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Barra and Vatersay to move to Level 4 to counter significant Covid outbreak

Islanders on Barra and Vatersay will be put under stricter lockdown restrictions from midnight to help tackle the Covid outbreak in the area.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the move from Level 3 to level 4 as 40 people were confirmed with the virus and 15% of the population are self-isolating.

The tighter restrictions will apply only to Barra and Vatersay, which is connected by a causeway, and not to the wider Western Isles.

Ms Sturgeon said there is concern that without additional measures the “significant outbreak” could spread more widely across the Western Isles and potentially impact on care home and clinical services.

She said the move to Level 4 had been agreed by the national incident management team and cabinet in consultation with the local authority and NHS Western Isles.

All affected businesses, including hospitality and non-essential retail, which will have to close, will be eligible for business support.

“As the outbreak comes under control, which we hope will happen relatively soon, we will of course consider how quickly Barra and Vatersay can move back to Level 3”, she said.

Last night NHS Western Isles reported three new cases of Covid-19 in the islands –one in Barra linked to the outbreak, one in Benbecula, linked to previous cases and one in Stornoway, linked to mainland travel.

On Monday chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said the situation in Barra was “a good example of what happens when perhaps people let their guard down and come together”.

But island politicians said people were following the toughest regulations in place.

Test and Protect identifies gatherings on Barra that broke coronavirus rules

Local MP Angus MacNeil said: “Firstly, this is the official designations catching up with the reality of the situation in Barra as people have been voluntarily in Level 4 in their actions for about a week now since the first Covid-19 cases emerged.

“This is good that it is only in Barra and not impacting the other islands. It is good that the distinction has been made.

“Hopefully, we can get this Covid situation in Barra under control soon. It looks like the rate of positives is going in the right direction already but still there is much to be done.

“We must remember social distancing when in shops, staying at home and not travelling unnecessarily and washing our hands regularly.”

Islands’ MSP Alasdair Allan added: “People in Barra and Vatersay have already voluntarily been observing level 4 rules for some time now. In an online meeting with representatives of the community yesterday, it was very clear that they are treating this situation seriously and I therefore doubt if this move will impose any restrictions that they are not already imposing on themselves.

“With 40 confirmed cases and over 15 percent of the islands’ population now self-isolating, the virus is clearly having a major impact. However my understanding is that vaccination roll out and testing on the island are both going well.”

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