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Coronavirus / Household visits continue to be banned as Shetland is placed in tier one

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SHETLAND, along with Orkney, Highland, the Western Isles and Moray will be placed in tier one from Monday as part of the new Covid-19 restrictions, with household visits still banned for a short period.

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the new restriction levels during first minister’s questions in the Scottish Parliament at Thursday lunchtime.

The decision was met with disappointment locally after it emerged that the islands’ Covid indicators all pointed towards tier zero, which would have allowed for the greatest freedom in the current pandemic.

The new tier system will be reviewed weekly on Tuesdays with changes implemented the following Friday. The first review is scheduled for 10 November.

Sturgeon said: “In time, hopefully a short time, we expect people in that level one to allow people to meet in each other’s homes in groups of up to six from a maximum of two households.

“However, at present on clear public health advice, the restrictions on household meetings will continue to apply in all parts of the country for now.

“I am conscious that in more rural and island communities that restriction can cause difficulties, so we will review the necessity of it in level one areas ahead on the 10 November review. If the virus remains controlled in these areas I am hopeful that we will be able to lift it then.”

SIC political leader Steven Coutts.
SIC leader Steven Coutts: Photo: Shetland News

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts said while the strategic framework and the tiered approach was welcomed he described the decision to continue with the ban on household visits as “extremely disappointing”.

He said: “Indeed, in a call with government yesterday (Wednesday) they confirmed that all of the indicators that they are using place Shetland in tier zero.

“A very urban-centric view sees cafe and pubs being open to provide socialising opportunities. This is welcome for the Shetland hospitality trade and those in our community with disposable income.

“But that provides little comfort to our remote and rural island communities who are cut off digitally and physically. A community that suffers from a very high cost of living, a community that is now going into winter.

“Essentially, with no access to public spaces, those in remote and rural Shetland have effectively been placed in tier two, one that embeds and increases serious inequalities in our community. The government’s own evidence and indicators show a ban on in home visiting is not necessary.

“I appreciate the offer of early review on this visit ban by the first minister in her statement today. I will as a matter of urgency be taking up that offer. I will seek to ensure the government does not further isolate already disadvantaged individuals in our community for any longer than is necessary.”

Sturgeon said the government continued to take a cautionary approach saying that there was no room for complacency. She added that in Europe countries such as France and Germany had decided to go back into national lockdown, a situation that she wanted to avoid for Scotland.

Here in Scotland and across the UK, we have been dealing with the same pattern of COVID-19 resurgence as experienced right around the world. Europe is now firmly in the grip of a second wave and only last night both France and Germany re-imposed nationwide lockdowns.

“In Scotland, we acted early – with some difficult but necessary measures – and while we have no grounds for complacency we do see some encouraging signs – in the last week, cases have increased by four per cent whereas two weeks ago the weekly increase was 40 per cent.

The local authority areas placed in level two and three are:-

Level two:

  • Aberdeenshire
  • Aberdeen
  • Fife
  • Scottish Borders
  • Dumfries & Galloway
  • Argyll & Bute
  • Perth & Kinross
  • Angus

Level three:

  • Inverclyde
  • East Dunbartonshire
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • Renfrewshire
  • East Renfrewshire
  • City of Glasgow
  • South Ayrshire
  • East Ayrshire
  • North Ayrshire
  • Stirling
  • Falkirk
  • Clackmannanshire
  • City of Edinburgh
  • Midlothian
  • West Lothian
  • East Lothian
  • Dundee
  • North Lanarkshire
  • South Lanarkshire

The first minister added: “If you live in a level one or level two local authority area you must not travel to a level three or level four area except for essential proposes.

“By essential purposes we mean things like work, if you cannot work from home, education, local outdoor exercise, healthcare or caring responsibilities and essential shopping where that is not possible locally.

“Similarly people wherever they live should not travel between Scotland and areas in the rest of the UK with high levels of the virus unless it is essential.

“Given that the police can’t check everyone’s journey this has to rely on public willingness to adhere. That’s why the advice in in guidance at this stage and not regulation but we keep that under review.”

The first minister also confirmed that Shetland was the only NHS area with no new confirmed Covid cases during the last 24 hours. There were a total of 1,128 new cases.

Coutts, meanwhile, added: “I have the confidence that as we approach the winter period we, as a community, will continue to play our part in controlling the Covid-19 impact. However, we are better able to do this if we have confidence and clarity on new guidance and restrictions, and that they are fit for Shetland.

“As an elected politician, it is important I am able to scrutinise and question measures that are impacting on community wellbeing. I will continue to press for recognition of the “balance of harms” and the real needs of our Shetland community as we approach winter.

“I would finally take the opportunity to again remind individuals of the need to follow the FACTS guidance.  We are going to have to work hard to convince the Scottish Government that they can lift the ban on home visiting at their first review of tiers.

“Everyone needs to take responsibility and demonstrate that reinstating this additional freedom will not cause behaviour that promotes virus transmission.”