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Coronavirus / Island authorities plan for ‘potentially significant’ second Covid-19 wave

PREPARATIONS for a second wave of Covid-19 infections, likely to hit in autumn of this year, are ongoing according to Shetland Islands Council (SIC) and NHS Shetland.

SIC executive Maggie Sandison said the knowledge of a possible second wave is informing the council’s thinking on how to re-start services as the country comes out of lockdown from the first wave.

NHS Shetland’s public health consultant Dr Susan Laidlaw said the health board was continuing to plan with the council how to respond to a further Covid-19 peak, should one occur.

Chairman Gary Robinson said the health board was acutely aware of the risk of a second, potentially significant, wave of Covid-19.

“Whilst we hope that the good work already done by people in Shetland will mitigate this risk it’s vital we are prepared for whatever happens”, he said.

NHS Shetland confirmed on Friday that if mass testing should become a necessity the health board would have access to “huge capacity in Glasgow through the Lighthouse Labs”.

The number of cumulative confirmed cases in Shetland remains at 54 on Friday.

Sandison said: “The information that we are receiving from the Scottish Government is that in terms of the modelling for the pandemic there would be a further wave of infection in October and November – and that forms part of our thinking on restaring services.”

She said the council was looking “to build in resilience” in the way it brings back services so that it would be prepared for future infection waves.

“So if we can reduce the number of people having contact then that’s a big aspect about protecting the public and protecting staff should transmission start to increase again,” Sandison said.

“The other aspect of that is that October/November coincides with the normal flu season. We have a process around winter planning that happens every year but this year with the expectation of a peak on Covid-19 it makes it more challenging.”

Robinson added: “We are currently developing our plans which take into account any additional capacity we may need including the ability to rapidly increase Covid services, while stepping down all but the most essential activities.

“We have learnt a lot from our initial response to the virus and staff have been instrumental in helping us shape this plan.

NHS Shetland said it had access to huge testing capacity the Lighthouse Labs in Glasgow.

“We will be submitting the first iteration of this plan for consideration by the Scottish Government shortly. Once it has received approval it will come back to the board.”

Meanwhile, Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman has reiterated that island health boards will have adequate access to a Covid-19 vaccine should one become available.

“While there is no guarantee of success in any of the [170] trials [underway worldwide], it is prudent that we plan on the basis of a vaccine becoming available,” she said in response to a parliamentary question from Orkney MSP Liam McArthur.

“In Scotland we already deliver nearly two million doses of vaccine routinely every year and we have a comprehensive vaccine delivery infrastructure in place which includes delivery in island, remote and rural areas.

“Under existing vaccination programme arrangements, all islands health boards have effective arrangements in place for ordering and receiving centrally procured vaccines from holding centres and can receive deliveries on a weekly basis.

“We are currently working on a plan to upscale these existing arrangements in order to deliver a Covid-19 vaccine in the event that a safe and effective vaccine does become available, and this will include careful consideration of the particular needs of Scotland’s island, remote and rural communities.”