Letters: “Promoting reduced social distancing will not protect Orkney.”


Dear Orkney News,

I listened in horror today to Radio Orkney where James Stockan is trying to push for more tourists to come to Orkney, pushing to have the government guidelines of the 2-metre distance to be shortened.  This is with the full knowledge that this has scientifically been proven and is advised that the  2 meter rule is  to protect people from the transmission of COVID 19 and the spread of this devastating disease.

Promoting reduced social distancing will not protect Orkney.  Our community has  almost eradicated this disease by their hard work,  efforts and commitment to all the lockdown measures.  The letter read out on the radio today obviously got it right, all our efforts where just to slow down deaths to a manageable rate but not to save lives.

We are halfway through the tourism season, it will not in any shape or form be able to recuperate the losses for 2020.  Mr Stockan stated some places are not even opening? Did he not think it appropriate to ask why? Well many, I can assure you, are simply not opening because they have weighed up the risks.  They do not want to place themselves, families or workers at risk.  Reading Facebook posts by providers is proof of this

Can I ask ,  those who agree to opening up to tourism and agree to wanting to increase the risk even higher like Mr Stockan  – Will  those who want this , please stand up and  work in a café where folk have to take off masks to eat?  Will you serve them for a week?  Will you clear their dishes? Will you chat freely with them  even when they say they are from Leicester or North Yorkshire? Will you go out for one week and clean the public toilets when they have been used predominantly by tourists? Will you work in Tesco’s for a week when you have let them in on the boat, 1 meter apart? Will you volunteer to work on the COVID ward when it is full?

The answer I fear will be no.  Yet this is expected of others, the people who live here.   This is discrimination at its worst. And on this matter have you considered that locals will not use restaurants and cafes the hospital and GP services,  when they know tourist are here.

Now it is time to get serious.   Melbourne has just locked down for 6 weeks 5 million people!

Are you willing to risk this happening to Orkney? Another lockdown. Nobody working. No schools. No furlough payment this time round guys. No mortgage relief.   All for tourists. Not for Orcadians. Where’s your wealth then?

A vaccine is now at the stage of human tests. They will look for a pilot area that is a controlled environment.  You know an area where you can manage people movement, an area that has conquered and contained this disease.  Oh I know a place like this don’t you ?  A contained environment where, when,  vaccinated, we will be safe and risk free of becoming infected.  We will be the holy grail, the privileged, the protected.  Not like now we are simply like lambs being taken to the slaughter

Then we will all be safe for tourists, they can come all they want, but we the people in Orkney will be saved. We won’t infect them either.  Good grief I think our isles will be full to overflowing then, but firstly,  we who live here will be safe , we will never experience another lockdown , our vulnerable  will not die, our families will not experience poverty our children will be educated  and most of all we will live, each and every one of  us will live and without fear

So if you want to promote something for god sake promote our lives, promote us as a pilot  area,  for controlled vaccine programme,   promote life for the people of Orkney.  Tourism will return, there is no return from death

Stop risking this, life cannot be replaced

On this matter this is our chance now, open up you have blown it , blown our only hope. Be remembered for SAVING ORKNEY Saving the islands. And Let our New NHS Chief Executive lead us to Health. SAVE OUR SOULS

Thank You, Anna Johnston, Orkney


6 replies »

  1. And I ask folk to remember that OIC – headed by Mr Stockan, never actually said for the cruise liners to stop coming to Orkney – they were fine with that, until the Scottish Government instigated the rule. I ask folk to remember that now, and to remember that when they vote in the next local elections.

    I am so angry, I can hardly type this. I am in complete agreement with you, Anna. I don’t know who it is in OIC – whether it’s certain individuals, or if they are mostly led by the nose by one individual – but, again and again, it really does look like they are more inclined to self-interest and avarice, than care of the people they are supposed to be there to serve. When it’s care-less decisions about wardens for old folk, closing places for special needs children; or weird decisions about changing town centres, multiplying wind turbines, and building, building , building, I putter and write letters, and wonder, yet again, who the hell to vote for, next time – but this is different – this is health and life and……. death.

    I am furious. I said to my husband yesterday – If asked to shake James Stockan by the hand, I would refuse, and would quote Anthony Trollope ‘You cannot touch pitch, and not be defiled.” I would then turn away from a person who, in my opinion, is ….no, I won’t say it – it’s obvious enough. The other two characters I would deal with in this way, are Trump and The Johnson Menace. It is one of the worst insults there is, to refuse to shake someone by the hand.

    As you say, Anna, Orkney has done well, has done very, very well, and is doing well – bit by bit, step by step.

    Yes, we want and need the economy to re-build, but money doesn’t do a lot of good, when you’re very ill – with an illness that can have lasting repercussions. Or – when you’re dead.

