Maree Todd MSP: Keeping on top of #Covid

As if to prove a point, three new positive tests for Covid-19 in Orkney have seen three individuals self-isolating in the islands, with their contacts traced, during a week when clamour grew among island leaders for special exemptions from current restrictions.

There seems to be a view among some of Orkney’s leaders that there is no need to stop folk moving in and out of the islands – testing, they argue, is the key to letting life get back to some sort of normality. But the new cases would appear to reinforce the message that so many folk miss, or choose to ignore – the virus doesn’t move, people move it.

We only need to look at Uist, where a cluster of cases make up the majority of the 62 positive cases in the Western Isles to date, to see what can happen unless folk are extremely vigilant.

As Western Isles MSP, my SNP colleague Alasdair Allan said, the Uist outbreak has been hard for the community as a whole. It also demonstrates that islands are not in any sense immune to the virus.

There is a continued need for policies on the pandemic to be appropriately island-proofed. However as the example of the Uist outbreak shows, that does not and should not mean complacency. The Scottish Government has made it clear that any relaxation of restrictions in the islands – Orkney, Shetland or the Western Isles – would have to be accompanied by a virtual clampdown on folk travelling in and out by plane or ferry, similar to what happened in the spring.

Testing, then, is only part of the answer. And it isn’t a substitute for the measures we should be complying with on a daily basis:

  • Face coverings in enclosed spaces
  • Avoid crowded places
  • Clean hands and surfaces regularly
  • Two-metre distancing
  • Self-isolate and book a test if you have symptom

I can fully understand the frustrations of island leaders, but for the moment, difficult as they are, the restrictions in place at present are the most effective way to keep on top of Covid across Scotland, including in the islands.

While the different restrictions across the regions in England, and in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have been a focus of debate across an increasingly dis-United Kingdom in the past week, the extreme Brexit plans from the Tories have been relegated to an appalling sideshow. The impact of either a bad deal or no deal – coupled with the deep hit to the economy from the coronavirus crisis – risks delivering a severe blow to businesses, jobs and people’s living standards across the UK, but especially in places like Orkney, and across the Highlands & Islands.

It’s staggering that in the midst of a global pandemic, deep recession, mass job losses and business closures, the UK government is telling people to prepare for a no-deal exit from the EU.

Only by becoming an independent country can we properly protect Scotland’s interests and our place in Europe that would welcome us.

This is a regular column by SNP MSP Maree Todd. All Highlands and Islands regional MSPs have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their own views.

Related story: #Covid19 Update in Scotland: 28 Deaths

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