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Coronavirus / Relaxation of Covid rules the ‘right decision’ at this stage, health officials say

LOCAL health officials believe that the upcoming relaxation of Covid rules on Monday is the “right decision” from a Shetland perspective.

From Monday face coverings will no longer be a legal requirement in Scotland – although they will be recommended – and people in the general public with no symptoms will not be asked to take lateral flow tests.

Speaking on Thursday ahead of the changes, NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said this latest round of changes “feels different” than previous rule relaxations.

He pointed to the success of the Covid vaccination programme as the “game changing moment”.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson. Photo: Chris Cope/Shetland News

Public health principal Elizabeth Robinson said: “I hope this is the right decision for Shetland.

“Of course we can’t guarantee that there won’t be a new and more harmful variant and if there is we will step things up again, but for the time being I think this is the right decision for Shetland.”

There have been 365 cases in Shetland over the last week but there continues to be a low impact when it comes to serious illness.

There have been some local deaths in recent Covid data, including one where the virus was mentioned on the death certificate of someone in the week beginning 4 April.

Meanwhile Dickson also said he will continue to wear face coverings in crowded places and on public transport.

He said, however, people’s decision is up them – “as long as they’re fully informed and they know the impact of what they are doing”.

“If you are comfortable to wear a mask, if makes you feel more comfortable, it’s an easy step that people can take to afford yourself a degree of protection and protect others,” Dickson added.

“It’s not difficult, it doesn’t take a huge amount of time.”

The timeline for the change in testing. Source: Scottish Government

Dickson said polling suggests up to 40 per cent of people will chose not to wear a mask once the legal restriction is removed.

“I don’t know whether that’ll be the same in Shetland,” he added.

“I think there will be plenty of people who will welcome the standing down of the legal requirement.

“I think equally there will be plenty of people who will be as comfortable to continue wearing a mask for as long as they feel they need to.”

The health chief also said as the requirement for the general public to test for Covid stops at the end of April, “there’s still a responsibility on the public to do the right thing – if you’re unwell, you should stay at home, you shouldn’t be mixing with people”.

Meanwhile consultant in public health Dr Dermot Gorman said this summer is likely to be different than in recent years as things open up.

“Around all the European countries things are heading in the right direction, they’re going down – and I can’t see why here would be any different,” he said.

“In fact here might have some advantages because you’re relatively spread out, very highly vaccinated and perhaps more responsible than some communities around the place.”