The Isle of Barra will be placed into lockdown from midnight, amid a growing cluster of coronavirus cases that has seen a tenth of the population go into self-isolation.
Forty people on the island have tested positive for Covid-19 and more than 145 close contacts have been identified – meaning around 16 per cent of the community is directly affected by the outbreak.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday there was “significant concern” that the outbreak could spread across the Western Isles and have an impact on care homes and clinical services.
She said: “The national incident management team has recommended and the cabinet – in consultation with the local authority and local health board – has decided that Barra and Vatersay, which of course is connected to Barra by causeway, should move from level three to level four at midnight tonight.
“This means that the same lockdown restrictions already in place in mainland Scotland – including the stay at home except for essential purposes requirement – will apply there too.”
Barra will join the whole of mainland Scotland, as well as Skye, which are under almost a full lockdown with schools, non-essential shops, gyms, salons and most hospitality venues closed.
Those lockdown restrictions, which apply to all level four areas, are to be extended until at least the middle of February.
Earlier on Tuesday, Gordon Jamieson, the chief executive of NHS Western Isles, said the local health board was dealing with the “rapidly developing outbreak”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland radio programme, Jamieson said: “In terms of the proportion of the population now affected – that is significant, so the imperative to contain and suppress it couldn’t be higher.”
“It will be somewhere sitting about 15 or 16 percent, which is of concern.
“The system in Barra, the health and social care system is small and, therefore, there is a fragility within that. However, we have got a number of measures in place and that we have already put into motion to support those people who become progressively ill and indeed a small number of patients have been transferred to other hospitals already.”
Jamieson also said a number of coronavirus cases identified on Benbecula are entirely separate and contained.