Fears of covid surge on Western Isles as restrictions ease

Tourists have been arriving on the Isle of Lewis again after a four month lockdown.

NHS bosses say they are expecting a rise in coronavirus cases as travel restrictions to the islands start to ease, in a move locals are calling “insanity”.

Visitors have been allowed to take ferries to and from islands such as Lewis from Monday and the first batch passengers in four months arrived in Stornoway at lunchtime.

However local businesses remain cautious about the reopening of the area.

Donald Macsween teaches tourists about traditional crofting but says he’s not taking any chances for the sake of the community.

He Said: “We have been very lucky that we have had very few cases of coronavirus up until now and I think it would be stupid to risk the difficulties that we have all had with the lockdown and all the restrictions being in place.

“The islands aren’t going anywhere.”

Bar owners Duncan and Alice, who are opening a beer garden to adhere to social distancing measures, are excited for the new venture but remain wary.

Duncan said: “We are excited to open again, even in a limited format, but we are nervous, we have had a very different time to every where else so people are nervous about what will happen.”

Even the island’s ancient monuments are not immune to the effects of coronavirus with the famous callanish stones still closed off to visitors.

So far there have only been eight Covid cases in the western isles and no deaths.

But with the lockdown measures eased, health bosses say they do expect a rise in coronavirus figures.

Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, said: “With more people coming we are expecting to see and increase in the number of cases, we could in fact see our first surge of covid-19.

“There is a lot of thought going into how we could manage and how we could prevent the virus from getting a hold here.”

Despite relying on tourists coming to the island, guesthouse owner Derek McPherson feels re-opening ferry travel is a recipe for disaster.

He said: “I think it is madness, I think it is absolute insanity, on an island with one hospital the ICU unit runs to about 3 or 4 beds and we have a population that had a median age ten years in advance of the mainland.

“I think it is insanity.”

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