    The other side of this coin is – a couple of days ago, we had an email from our friends in New Zealand, saying –

    “We have been out of lockdown for a month now. For about 3 weeks we had no new Covid cases at all. However there have been new cases recently from people arriving from overseas but no community transmission. The new arrivals are quarantined for 14 days and tested twice so we feel quite safe now. ”

    They spent last weekend staying in a village in the NZ Alps, and climbing in the mountains.
    This is what can be achieved when a nation has strong, clear-headed leadership, and a population which is prepared to adhere to the guidelines as well as the rules. If only………….

    Another aspect is – if folk do come for their holiday, they’re not likely to be welcomed as Orkney usually welcomes folk, which would be a shame – everyone hopes for a warm welcome, when visiting somewhere, but – at the same time – I think they should be having more sense than to travel!
    I’m wistful about our cancelled holiday to Skye, last April – but, we made the decision, early on. Maybe next spring, maybe not – maybe never – it’s still better not to have taken that journey – for us, and for everyone along the way.

    I read your letter, and exploded – in agreement! I will now try to calm down. What a time we are living in, and through. Enough!

    • We live in Lossiemouth, Moray and like Orkney, have been lucky that there have been 0 cases. Moray as a whole has had some.
      See you in August, with masks and social distancing, whether you greet us or not. I do know however, that the people who own the self catering we will be staying in, for the 15th year, are overjoyed that we are coming.

  2. Thank you , I wish I had sent all my communication via the Orkney News. This last letter is a last ditch attempt to convince those in the lead that there are other options. I just feel it’s so unfair for the folk who have too deliver face to face services, they get no choice. Money may be made but at what cost .

  3. Well said, Anna & Bernie, there is no doubt that there are many small honest businesses especially in the tourism sector here in Shetland and Orkney who are finding times hard this summer due to Covid-19 not to mention the tough times being experienced by our youngsters and their education. There is one thing that is blatantly obvious to anyone with at least a few gray cells between the ears is that scientists across the world are learning more and more about this virus every day and none of it is very reassuring hence the wisely cautious approach of our FM. Like most of you, I find the restrictions inconvenient but I’ve found ways to live with it with a little bit of forward planning within our household but if I was to find myself in the hospital through someone else’s greed then I wouldn’t be very pleased.
    At the end of the day, you can have all the gold in the world but it’s no use to you if you are 6′ under pushing-up the weeds!!!!

  4. Sadly, our council has long tried to hide behind the excuse of there not being enough knowledge. Although this disease is a new one, scientists already had the knowledge how respiratory viruses of a similar type behave. And they made all this knowledge available. It was the government (including local governments such as OIC) who decided to bury their head in the sand and dismiss the early warnings. I had personally written to the authorities at the beginning of February and expressed concerns with regards to the upcoming cruise ship season. These concerns were dismissed (luckily I kept the correspondence because I am considering to publish it) and they were reluctant to act. Overall, the UK watched in awe developments in other countries and acted late. Behind (only very slightly) the outbreak curve, they could have acted earlier thereby they could have saved lives. Now again, we are in a position where we could take lessons from what’s happening in other countries which opened up too quickly. It is clear that lockdowns and transmission preventing measures such as social distancing come at a price… for businesses and schools. But a failed public health policy comes at an even higher price. It will cost lives (again!) and it has a potential to do even far more harm to the economy. Austria had seemed to do a good job, however had to re-impose stricter measures again. Harsh measures (such as New Zealand had imposed) obviously worked better than the hasty loosening of restrictions in many other countries. Reducing the 2m rule now when evidence is mounting that aerosols are in fact a possible transmission way, is a gamble. I understand the need for local authorities to re-fill their coffers… however what they intend to do now, is short-sighted and will expose Orkney residents to increased risks. Not only for death… we also know now that there can be serious long-term health implications after recovery, keeping people out of work for extended periods which again will require financial support from the public.
    Evidently, it is not a safe approach to open up to tourism unless this was properly managed, i.e. by very small controlled numbers, only in certain settings such as self-catering without shared facilities, from selected regions only, with physical distancing and masks mandatory everywhere outside the own accommodation and with a quick local and functioning tracing system in place. Even then, risks would not be completely eliminated, however they could potentially be managed to minimise them to levels which might be accepted by the majority of the local community. Personally, I fear that if no such measures are strictly imposed, we run the risk to see another dire time ahead before the year is over.

  5. I was tempted to go on and on about this – but, I’ve had my say, and going on and on, serves no purpose if folk don’t want to hear what I’m saying.
    I will add one thing, though. I honestly don’t understand why people think it’s such a big deal, to not have a holiday.
    We didn’t have a holiday last year as Mike had too much on at work. We were very much looking forward to our holiday to Skye this April – had it all planned and booked – but, ’twas not to be.
    Maybe next spring, maybe not. Who knows? We’ll take life as it comes, and work with what we have, here, near to home.
    It really isn’t the end of the world to go without a holiday. Folk expect/demand so much, these days.

    And, Anna – if people are mean to you for what you say – that’s how it is – one negative can hit harder than five positives – just – stand your ground, and don’t let it get to you. Focus on what you know to be so, and on the positives.
    We live here, we know how it is, and how it needs to be.
    There have been 9 cases, not 0. And two deaths.

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