A fearsome group of Viking leaders have banded together to urge Shetland residents to shun any Up Helly Aa gatherings.
Tuesday would have been the centrepiece of Lerwick’s annual fire festival that attracts thousands to the town every year.
However, organisers cancelled 2021’s event in July last year amid concerns it would be impossible to organise safely during the pandemic.
The Lerwick and Scalloway festivals in January kick off a succession of similar events across the isles that run through February and March.
Now the Guizer Jarl figureheads of each Viking-inspired extravaganza have come together to encourage residents to follow coronavirus guidelines throughout the whole Up Helly Aa season.
Health officials have been battling the isles’ largest outbreak of Covid-19 since Christmas, which resulted in hundreds having to self-isolate at its peak.
The seven Guizer Jarls have come together to record a message for NHS Shetland to encourage locals to stay away from any Up Helly Aa parties that may be organised despite the current coronavirus restrictions.
They said: “We know this is not the Up Helly Aa season you were hoping for, it’s certainly not the one that my squad and I have been looking forward to.
“But we have to play our part to keep the community safe, so that we are free to have a spree when we are able to do so.
“Because of that, we are asking you to stay home this Up Helly Aa. Please don’t meet up with your squads, visit you squad huts or hold any processions.
“It will be well worth the spree once it is safe to do so. Stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS.”
Shetland is currently in Level 3 coronavirus restrictions, which means hospitality businesses remain open in a limited form while non-essential retail, including hairdressers, are also allowed to trade providing they follow Scottish Government rules.
Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa is the most famed of the fire festivals and regularly attracts thousands to the town, including tourists from across the world and locals returning home who treat it like Hogmanay.
The celebrations culminate in a torch-lit procession through the streets before the ceremonial burning of a Viking longboat.
Images of the fiery climax are the most celebrated from Shetland and are regularly used globally to promote Scotland to visitors.
The procession is traditionally followed by huge parties that last long into the following morning with the same groups meeting up every year to share the celebration.
However, this year NHS Shetland and organisers of each individual Up Helly Aa have encouraged residents to enjoy the event at home with others from their own household.
Today Shetland recorded one new case of coronavirus to bring its total to 209 since the pandemic began – with 15 of them being reported in the last seven days.
The daily total of Covid-19 cases has reduced from the large outbreak in late December and early January but health officials have encouraged residents to remain responsible to keep the numbers as low as possible.