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Coronavirus / What does life beyond level zero look like?

AS SCOTLAND moves ‘beyond level zero’ in Covid rules most legally binding restrictions are being lifted from today (Monday).

Physical distancing has been removed apart from in the health and social care sector where the two metre rule continues to be observed.

All limits on the number of people who can meet inside and outdoors have been removed, although organisers of larger events need to apply for permission. All venues, shops, pubs and restaurants are allowed to open.

The rules on self-isolation have also been eased which is likely to result in significantly fewer people being asked to isolate if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case.

However, the wearing of face coverings in many public places will continue to be mandatory.

Health professionals are asking local people to continue to act mindfully despite low infection rates and a high uptake in vaccination, continue to wash their hands regularly and thoroughly, and ventilate indoor spaces.

NHS Shetland also advises for people to undertake lateral flow tests regularly, particularly when travelling to and from the isles.

What lifting of the Covid rules mean for Shetland:

  • All Covid restricted capacity limits on public transport – buses and inter-island ferries – have been removed;
  • The ‘correct fare only’ requirement has also been lifted. Contactless payments are available on most mainland buses;
  • Passenger capacity restraints on board the NorthLink ferries have also been lifted. The Hrossey and Hjaltland are again allowed to carry 600 passengers;
  • However, the wearing of face masks in all public areas on board the vessels is mandatory, and booking single bunks in a shared cabin continues to be off limits;
  • Shetland Arts will remove all social distancing rules from its venues on Wednesday, seating for events will return to normal, café table bookings will no longer be needed, but the requirement for face coverings will remain in place;
  • The weekly ‘relaxed’ film screenings at Mareel will continue with social distancing to help more vulnerable members of the community feel comfortable returning to the cinema;
  • All indoor hospitality venues are required to continue the collection of contact details of customers;
  • However, close contacts of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 will not longer have to self-isolate for an extended period if they have been vaccinated twice and are able to return a negative PCR test. Younger people who are not vaccinated only need to provide a negative PCR test.
  • In secondary schools, teachers and pupils will continue to wear face masks and the one metre distancing rule will remain in place for at least another six weeks;
  • In addition, schools will need to focus on ventilation, install carbon dioxide monitors, and staff and pupils are asked to take a lateral flow test one or two days before returning to school;
  • The Scottish Government said all new rules will continue to be reviewed on a regular basis.

Meanwhile most of the remaining restrictions for visiting people in the Gilbert Bain Hospital are being lifted though visits still needed to be managed to ensure the safe operation of the facility.

This means that:

  • Patients can agree to have two visitors from any household, visiting them at the same time;
  • In order to ensure that the clinical areas do not become overcrowded, NHS Shetland asks that visitors continue to phone ahead and check with the nurse in charge of the ward before visiting;
  • Visitors will continue to be asked to provide their contact details so NHS Shetland asks that people report to the person in charge on their arrival so they can be recorded;
  • Current requirements around wearing face coverings, hand washing or the use of alcohol-based hand rub, will remain in place;
  • People are asked to maintain physical distancing where possible;
  • Visitors are encouraged to take regular lateral flow tests, particularly before a visit to see someone in hospital;
  • Patients who have been admitted who are Covid positive, will continue to have access to essential visitors only.

NHS Shetland’s director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said: “When coming to the hospital, please wear one of the masks provided, keep your hands clean and maintain physical distancing at all times. It is also important you provide your contact details so that can get in touch again if we need to, through the Test and Protect team”.

The following general restriction applies for all visitors:

  • Do not visit anyone in hospital if you have a fever/respiratory/cough or cold symptoms and loss of taste/smell or not feeling well in general;
  • Do not visit if you have had any sickness or diarrhoea within the last 48 hours;
  • All visitors must hand sanitise when entering and leaving clinical areas.

Additional information:

  • NHS Shetland is continuously updating its own Covid-19 information site at https://www.coronavirus.shetland.nhs.scot
  • Lateral flow tests can be ordered from the government free of charge using this link.
  • Vaccination certificates – necessary for travelling abroad, can be obtained by following this link.  Please note the highlighted area in the ‘Request a copy of your vaccination status’ section.

Despite these latest relaxations and relative low Covid infection levels in the isles, NHS Shetland advises people to regularly take lateral flow tests (LFT) at home.

Interim director for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said: “It is not easy to get everyone to do two LFTs every week voluntarily – I doubt most of the general public are doing that.

“But, we would like to get folk to do them at least when they have been at a higher risk of exposure i.e. travelling to higher risk places, or if they have been in a ‘setting’ and had a warn and inform message.”