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Coronavirus / Island communities could have restrictions eased ‘faster’, first minister suggests

First minister Nicola Sturgeon.

FIRST minister Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that the Scottish islands could see their Covid restrictions eased faster than the rest of the country.

Scotland is expected to return to a localised levels system in late April, although Sturgeon will provide more details on the future easing of rules in parliament on Tuesday.

Shetland and most other Scottish islands are currently under level three restrictions while the rest of Scotland is in the more strict level four.

Sturgeon previously said that the islands could drop down a tier to level two at the end of April.

The islands have some of the lowest rates of coronavirus, with Shetland not registering a new case for more than one month.

This is against a backdrop of more than half the adult population in Shetland now having had their first dose of the vaccine.

Speaking at the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 committee yesterday (Wednesday), Sturgeon said there may be scope for the islands to ease restrictions quicker than the rest of the country.

“I will set out more of our expectations around this to the parliament next Tuesday, but I hope that, initially, as we come out of lockdown measures, we can do so as one country and then, in the future, if we have outbreaks or flare-ups, we can use the levels system to deal with them,” the first minister said.

“However, I hope that at least some substantial parts of easing of lockdown can apply across the country. Of course, it might very quickly be possible for some parts to go faster – I am talking about island and rural communities, in particular.”

Sturgeon also reiterated caution for easing restrictions too quickly, thanks in part to the new strain of the virus which is more spreadable.

“As I said in my initial statement, the exit from lockdown might be slower than any of us wants it to be, for good reason—that is true across the United Kingdom—but my focus and priority are to try to make it steady and one-directional, rather than going too fast now and finding that we take one step forward but two steps back,” the first minister said.

“I cannot guarantee that we will not have to do that, but I think that a bit of caution at this stage is the best mitigation and protection against it that we have.”