Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, has today (Thursday) pressed the First Minister to provide an assurance that restrictions on small indoor gatherings in Orkney will be lifted ‘at the earliest opportunity’ now that the islands have been placed in level one of the tiered system from 2nd November.
The First Minister has announced today that restrictions on small indoor gatherings will remain in place for areas in level one from Monday and reviewed on 10th November.
During First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur repeated concerns that these restrictions risk causing social harms and isolation for many of those living in rural and island areas, where the possibility of meeting outdoors or in venues, such as restaurants and coffee shops is more difficult, if not impossible. He therefore sought an assurance that every effort will be made to lift this restriction at the earliest opportunity if Orkney stays in level one.
In response, the First Minister recognised Mr McArthur’s concerns and gave an assurance that these restrictions will hopefully be lifted at the next review. However, she also made clear that she couldn’t give a firm guarantee at this stage.
Following the exchange, Mr McArthur commented:
“Maintaining the ban on indoor meetings presents specific challenges in island an rural communities, particularly as we head into winter. Not only does the harsh weather make outdoor meetings difficult, but the option of meeting in public venues, such as cafes or restaurants are often not available.
“Of course, public safety remains paramount and must drive these decisions. However, there are recognised harms associated with prolonged lockdown and risks related to isolation and poor mental health.
“It’s clear the restrictions on small indoor gatherings will remain in place for now. However, the First Minister also confirmed that this will be kept under review, with changes possible as early as 10 November.
“I am determined to continue making the case for easing these particular restrictions at the earliest opportunity, ideally at the point of the next review.”