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Coronavirus / First minister advises not to travel to Aberdeen

Lockdown decision will impact on some patient travel, NHS Shetland says

PEOPLE have been advised not to travel to Aberdeen following a “significant outbreak” of coronavirus cases linked to pubs in the city.

Lockdown restrictions are being imposed today (Wednesday) in the Aberdeen city area in response to the new cases.

Transport Scotland said people will be able to travel home to Shetland from Aberdeen – but for those travelling to Aberdeen in the coming days, only essential travel is permitted.

“SNF [Serco NorthLink Ferries] and Loganair continue to provide lifeline connections as they have done throughout previous lockdown phases to maintain connectivity and operators will seek to inform all those travelling (both northbound and southbound) tonight of the latest Scottish Government guidance on Aberdeen,” a Transport Scotland spokesman said.

“As such it will be for those travelling to decide if they wish to still do so, given recently issued guidance. All transport modes have measures in place to protect passengers and staff from Covid-19 and, now more than ever, it is important that all guidance is followed in order to prevent its spread.”

NorthLink Ferries said on its website that the company would give guidance of how to protect against the virus but essentially it “will be for those travelling to decide if they wish to do so given issued guidance”.

Meanwhile, minister for parliamentary business Graeme Dey confirmed to Orkney MSP Liam McArthur that travel to and from Aberdeen for work and education purposes is allowed, and all other forms of travel is not advised.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon said earlier on Wednesday that 54 cases were now associated with the cluster of cases, which was initially linked to the Hawthorn Bar but is now connected to 20 other licensed premises.

People have been told not to travel to Aberdeen while restrictions have been re-imposed.

She said: “These decisions have not been taken lightly.

“The fact that the outbreak is no longer simply associated with one location, combined with the accelerating increase in cases means we cannot rule out community transmission now being the case in Aberdeen.”

“We are at a stage of this pandemic where extreme caution is still necessary. Acting now gives us the time and the space to protect the ability of our young people to return to full time education.”

Those in the city cannot travel more than five miles for leisure purposes, and they cannot visit people’s houses.

All indoor and outdoor hospitality in the city will also be closed. The restrictions will be reviewed in a week.

NHS Shetland and Orkney chief executive Michael Dickson said the decision means that only urgent and essential patients will be travelling to Aberdeen for treatment while the new measures are in place.

“First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to lockdown Aberdeen after a cluster of 54 Covid-positive cases is a stark reminder that we are no-where close to finished with Covid-19,” he said.

“This decision will impact both NHS Shetland and NHS Orkney as many patients receive treatment at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary. 

“I understand the concerns for patients travelling south and we will do all we can to minimise risk. We have well established processes in place to support patient travel and have been working with ferry operators and Loganair to ensure people can move on and off the islands safely. 

“What this lockdown means is that we will be sending only urgent and essential cases to Aberdeen and that we will need to review any currently planned treatments to ensure they have to go ahead. However, we will keep patients and communities informed as the situation evolves. 

“The risk of Covid resurfacing is something we have been expecting and we are readyWe all need to keep washing our hands, adhere to social distancing, practise safe cough hygiene and, if any of us experience symptoms, we must self-isolate and request a test.

“We all have a duty to protect ourselves, our families and the most vulnerable members of our community by acting responsibly​.”