Islanders rally round as virus outbreak hits Shetland

Streets are quieter than usual as a sense of apprehension lingers over Shetland residents.

The population of Shetland is 23,000 meaning the concentration of coronavirus cases per head is one of the highest in the UK.

The streets have been quieter than usual as there is a feeling of apprehension as locals go about their daily routines.

Lerwick lifeboat coxswain Darren Harcus is staying at home looking after his young daughter.

She, like all nursery and school pupils on Shetland’s mainland, has been asked to stay at home for a week.

Mr Harcus said: “Small island, small community. Everybody interacts with each other, it’s bound to spread like wildfire here.

“It’s OK for us, we’re all reasonably healthy but it’s who we might spread it to.

“My wife works as a social care worker with vulnerable people if she was to catch it and spread on to them it would be devastating.”

Johnathan Williamson’s built up his cafe bar business in Lerwick from scratch over the last six years.

He employs 20 full and part-time staff but says uncertainty over the impact of the virus is affecting trade.

His cafe is now facing closure but Mr Williamson said he can “survive” for a number of months and has even offered to cook meals for the elderly and vulnerable.

He said: “You always think of the worst-case scenario and I suppose for me that would be closing my business down.

“I’m trying to take every precaution I can, inside the work place and make sure I have income coming in to protect my workforce so they can pay their bills and carry on as much as possible.”

The Shetland economy is strong and unemployment on the islands is very low.

The public services, oil and fishing are the main drivers but there are worries the lucrative tourist market will be decimated by the virus.

Emma Miller promotes business in Lerwick and has real concerns about what the future might hold for small traders.

She said: “We have to be careful that we don’t lose all the businesses we have, because when the crisis does pass we are going to have to continue as a community and a society.

“I would just appeal to the public, whilst keeping yourself as safe as you can, please support your local business at this time.

“Once we lose them we might not get them back again and in a small community like this they are vitally important.”