Shetland has suffered its biggest Covid outbreak since the pandemic first hit the islands in March – with 10 new cases in just 24 hours, and 26 in the last week.
The majority of cases have been attributed to ‘socialising’ in the north mainland of the island, particularly people who have dined, had takeaways and hosted parties.
Shetland Islands Council has decided to suspend visiting at all of its 18 care homes and centres as a result of the surge in cases.
A total of 120 people have been asked to self-isolate, with ‘the number rising rapidly’.
A number of hospitality venues have been confirmed as being connected with these positive cases, with sources claiming numerous Christmas parties were also held despite warnings.
Shetland was in level one of the Scottish Government guidance until Boxing Day, when it rose to level three. The Scottish mainland which went up to tier four.
An NHS Shetland spokeswoman, who confirmed it was “by far the most serious outbreak we have had since March”, said: “We are in the process of contact tracing those who dined or purchased takeaways at these venues and would ask those who receive text messages or are contacted by our team to isolate for the time period requested.
“So far, we have had to ask more than 120 people to self-isolate as a case or a contact, and this number is rising rapidly.
“The only sure way to stop this virus is to stay at home for the next two weeks, as much as possible.
“If you can work at home, do. Leave home only for work if you are an essential worker, and for essential shopping.
“Those who were shielding during the first lockdown should be very careful about moving around now and rather make arrangements for someone to assist with shopping and other chores.
NHS Shetland’s public health principal Elizabeth Robinson said the spread of the virus had hit many families hard and she appealed to the community to be understanding and kind to those affected.
She said: “This is a virus that knows no bounds. It has infected many in our community during the festive season.
“This is not a time to judge or point fingers but rather for each one of us to look at our own actions and ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep ourselves and others safe.
“Should the infection rate continue it is almost certain that Shetland will be moved to level four – which is currently in force across Scotland with the exception of the islands.”
North Mainland Councillor Alastair Cooper said: “It is a very difficult period for Shetlanders, who are known to be sociable with family and friends at all times, but particularly over Christmas and New Year.
“This is no longer the case, and it has to be stressed that we have to abide by the regulations because the virus does not.
“It is such a shame, as there will obviously be no first footing to bring in the New Year, which is such a big thing in the islands and Scotland.
A council spokeswoman said: “As contact tracing for Covid-19 continues across Shetland, and with the number of confirmed cases continuing to rise, the decision has been taken to suspend indoor visiting across all local care centres.
“As required all contacts are self-isolating, even those with a negative test result, but the decision to suspend indoor visits has been taken to give the most vulnerable people in our community the highest degree of protection possible.
“Residents’ families have been contacted to make them aware of the latest position, and will be kept up to date as the situation progresses.”
She added; “The community is being reminded once again to do what they can to make sure they keep themselves and others safe, and not to go into another person’s house except to provide care and support, or as part of an extended household for people who live alone.
“Even relatively small gatherings can have a significant influence on spreading the virus and for that reason they are not permitted.”