Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has said that the public must prepare for restrictions on normal life to continue for some time.

The comments come as the Scottish Government published a new document outlining how decisions will be taken to control coronavirus (COVID-19) while restoring a degree of normality to everyday life. The paper - COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making - sets out the position during this ongoing period of lockdown and outlines the factors that must be considered as we move gradually to ease restrictions.

It also recognises that new ways of living – effectively a “new normal” – may have to be in place for some time to come.

Travel to and from the Western Isles is currently restricted to islanders and essential workers only, with CalMac now taking less than 1% of the passengers they were taking at this time last year. The islands MSP has written to the Scottish Government to ask that decisions on lifting travel restrictions to and from the islands should potentially be taken separately to when lockdown ends nationally, to make sure that any changes come at a time that is informed by local factors.

Alasdair Allan commented:

“I know that the lockdown restrictions have been difficult for us all to deal with – not least for many tourism businesses - but they are helping to save lives and protect the NHS.

“There has been a lot of talk nationally and locally about how and when the lockdown restrictions will be eased. The publication of this document is very timely, and I urge everyone to take the time to read it.

“It is vital that any decision to ease restrictions is based on the best scientific advice possible. However, this is a constantly-changing situation and there may be a need to reapply restrictions after they are lifted. It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.

“The virus is progressing at different rates around different parts of the country. We have thankfully not had any fatalities in the Western Isles and it has been some time since new cases of infection have been reported. I am really grateful that so many islanders have been earnestly sticking to the social distancing guidance: this has undoubtedly kept infection rates down and helped ease the burden on the NHS.

“I know that the talk of lifting lockdown has a lot of people concerned about the prospect of an influx of people from areas of the country heavily affected by Coronavirus. I certainly don’t want to see this, and I think we should all be prepared for the travel restrictions to the islands to be in place for the foreseeable future – even if that means restrictions staying in place after lockdown across the rest of the country has been lifted.

“In the coming days and weeks members of the public will be invited to contribute their thoughts and views on the next steps we must make together. There are no easy answers – but it is right for the Scottish Government to be clear about the factors that will inform decision making.

“Unfortunately, returning to what we regard as a normal life will not be possible in the near future so we need to prepare for a new normal until treatments and a vaccine offer different solutions.”

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