Cautious support for easing of Covid restrictions

Health chiefs have welcomed the Scottish government’s next steps for living with Covid as a “proportionate” response.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said today’s (Tuesday) announcement from the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was a “cautious step forward”.

The announcement paves the way for an end of vaccine passports, restrictions on businesses and requirements to wear face coverings in public.

Unlike the UK government’s announcement, however, people will still need to self-isolate if they test positive. Regular testing is also set to continue in Scotland.

Mr Dickson said the Scottish government’s approach was “far more reasonable”.

He suggested the shift to advisory measures “isn’t that dramatically different” from the current situation.

But while Scotland’s Covid figures have been falling over recent weeks, Mr Dickson also acknowledged Shetland’s cases had continued to climb with almost 500 reported in the past seven days.

The Covid rate per had of the population is currently the highest in Scotland.

Interim director of public health Susan Laidlaw said the high case numbers were likely due to Shetland folk following the guidance on testing and reporting their results.

She said Shetland was now “catching up” having had a lower prevalence for most of the pandemic.

Dr Laidlaw said she believed cases had reached a plateau and would start to tail off into spring and summer.

Currently, however, Mr Dickson said the situation was “still very tight”. With many folk self-isolating, he said there were challenges maintaining critical services including health, social care and transport.

He said the current case numbers would have been far more concerning at earlier stages of the pandemic. Now, however, given Shetland’s high vaccination rate, the illness is very mild for most people.

He warned, however, that a new variant could still change everything.

“The pandemic is absolutely not over,” he said.

“We simply don’t know what’s coming down the line and that’s the challenge.”


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