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Coronavirus / Level three ‘appropriate’ while vaccination effort is ongoing

KEEPING Shetland in level three of Scotland’s Covid-19 restrictions is the appropriate thing to do at this stage of the pandemic, according to NHS Shetland consultant for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw.

Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday morning the health professional said a precautionary approach to opening up was still required while the vaccination programme was ongoing.

But cafes and shops that had closed during the Christmas outbreak could re-open under level three if they wanted to, she reiterated.

“A lot of those closed down in and around the outbreak when Shetland put itself almost into level four,” Dr Laidlaw said.

“There is quite a lot that we can do in level three that is maybe not happening yet.”

Closing shops, cafes and leisure facilities including the library during the Christmas outbreak when the health board had given out the ‘stay at home’ message had been “entirely appropriate”, she said.

Public health consultant Dr Susan Laidlaw.

“There are places opening up again that weren’t before. There is almost a move of getting into level three – and then gradually things will change after that,” she said.

Shetland has had just two confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the last four weeks.

However, she warned not to rush towards greater freedom especially during the ongoing vaccination programme, and added that the option of allowing household visits within level three again is a possibility the health board is “keeping an eye on” and wants to discuss with the Scottish Government.

“At the moment, I think level three is appropriate whilst we are still getting second dose vaccination to the most vulnerable,” she said.

“Once we get that added layer of protection for the most vulnerable people in the community we all feel more reassured around opening up a bit more.

“We also really want to see what happens with children going back to school, before making another move.”

National clinical director Jason Leitch also voiced a word of caution when responding to suggestions that Shetland should move down one or two levels down before the end of April.

“That would be a decision above my pay grade. But our advice is just now we should stay national, but we should move to a more nuanced, regional local approach when we can,” he said.

“There’s one difficulty and one good thing. The difficulty is we don’t know how the new variant will react to opening, because we’ve never done that. No country has done that. So we’re very worried about the nature of the new variant. The second thing is a good thing, and that’s vaccination.”

Details of what is possible in level three of Covid-19 restrictions can be found here.

And NHS Shetland’s regularly updated Covid-19 information site can be found at https://www.healthyshetland.com/covid-vaccinations-update