Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) again pressed the First Minister to take into account local circumstances and level of risk when deciding whether to apply tighter coronavirus restrictions.
On Wednesday, the First Minister announced stricter restrictions across the country for a 16-day period, despite also acknowledging that Orkney and Shetland were an ‘exception’ to the rise in new cases across local health board areas.
During First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur reinforced the fact that there has been no community transmission of Covid in Orkney since April, while questioning the extent to which Orkney had seen any genuinely new cases in recent weeks.
Orkney’s MSP went on to highlight the toll that restrictions were taking on the wellbeing of islanders, as well as on local jobs and businesses, and repeated his call for a local approach to be considered.
In response, the First Minister said she was willing and open to having discussions with island authorities to see if a different balance could be struck for the islands. However, she warned that different restrictions would probably necessitate travel restrictions.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:
“During yesterday’s announcement, the First Minister specifically acknowledged that there has not been a rise in cases in Orkney and Shetland, unlike in other parts of the country.
“It also appears to be the case that there has been no community transmission in Orkney since April.
“While it would be dangerous to believe there is no risk from Covid, those risks would seem to be lower in the islands than elsewhere. This is not reflected, however, in the way the increased restrictions have been applied over the last three weeks.
“Given the toll those restrictions are now placing on the wellbeing of individuals as well as the threat to jobs and businesses, that is a real concern.
“The Health Secretary confirmed to me last week that work is underway to look at how a more localised approach might be taken forward in our island communities. However, there is a need for urgency.
“Meantime, the First Minister’s insistence that any such approach would necessitate a travel ban seems overly simplistic. These, though, are the details that need to be worked up in consultation with the island authorities and health boards over the coming days. I look forward to being involved in those discussions.”