Shetland’s health chief has said he is “very sympathetic” to the calls raised for an “islands approach” to the Covid-19 restrictions – but warned there were no easy answers.
Michael Dickson, who is chief executive at NHS Shetland and Orkney, addressed the calls for a local easing of restrictions at a press conference today (Monday).
Councils and politicians have in recent days raised the prospect of Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles taking their own approach to the measures, given their comparatively low case numbers.
Following the introduction of new measures, including restrictions on household visits, some folk have questioned whether the guidance needs to be applied across the board.
Mr Dickson said: “I really understand why people are looking for that flexibility – but it comes down to what you are willing to give up.”
He questioned whether folk would be prepared to ban all travel to and from the islands as a trade-off for lesser restrictions on the isles.
“Unless we’re ready to raise the drawbridge and say we’re going to be self contained, the risk can become really difficult to manage,” he added.
Mr Dickson warned that the impact of such travel restrictions, as demonstrated in the earlier stage of lockdown, could be “huge”.
He also questioned at what point the islands would return to the national restrictions, should there be any further localised outbreaks.
Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles have all experiences new cases in recent weeks. The Western Isles’ official case number increased by nine today alone – its biggest daily increase throughout the crisis.
Mr Dickson said the outbreaks in Aberdeen, and the cluster associated with a fishing vessel in Orkney also demonstrated how quickly the virus could spread.
While he said he welcomed the debate, Mr Dickson added that the moves for a localised approach were based on a “lot of presumptions”.
“When you start to question, there’s no easy answers,” he added.