Public health teams expect to see more Covid-19 cases following the “move beyond level zero” – but say the success of the vaccination programme should prevent people becoming seriously ill.
NHS Shetland’s interim director of public health Susan Laidlaw said most recent cases had involved mild symptoms or none at all due to so many adults now being double jabbed.
Dr Laidlaw said almost all cases had been related to mainland travel – a pattern she expected to see continuing.
“On Monday, as restrictions are eased further, we may well see the numbers creeping up again because people will be mixing even more and there won’t be the same social distancing that we’ve had before.
“It means cases from people travelling may well spread a bit more.
“But because we’ve got the vaccination programme and because it’s done so well in Scotland, particularly in Shetland where we have such a high uptake, it means that when people are getting Covid it’s generally very mild symptoms or not symptoms at all.
“Among the vaccinated community the spread of the virus also seems to be less, so that’s why we can move to having more relaxations.”
As part of the changes from Monday, Dr Laidlaw said there would be differences to contact tracing.
While anyone testing positive will still be required to self-isolate and have their contacts traced – those who are identified as contacts will not be automatically required to isolate.
As explained on Tuesday by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, any contacts who are double vaccinated, with the latest jab given at least two weeks ago, and who return a negative PCR test, will not be required to self-isolate.
Dr Laidlaw said contacts under the age of 18 who returned a negative test would also be excluded from self-isolation requirements.
Children aged under five will be exempt as long as they show now symptoms; no test will be required.
Dr Laidlaw said the health board was awaiting further detail on the rules around health and social care staff, who are also able to gain exemptions from self-isolation, though with some form of risk assessments expected.
While welcoming the progress made, Dr Laidlaw also reminded people that there are still high risk groups who must be protected from the virus.
“Although most people have a greater level or protection through the vaccination, there are still vulnerable children, people who haven’t been vaccination and people with immunosuppression,” she said.
“So we still need to be mindful that although most of the population is well protected and won’t get ill there are some that still others that will.”
Dr Laidlaw said the basic advice around cough etiquette and hand hygiene would remain important.