THE BAN on socialising in other people’s homes is to be removed in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles later this week, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed.
The restriction will be removed from Friday (13 November). Six people from two households will be able to meet.
People who leave the islands to visit the mainland will be asked to avoid household mixing on their return for a period of time, the first minister added, with guidance due to be issued in the near future.
Sturgeon gave the update in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon (Tuesday), with Shetland remaining in level one of the government’s tiered system.
She warned against complacency in the islands – the only areas in Scotland where household socialising will be allowed.
People must still adhere to guidance on social distancing and hygiene.
Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts welcomed the easing of restrictions around household socialising.
“The government’s indicators demonstrate that Shetland is firmly in the lower tiers and has been for many months,” he said.
“This is a point I have been raising for some time and why we pushed so hard for a move away from the one size fits all approach, and supported the introduction of the strategic framework.
“It is good to see that reflected today in the removal of the in-home visit ban. It is a demonstration that others have listened, reflected on the same evidence we have been pointing to, and that our repeated calls were fully justified.
“I trust in the Shetland community to continue to follow the FACTS guidance and continue to demonstrate the responsible approach we have done up until now.”
Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said she was “pleased” with the change on household visits.
“This change will be welcome news for people in Shetland who have missed visiting family and friends in recent months,” she said.
“Many have been worried about the prospect of isolation and loneliness through the coming winter.
“Restrictions need to be proportionate, and suitable for the community they are being imposed on. This is a balancing act, between social harms and the risk of the virus.
“Now that small, indoor gatherings are to be allowed in Shetland I appeal to everyone in the islands to continue with their diligence, and continue following the rules to help keep our community safe.”
Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston also said he hoped the easing of restrictions “will bring some comfort to those who, since the pandemic started, have been forced to spend too much time apart from friends and loved ones”.
Shetland entered level one of the Scottish Government’s new tiered system of coronavirus restrictions on 2 November.
Level one allows six people from two households to meet indoors but a rise in cases nationally prompted the government to initially continue restrictions on visiting folk indoors on a temporary basis.
This was met by disappointment from the leadership of Shetland Islands Council, with concerns over the social impact the restrictions could have during the winter.
Sturgeon provided an update in parliament on Tuesday on the first review of the tiered system.
Reviews are expected to be carried out each week.
Shetland is one of five council areas in level one of the tiered system, alongside Orkney, the Western Isles, Highland and Moray.
Sturgeon, meanwhile, said there were a further 39 additional deaths across Scotland linked to coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
She said “we do still face tough times ahead…but there are also grounds for optimism now.”
The first minister said developments around a possible vaccine announced on Monday was “extremely encouraging – that’s probably an understatement”.
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