Shetland is the “ideal place” to pilot an exit strategy from the Covid-19 imposed lockdown, isles MSP Beatrice Wishart has said.
Ms Wishart made the the comments in a letter to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week, following calls from academics to take a geographical approach to easing restrictions.
“Our locked island community is the ideal place to pilot an exit strategy from lockdown with its population of 23,000,” she wrote.
“As testing facilities will be available in Lerwick this week, there is a view in the community that here in Shetland we should revert to the containment phase, and conduct mass testing and contact tracing.
“Obviously additional resource and testing equipment would be required to increase capacity.
“With proper evidence, however, this would inform and consequently allow for a phased relaxation of the rules to start to get back to normality, both socially and economically, while continuing to shield the most vulnerable.
“Results from Shetland could inform the strategy for the rest of the country on how to exit from the lockdown.”
Ms Wishart’s comments were made as the UK looked set for another three weeks of lockdown.
There have been growing calls for the UK and Scottish governments to announce what the strategy will be for when the lockdown finally ends.
Suggestions have been raised that the lockdown could be lifted in stages, either by age group, or geographical location.
Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, told The Herald this week: “There could soon be a case for a geographical lifting of restrictions – such as in some of the Scottish islands and the Highlands and Grampian.
“The Western Isles and Orkney are the obvious candidates to be the test beds for an exit strategy for the country.
“Travel is restricted because they are islands and have extremely low levels of confirmed cases.
“You can control access to them and re-open things like shops and churches etc and get back gradually to normal life again.”
Ms Wishart said the professor’s comments were “encouraging”.
“There seems to be a strong case for Scotland’s islands to test lockdown exit strategies.
“Shetland must be included in that discussion too.
“There will be important information to be gathered from across Scotland’s island communities.
“An early spike in cases meant that the Shetland community acted proactively at the beginning of the outbreak to help tackle the virus.
“We want to continue to play our part in aiding the evidence base for easing lockdown restrictions.”