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Coronavirus / Frontline services continue to be affected by Covid

FRONTLINE services provided by Shetland Islands Council continue to be affected by Covid related staff absences, chief executive Maggie Sandison confirmed to Shetland News.

Social care, education and ferry services are all affected by the continuously high levels of absence leading to cancellations and bottlenecks in service delivery.

With all Covid restrictions lifted in Scotland and regular testing limited to those working in health and care, it is impossible to know exactly what the level of infection in the community is.

Unsurprisingly, the number of reported cases has dropped dramatically since testing is reserved only for certain reasons, such as hospital visits or if it is required through work.

The current guidance is that if people have symptoms of a respiratory infection or have a fever and do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, they should stay at home.

SIC chief executive Maggie Sandison. Photo: Shetland News

According to Public Health Scotland – which is now releasing data on a weekly basis – there are now an average of 10 new cases per day in Shetland.

A recent Covid infection survey for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that one in 40 people in Scotland had a Covid infection. If accurate that would mean roughly 550 infected people in Shetland.

Sandison said: “We are continuing to see levels of absence from Covid that are higher than before, and we are trying to deliver services that are still affected by a pandemic.”

She said the latest bout of inter-island ferry cancellations on Yell and Bluemull Sound were all due to Covid circulating in the community.

“We still have quite high levels of Covid occurring and what happens is that people become unwell, and they are having go off,” Sandison said.

“People seems to have forgotten that we are still delivering services within that level of absence, and ferries are places where people are in close contact with lots of members of the public.

“Inevitably this affects frontline services,” she said. “We have seen issues in care, in education and in ferries.”

And Sandison praised council staff for acting responsibly and encouraged them to continue to stay off work when testing positive as this is “keeping the rest of the team safe”.

“At the same time,” she said, “this creates the fragility that we are seeing in service delivery.”

Interim director for public health Dr Susan Laidlaw said the national advice is that most people no longer need to take a test if they think they have Covid.

“Anyone with respiratory symptoms that could be due to Covid, or flu or any other viral infection should take sensible precautions including hand and respiratory hygiene, and, if they are unwell or have a fever, avoid contact with other people and stay at home.”

Meanwhile, many council staff who have tested positive and who are not employed in frontline services are often able to continue working remotely from home, as fewer Covid infections lead to serious illnesses.