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Coronavirus / Islands to stay in tier three amid Scotland-wide lockdown

All schools in Shetland will remain closed until the end of January

SCOTLAND is being placed into another lockdown for the rest of January to tackle high Covid-19 infection rates, but the islands will continue to remain in tier three.

Addressing a recalled Scottish Parliament on Monday afternoon, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said that due to the spread of the new variant of Covid-19 she is now more concerned than at any time in the last 10 months.

The situation the country finds itself in, she said, was “extremely serious” as there was a “real risk” that the NHS could become overwhelmed. She described the situation as a “race between the virus and the vaccine”.

Sturgeon said: “The evidence is now compelling that the new variant is up to 70% more transmissible than previously circulating strains, and that it may add as much as 0.7 to the R number.

“And according to recent analysis of PCR test samples, it appears that the new variant already accounts for almost half of all new cases in Scotland.

“And if the rate of increase in case numbers that we have seen in past two weeks was to continue unchecked, there would be a real risk of our NHS being overwhelmed – even with contingency plans in place.”

All schools across Scotland, including those in Shetland, will remain closed until the end of the month. This decision will be reviewed in mid-January.

Asked by the leader of the Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie what the rationale behind leaving the islands in level three but keeping island schools closed, the first minister said this was a “cautious and precautionary decision” to allow the isles to remain in level three.

She added: “We have decided to leave the island communities in level three; we have looked very carefully at Shetland […] but the indication yesterday and today is that the situation is stabilising, but of course we will be monitoring that very carefully indeed.”

Today, a further 1,905 confirmed cases were added to the Scottish total. NHS Shetland reported two new cases linked to the current outbreak, which appears to be slowing down.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “After all the effort and sacrifice of the last year, it’s difficult to hear that even more must be done to combat Covid-19. That said, the evidence clearly shows it is necessary for stricter measures to be brought in.

“Remaining in Level three means Shetland might be slightly cushioned from the full weight of restrictions, but I know today’s announcement will bring further anxiety for many, as the social and economic repercussions build once again.

“It’s important people don’t suffer in silence. If you are struggling emotionally, economically or in any other way, please do reach out and get in touch through email or over the phone.

“For many people, life revolves around schools in one way or another so their closing will have real ripple effects. Equal access to remote learning needs to be assured, no matter where in Scotland you are, and I will be seeking assurances on this.”

Leader of Shetland Islands Council Steven Coutts said the local authority would need to take time to understand the detail of the first minister’s announcement.

“These measures have been introduced on basis of clinical advice and evidence and we understand the need for government to take swift action based on this,” he said.

“It is crucial the community continues to follow the FACTS guidance as that is our biggest protection until vaccine roll out.”