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Coronavirus / Person with Covid-19 ‘stable’ in Gilbert Bain, health board confirms

Islanders advised to ‘choose between’ existing restrictions or extended Christmas bubble

AN INDIVIDUAL who has tested positive for Covid-19 is in a stable condition in the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick.

NHS Shetland confirmed the positive case, the first in the islands in just over a week, on Thursday afternoon and said the person in question had contracted Covid-19 outside of the islands.

It is the first recorded case of the virus in Shetland since last Wednesday and takes the total number of recorded infections to 76. That is six fewer than the Western Isles has recorded since the start of pandemic but double the 38 seen in Orkney to date.

Scotland has recorded another 51 deaths in the past 24 hours and a further 958 cases. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Thursday that the R number across the country was estimated to be just below 1.

Responding to a question from Shetland’s Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart, meanwhile, Scotland’s national clinical director professor Jason Leitch has confirmed islanders will be expected to “choose between” forming an extended Christmas bubble with up to two other families or continuing to visit multiple households separately as permitted under Level 1 restrictions.

Leitch said that by forming a bubble for the five days when restrictions are to be eased over the festive period “you’ve already taken the risk… and therefore we would ask [your constituents] to be very, very cautious about meeting other individuals outwith their Christmas bubble”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Shetland on Thursday evening, NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said Shetland had “done so well and worked so hard during this pandemic” and he “really wouldn’t want to be looking at a significant rise in cases in January because people thought ‘this one will be okay’ or ‘that one will be okay’”.

Dickson said the health service continued to recommend keeping social contacts to an absolute minimum, including over the festive period, and just because you “can” do something doesn’t mean you “should”.

“This is not a mix-and-match strategy,” he said, “so if you are agreeing that you’re sticking together as a group, a bubble, a support network, then you stick with that.”

Meanwhile, Wishart has welcomed news that the Scottish Government is working to ensure deep freeze stores for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be distributed from next week are made available to island communities.

Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith confirmed the vaccine was stored in larger “packs” of doses and has a “limited shelf life” after it has been broken down – so distribution plans are being “walked through”.

Wishart said: “We have turned a corner with the news this week that a vaccine has gone through all the regulatory processes to be approved and will soon be rolled out to those who need it most. Now is a time for optimism but this pandemic is not over yet. We need to stay vigilant although there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

“The logistical challenge of vaccinating the population cannot be under-estimated, and as ever there are additional complications around those practicalities in island communities like ours.

“There must be equal access across Scotland, and I am glad that the Scottish Government has now recognised this and is locating deep freeze units in the islands. It will be essential that government and public health teams keep rural and island communities fully included as more details become clear.”