I recognise that there is considerable anxiety within the Shetland community regarding the spread of COVID-19. I have sought assurances from and listened to advice and updates from various officials and organisations, including NHS Shetland, Shetland Islands Council, the Scottish Health Secretary, Loganair, Lerwick Port Authority, and Oil and Gas UK.
Whilst the situation is understandably concerning, we must be guided in our actions by scientific advice. Certain measures are most effective when deployed at the right time.
We are now in the ‘delay phase’ of the public health response to the pandemic. The updated guidance in Scotland is as follows:-
• If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19: Fever, shortness of breath and or a persistent cough you must self-isolate for 7 days. Stay at home for 7 days from the day your symptoms started. You can return to work after 7 days if you’re improving and no longer have a temperature. You don’t need to be completely symptom-free to return to work.
The 14 day requirement from the WHO is for those who have been exposed to the virus but are not yet showing symptoms.
Only call your GP or NHS 24 (111) out of hours if you are in an at-risk group (older age, or with pre-existing health problems) or where symptoms worsen dramatically. NHS 24 have set up a helpline specifically for older people to call for advice and information on 0800 028 2816.
• If a case is suspected it won’t be tested routinely. Testing will be conducted on a sample basis to gauge infection levels within communities.
• Schools will remain open for the time being. It is likely that they may need to close but when they do they may not re-open for several months.
• Planned overseas school trips will now not go ahead until further notice.
• Mass gatherings of over 500 people are advised not to go ahead from Monday, and any that require police/health worker support will be cancelled.
Further information can be found here https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus
There are three main questions I have been receiving from constituents that I would like to respond to:
1. Why haven’t schools in Shetland been closed?
Shetland Islands Council has announced that schools and childcare settings (apart from Fair Isle, Fetlar and Foula) will close from Monday 16th March to Friday 20th March. This decision has been taken for operational reasons.
The Scottish Health Secretary advised Parliament yesterday that there are two main reasons why all schools in Scotland are not advised to close that this stage.
“First, the fact of the matter is that, if we closed schools, pupils would have to be somewhere else: either at home, which may result in a significant impact on our public services if their parents or others were looking after them, or in other local authority provision, which—without meaning any disrespect—may not carry the same level of persistent hand hygiene and other hygiene as we see in our schools.
“However—and perhaps more important—if and when we get to a stage at which we require school closures, those would last not for one or two weeks, but for a number of weeks, which would take us through to the summer. That would have a significant impact on those who were affected. The science advises us very clearly not to take such steps earlier than is required, for the simple reason that, if we took them too early, that would reduce the impact on spread.”
2. Why haven’t cruise ships been stopped from arriving in Lerwick?
Lerwick Port Authority has published information about COVID-19 online, available here: https://www.lerwick-harbour.co.uk/hseq LPA is continuing to monitor UK Department for Transport Advice and will work closely with partner agencies to implement and changes to procedure, including any action required if a vessel arrives with passengers and crew who may be showing symptoms of the virus.
3. What should I do about travel my travel plans?
Travellers and those already abroad should keep up to date with the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus The Association of British Insurers has also published a Q&A on coronavirus, available here: https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/…/coronavirus-qa/
As the situation changes we must all exercise personal responsibility and keep up to date with the latest advice. Social media is helpful in providing that up to date guidance on the exceptional circumstances we find ourselves in. Our community is, naturally, feeling anxious so we should social media wisely.
I would like to thank our all our hardworking health and social care staff who keep services running and keep us safe.