THE SHETLAND, Orkney and Western Isles councils have teamed up to seek talks with the Scottish Government over the possibility of a more localised approach to coronavirus restrictions for the islands.
The leaders of the three councils have written to the Scottish Government’s national clinical director Jason Leitch to request discussions on the matter.
There is a feeling that some of the new restrictions imposed in Scotland earlier this week in response to a rise in infections are unfair for areas of the country where there are fewer cases of Covid-19.
This is particularly relevant for the ban on people visiting homes for social purposes. Generally people can now only socialise outside or in public indoor places like cafes, restaurants and pubs.
SIC leader Steven Coutts said as winter approaches “our mental wellbeing is crucial”.
“We have short days, more inclement weather and less opportunity to meet outside,” he said.
“It must be remembered in lots of areas of Shetland, we don’t have access to broadband and digital calls, we don’t have cafes and pubs on doorstep in which to meet.
“So we must consider how we have appropriate and safe social interaction. We are seeking a willingness from government to have these conversations.”
The councillor added that “we have seen more severe restrictions imposed in some areas in excess of national restrictions”.
“We would suggest that in areas of lower prevalence then logic would follow we should take the opportunity to explore appropriate measures.
“To be clear all this is suggested while stressing the importance of following FACTS guidance. So washing hands, masks, distancing.
“Every restriction results in significant impact on social, economic and other health issues. They must be adopted carefully and proportionally.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said an “islands approach may seem to make sense in some ways, but any divergence must be properly considered and well thought through so that public safety is always paramount”.
“The islands are naturally separate, and have many unique points that need to be considered when pandemic restrictions are being drawn up,” she said.
“[Orkney MSP] Liam McArthur and myself will meet with the Health Secretary and the National Clinical Director, and in that meeting I will be making those points clear. I look forward to hearing the Scottish Government’s response.”
A different approach for the islands was also supported by Scottish secretary in the UK Government Alister Jack earlier this week.
He said: “The R number is very high in certain parts of Scotland, very low in other parts of Scotland.
“I would feel sorry for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, for instance, on this household ban because there’s very little prevalence of the virus up there.”
Orkney MSP McArthur has also spoken up in favour of a more localised approach.
“The recent decision by both the Scottish and UK Governments to enforce tighter restrictions on social gatherings is understandable given that confirmed cases are increasing across the country,” he said on Thursday.
“Nevertheless, I am concerned that these moves are seen by many constituents as excessive in light of local circumstances.”
Shetland’s cumulative tally of positive coronavirus tests, meanwhile, remains at 60.
Become a supporter of Shetland News
Shetland News is asking its many readers to consider start paying for their dose of the latest local news delivered straight to their PC, tablet or mobile phone.
Journalism comes at a price and because that price is not being paid in today’s rapidly changing media world, most publishers - national and local - struggle financially despite very healthy audience figures.
Most online publishers have started charging for access to their websites, others have chosen a different route. Shetland News currently has over 420 supporters who are all making small voluntary financial contributions. All funds go towards covering our cost and improving the service further.
Your contribution will ensure Shetland News can: -
- Bring you the headlines as they happen;
- Stay editorially independent;
- Give a voice to the community;
- Grow site traffic further;
- Research and publish more in-depth news, including more Shetland Lives features.
If you appreciate what we do and feel strongly about impartial local journalism, then please become a supporter of Shetland News by either making a single payment or monthly subscription.
Support us from as little as £3 per month – it only takes a minute to sign up. Thank you.Support Shetland News