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Coronavirus / Isles could be placed in ‘level one’ of coronavirus restrictions – but indoor visits may not return straight away

Leaked letter from the Scottish Government says Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Highlands and Moray could move down a tier from current level

The Muckle Roe bridge. Photo courtesy of Shetland Islands Council.Photo: SIC

SHETLAND could see coronavirus restrictions ease when a new tiered system comes into place – but household visits may still be initially banned.

A leaked letter from the Scottish Government to national council organisation COSLA adds that travel restrictions between areas with a lower prevalence of the virus and areas with a higher level of restrictions could also be reinforced.

The letter, dated Monday (26 October), says that the government is considering placing the Shetland, Orkney, Western Isles, Highland and Moray council areas in ‘level one’ of restrictions from Monday (2 November), although no decisions have been made.

Current national restrictions are broadly similar to what level two will be.

More information on the proposed tiers can be read online on the Scottish Government website.

Level one would generally allow people to visit indoors, with a gathering a maximum of six from two households, but the letter states that that “no in-home socialising” may be allowed for a period of time when the tiers come into place on Monday (2 November).

“There are encouraging signs in the data, signalled by the indicators, in relation to some of the areas presently at level two,” the Scottish Government’s director-general of constitution and external affairs Kenneth Thomson wrote in the letter.

“These are Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles. Presently consideration is being given to moving five areas from level two to level one, with two additional safeguards.

“The first is maintaining ‘no in-home socialising’ in level one for a period from 2 November. The second is reinforcing communication of the travel advice set out in Scotland’s Strategic Framework in order to bear down on the risk of infection being introduced to these areas from areas of higher prevalence.”

There was a hope from council leadership in Shetland that the isles could be placed in level zero – the bottom tier – or level one.

Council leader Steven Coutts said on Monday evening that the local authority had not had individual contact from the government yet, but expected it in the very near future.

The letter said the government would speak to council leaders today (Tuesday) and tomorrow before decisions are reached.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said last week that he would not be surprised if something between level one and two was imposed – which is appears to be reflected in the leaked letter – particularly with people coming back from October holidays.

The letter says public health advice is that no area should be placed in level zero straight away due to higher case numbers and winter approaching.

Elsewhere in Scotland there is consideration to place North and South Lanarkshire under the highest level of Covid restrictions – level four – although things are said to be stabilising.

Once levels are introduced they could remain in place for two to four weeks, but they will be reviewed weekly. It is anticipated that the first review could take place on 9 November.

MSPs are due to debate the strategic framework in the Scottish Parliament later today (Tuesday).