SOME council services have been put under pressure from staff shortages as more folk in Shetland self-isolate amid a spike in Covid cases, chief executive Maggie Sandison says.
It comes as ten new cases were confirmed in Shetland today (Friday), bringing the total in July to nearly 100.
Sandison was speaking as she welcomed an announcement from the Scottish Government around changes to self-isolation rules.
In a bid to protect essential services, double-vaccinated key workers who return a negative PCR test may be able avoid self-isolation if they are a close contact of a positive case.
They will also have to take daily lateral flow tests.
“The council has been working hard throughout the pandemic to keep services running as best as possible and keep our community safe, by closely following government advice,” Sandison said.
“Protecting the health and wellbeing of our staff and community remains our top priority as restrictions ease and life returns closer to normal.
“The higher numbers of confirmed cases over the last few weeks has resulted in more close contacts being required to self-isolate, which is placing pressure on some council services due to staff shortages.
“The council therefore welcomes the announcement that, in exceptional cases and only after a risk assessment, we have discretion to apply this exemption if there is a risk to the delivery of critical local lifeline services.”
Another essential service which the change in rules applies to is transport.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said he welcomed the “timely” introduction of the new measures.
A spokesperson for the company said that while no scheduled Loganair passenger services have been affected as a result of self-isolation, some “requested additional oil and gas charter services” have not been able to go ahead.
Hinkles said: “Our team has worked incredibly hard to keep lifeline routes and air services open throughout the pandemic.
“In recent days, it’s become increasingly challenging to do so, and we therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s timely introduction of measures to enable us to safeguard services on which so many communities depend for so much.
“At the same time, we recognise that the new measures place significant responsibilities on us as an employer, and we’ll work with every member of our team to make sure these measures to protect public health are upheld.”
NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson, meanwhile, said: “If self-isolation requirements create undue pressure on or threaten to halt an essential service, we welcome the ability to apply to exempt staff where they are in agreement and they meet the conditions.
“Clearly as a health organisation we are in a strong position to support our staff should this be required. This essentially brings forward a limited version of what we might expect more generally once Scotland is able to move beyond level 0 restrictions.”
The Unison union has delivered a note of caution, however. Its head of health Willie Duffy said “this could further the spread of Covid and have considerable negative impact on staff and the patients they care for”.
“We are fully aware of the pressure our health and care services are under and as always, our members are going above and beyond to do everything they can,” he said.
“But asking staff to adhere to the new rules is creating a double standard and as such UNISON Scotland cannot support these new rules.”
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