units to open again, and the construction industry to at least make preparations for returning to building sites in phase two of the lockdown lifting process.

However, Plantiecrub said it would take another two or three weeks until the company fully opens its garden centre in Tingwall, with the company continuing with the current set-up of deliveries or collections for the time being.

There was no reply from COPE Ltd as to opening plans for its garden centre at Lerwick’s Port Business Park.

Shetland Islands Council is on course of re-opening the town’s Jubilee Flower Park on 1 June as people are again allowed to meet outdoors.

Gardeners at Lerwick Flower Park are busy preparing for the park to re-open on Monday 1 June. Photo: Jim Mullay

The park will open at noon each day, giving staff time to complete necessary garden work in the morning.

There will be a one-way system in place on the footpath around the park, and the public are asked to maintain physical distancing during their time in the park. The pavilion, toilets and putting green in the park will remain closed for the time being.

The tennis court will also remain closed as ‘playgrounds and sports courts’ are only permitted to reopen in phase two of the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 route map.

Discussions continue with Lerwick Outdoor Bowling Club about the preparation of the bowling green and the physical distancing measures that will need to be in place before outdoor bowls can resume.

Grass cutting in public amenity areas and council properties, meanwhile, will also get underway from next week.  This will include grass cutting around footpaths and grounds maintenance in many areas of Shetland.

The council’s household waste recycling centre – better known as the local dump – is also set to reopen on Monday morning with temporary extended opening hours. Strict social distancing measure will be in place.

Meanwhile, management of local building firms have been busy planning a return to work while most employees have been furloughed.

DITT director Peter Tait said that a considerable amount of careful planning was required to ensure that building sites, once operational again, would observe the rules that would come with phase two.

“We need to plan for a phased return as it will be impossible to adhere to social distancing with all workers returning at the same time,” he said, referring to the King Harald Street site in Lerwick where the company is building 27 flats for Hjaltland Housing Association.

When work on the project came to a sudden halt on 24 March, as many as 40 workers from different contractors were busy on the site – something that will not be possible again.

Tait said the company was also required to plan for additional staff amenities to be provided at Union Street to allow people to observe distancing and cleaning requirements.

Shetland Islands Council, meanwhile, has confirmed that previous restrictions on recreational boat owners have been relaxed.

“Unrestricted outdoor exercise and non-contact outdoor activities (including water sports and angling) in the local area are allowed from today (29 May) whilst adhering to social distancing measures,” a notice to mariners said.

Shetland Amenity Trust is urging the public to check government guidelines before visiting Sumburgh Head, where it runs the lighthouse visitor centre.

People can now travel to exercise or indulge in recreation, but folk are advised to stay within five miles of their home. The five mile guidance does not apply to visiting other households in private gardens, for instance.

The trust’s Sandy Middleton said: “It is wonderful for many of us to be able to get out and about more and we know people are excited to get back to Sumburgh Head and to see the puffins.

“We do urge people to be responsible though, to maintain social distancing, to only visit if you live nearby, and to avoid the site if you arrive and it appears to be busy.

“It is important that people are aware that the toilets and visitor centre itself all remain closed and that there are no staff on site.  As such there are no hand washing facilities available and we ask that people take any litter home with them.

“If people do visit for a walk around the outdoor areas of the site then they should avoid touching gates and railings where at all possible and clean their hands afterwards.”

The latest government’s guidance on staying at home and away from others can be found here.