Reaction to Orkney falling into line with the rest of mainland Scotland and remaining at Level 3 has been mixed in the islands.
Coilla Drake, Labour candidate for the Orkney Constituency in the Scottish Parliament elections on Thursday May 6th said:
“Orkney has now had no locally based confirmed cases of Covid 19 for 2 months. This is a considerably better position than exists on mainland Scotland. We have also made exceptional progress with our vaccination programme, all aged 42 or over and at risk groups have been offered the vaccine.
“I welcome the announcement by the Scottish Government today in that it ends uncertainty. It is also welcome news that more people will be able to meet and socialise outdoors from Friday. Hospitality and tourist based businesses will welcome the opening up of travel from April 26th. Those with family South will be relieved to be able to visit with their loved ones. Many, including myself, will also be concerned about the speed with which unrestricted travel is being reinstated.
“We must realise that when Orkney opens up for travel the risk from Covid here will increase markedly. We must raise our awareness and our guard to counter this increased risk. We should also remember that whilst hopefully vaccination has significantly reduced the risk of severe illness and/or death, it has not removed it completely. In addition there is still the risk of long Covid, which can affect anyone of any age who contracts the disease. This condition can have a range of debilitating and long term health effects.
“We will all enjoy seeing our family and friends again, but please still keep up your guard, take care and keep safe.”
Also welcoming the announcement on the easing of travel restrictions was LibDem candidate for Orkney, Liam McArthur. He said:
“After weeks of not knowing how or when restrictions might be eased, despite prevalence of the virus remaining low, this confirmation of what is happening will offer some relief and respite.
“For many local businesses in particular, there will be a welcome opportunity now to plan ahead with a bit more confidence.
“It’s not at all clear what purpose the much-criticised government consultation served. Certainly the First Minister was unable to say what influence it had over today’s decision.
“More importantly, however, Nicola Sturgeon failed to explain what, if any, plans the government has to introduce pre-departure testing.
“Ministers have said they are sympathetic to this idea and are looking at how it might be introduced at airports and ferry ports. Today’s announcement [13 April] on the proposed lifting of travel restrictions would have been the logical moment for the First Minister to update islanders on when such a scheme might be introduced and how it would be expected to work in practice.
“The fact that nothing has been said by Nicola Sturgeon suggests the proposal has been dumped. Whether or not that is the case, the First Minister must come clean.”
Orkney is to remain at Level 3 but with the opening up of more travel in alignment with mainland Scotland from 26th of April.
In her update, the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“To those who would have preferred to see the islands move to level 2 at the end of April, let me reassure you that we do expect at least a move to level 2 to happen three weeks later on 17 May. So this is not long in the context of what we have been dealing with over the past year, where every day feels like an eternity, but it’s not an unending period of time.
“In the meantime, as a result of staying in level 3 for a bit longer, it will be possible for islanders and visitors to travel to and from the islands and I know that will make a difference to individuals and businesses on the islands.”
Secondary school students will all return to face to face schooling in Orkney after the Easter break on Monday 19th of April.
The Scottish Government expects the whole of Scotland to move to Level 2 on 17 May, to level 1 in early June; and to level 0 in later June.
There were images posted on social media of crowded bars in England where restrictions have already been relaxed.
From 16th of April people will be able to travel anywhere ” for the purposes of outdoor socialising, recreation, or informal exercise”in Scotland.
From 26th of April all travel restrictions within Scotland will be lifted. This includes travel to and from England and Wales.
The Covid stats for Scotland as at 14th of April are as follows:
- 278 new cases of COVID-19 reported
- 24,794 new tests for COVID-19 that reported results – 1.3% of these were positive
- 3 new reported death(s) of people who have tested positive
- 20 people were in intensive care yesterday with recently confirmed COVID-19
- 119 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed COVID-19
- 2,694,971 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination and 634,422 have received their second dose
10,031 deaths have been registered in Scotland where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate up to 11 April 2021.
There are 4 candidates standing for the Orkney Constituency in the Scottish Parliament elections on Thursday 6th of May
- Samuel Bown – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party.
- Coilla Drake – Scottish Labour Party.
- Robert Fraser Leslie – Scottish National Party (SNP).
- Liam Scott McArthur – Scottish Liberal Democrats.
The list for the Highlands and Islands region can be found here: Scottish Parliament Election: Highlands and Islands Regional Candidates
I’ve been fuming about this all morning, but telling myself there’s not point in going on about it as no-one in power takes any notice, but, I am now going to erupt………
If Orkney moved to Level 2, with strict controls on travel to and from the islands, we, here on Orkney, would be able to go and visit folk. Places – and businesses – would safely be able to open up more. As we got safer and safer, we might feel OK about going where there are people, going to shops, maybe even not wearing masks!
As it stands, Level 3 means that folk can come to the islands from elsewhere, but we can’t visit each other.
This is entirely geared towards visitors and the God that is The Economy – not the people of Orkney.
What a bloody shambles!
My feelings are similar, Bernie. The opening compromises community life significantly, the interaction between Orkney residents which makes living in the isles so desirable and impresses everybody from the outside… for the sake of an economic freedom which may not last very long anyway, given that we already have some variants in the country. These includes the South-African variant (where frantic testing is going on in some areas in England just now) and what I find much more worrying, it now appears that we already have the ‘dreaded’ B.1.617 variant here (73 in England and 4 in Scotland, may be worth to keep an eye on the updates here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-variants-genomically-confirmed-case-numbers/variants-distribution-of-cases-data). This variant is feared to perhaps be able to evade the currently used vaccines as well as immunity from having had a different strain before. Obviously, the variant is capable of causing havoc… as seen currently in India.
Really a clever idea to ‘open up’ and speak already of recovery… there is a risk that recovery from this sort of recovery will take even longer and destroy some local businesses for good. Would they be able to cope with another lockdown? Probably not.
Well, but who would want to report news of variants of concern in the country in the run-up of an election where the people have just been giving more personal freedom so that not too many votes are lost?
I keep thinking about what New Zealand and The Isle of Man have achieved.
But – what can I do about it? Apart from make my opinion known at every opportunity!