Health board urges islanders to follow new Covid rules

NHS SHETLAND has said it acknowledges that many people will be deeply disappointed by yesterday’s announcement of tough new Covid-19 restrictions but urges islanders to continue following the rules, difficult as they may be.

New measures to prevent the spread of a new and highly contagious strain of the virus will see Shetland placed under level three of Covid restrictions for at least three weeks as of Boxing Day. Mainland Scotland will be put in to tier four.

Christmas gatherings for up to eight people from three households are now only allowed, but discouraged, on Christmas Day.

Loganair, meanwhile, has severely cut back its flying programme and has cancelled all scheduled flights from Sumburgh to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and is instead focusing on providing a skeleton service to Orkney and Aberdeen from now until the end of January.

Responding to last night’s emergency announcements by the UK and the Scottish governments, NHS Shetland said on Sunday morning the additional restrictions imposed were necessary.

“Whilst we recognise this will be very disappointing for people across Shetland and the UK as a whole, it is clear the preventative steps are necessary to keep people safe by combatting transmission rates while the vaccination programme roll out continues,” a health board spokesperson said.

“We urge people in Shetland to keep up their good work in sticking to the rules and following the FACTS guidance as these are the things we can all do to protect one another and also our local health and care services.”

A detailed breakdown of what level three entails can be found on the Scottish Government website here.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles. Photo: Shetland News

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said the new travel restrictions would lead to many customers being unable to continue with plans over the coming weeks, and the Christmas period in particular.

The company is moving to an emergency timetable on 22 December. Details of the services still operating can be found on the company’s website.

Hinkles said: “We had scheduled extra Glasgow flights over Christmas for those visiting friends and family, but as the latest Christmas travel advice now precludes those types of visit taking place, these services have been cancelled.

“We’re in an identical position for Edinburgh flights and given the announcement by the first minister yesterday [Saturday] of strict limitations on who can and cannot travel to and from the Scottish islands for three weeks from 26 December (through to 18 January), the decision to concentrate solely on Aberdeen and Kirkwall flights from now until the end of January has been taken in view of the likely significant reduction in demand – to levels seen last July during the latter stages of the first lockdown.”

A company spokesperson added: “Where your flight has been cancelled, we will offer a full refund or the option to place your booking on hold for use at a future date within 12 months.

“There will be no change fee or difference in fare payable if and when you subsequently come to re-arrange your travel on the route on which you’re booked to fly.”

Shetland News