Shetland moves to level zero – but lack of certainty over new cluster could ‘compromise’ status

Shetland’s new level zero status could be compromised by contact tracing difficulties around the new cluster in Whalsay, according to the health board.

The isles moved into eased restrictions from midnight allowing for greater social mixing, later hospitality opening and larger numbers of attendees at weddings and funerals.

But with three new cases since Thursday and NHS Shetland reporting difficulties identifying all contacts, the status could be subject to further reviews.

Chief executive Michael Dickson, speaking yesterday, said that a number of people not being open and honest about their contacts was frustrating the contact tracing team’s efforts to get ahead of the cluster.

The comments were met with criticism from members of the Whalsay community, who said folk had been co-operative, with businesses closing as a precaution and people volunteering information.

However, Mr Dickson said there were others who were not forthcoming about the full extent of their contacts, which meant the health board had been forced to take a broader approach.

As a result, he said more than 100 people had been asked to self-isolate and the care home had been closed to visitors. 

He urged everyone to provide tracing teams with full details of their contacts to get on top of the cluster.

“This could escalate really quickly, or alternatively it could plateau and close off,” he said.

“If we had clear and accurate information from those people we’ve spoken to we would be able to make a much better assessment of it.”

Mr Dickson added: “There’s of course a risk that if we can’t absolutely be assured that we’ve done all the contact tracing that’s required it could well compromise our level zero status.”

For the time being, Mr Dickson said “we are still looking at a cluster of cases rather than an outbreak”.

He appealed for people to continue the careful and cautious approach the Shetland community had been so successful with throughout the pandemic so far.

“What I would ask of the people of Shetland is that they do what they’ve done throughout this whole pandemic, which is to be cautious, stick to ‘Facts’  and to be mindful of not expanding the number of contacts they have beyond the numbers that are reasonable ,” he said.

“Just because we have reduced restrictions doesn’t means we go up to the maximum of what those restrictions allow us to.

“Even level zero doesn’t mean zero restrictions.”

Mr Dickson advised people to take advantage of the twice weekly lateral flow tests which are available free of charge in Shetland.

As always, anyone who is experiencing Covid-type symptoms is reminded to request a test, not to travel and stay away from social gatherings. 

In the coming days, Mr Dickson said he expected more cases to be confirmed in the Shetland area, not restricted to Whalsay.

And with the Delta variant now the predominant form of Covid-19 in mainland Scotland, he also said it was likely Shetland would experience at least one case of that variant in the future. 

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