NHS Highland, Police Scotland and Highland Council all call on the public to obey new 'stay local' Covid rules as pandemic lockdown restrictions begin to ease over Easter
Get the Ross-shire Journal sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
EASING of Covid restrictions is not a licence to do what you like and you must stick to the revised rules to protect yourself and others, health, police and council chiefs have warned.
NHS bosses and Highland Council leaders issued the plea ahead of changes to lockdown restrictions from tomorrow (Good Friday).
As of April 2, the previous 'stay home' lockdown rules will be replaced by 'stay local'.
And, while this means people will be able to move within their local authority area, significant restrictions are still in place on longer distance travel for the next few weeks.
This is in a bid to drive Covid infection rates as low as possible before the later spring opening of the hospitality trade and non-essential shops.
Urging the public to stick to the Scottish Government's 'stay local' guidance, NHS Highland’s director of public health, Tim Allison, said: “It is great that restrictions are beginning to relax. There are still cases of Covid in the area and we do need to be on our guard to stop virus cases increasing again.
"Let's stick with the measures to prevent spread and look for a gradual return to normal.”
NHS Highland and Highland Council have urged people to follow government advice on movement and gatherings when 'stay local' takes effect.
The current advice is:
- Stay local and use open spaces near to your home where possible - do not travel unnecessarily.
- Only groups of four from two households are permitted to get together outdoors (or four households for teenagers)
- If you are out and about in the council area, please be considerate of others and take your litter home with you
- Most public toilets are open, however campsites, tourist accommodation, and other hospitality and facilities remain closed across the Highlands until 26 April.
- Follow the outdoor access code https://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/active/outdoor-access-covid-19/
- When out and about please continue to follow the FACTS advice:
- FACE COVERINGS - Face coverings can provide extra protection to you and those around you. They’re mandatory in shops, workplaces and on public transport.
- AVOID CROWDS - Close proximity to others seriously risks spreading the virus, even outdoors.
- CLEAN HANDS - Clean hands and surfaces regularly. Wash hands with soap and water for 20+ seconds.
- TWO METRES DISTANCE - Keep at least 2m distance (6 feet) away from others, both indoors and outdoors, even when wearing a face covering.
- SELF-ISOLATE - Self-isolate and book a test immediately if you have coronavirus symptoms
The convener of Highland Council, Cllr Bill Lobban said: “We all have an important role to play in slowing the spread of coronavirus and as we begin to emerge from lockdown, we must not become complacent.
"We are very fortunate in the Highlands to have wide open spaces and natural beauty, and while it is important to get time outdoors and maintain our physical and mental health, we must ensure we follow the current guidelines, Stay Local, and not put any additional pressure on the NHS at this time.
“While we would normally welcome tourists and visitors to the Highlands, you must not travel out with your council area. We look forward to welcoming you back from the end of April, when it is safe to do so. The hills, mountains and forests will still be here for everyone to enjoy at the right time.”
Police chief superintendent, Conrad Trickett, added: "The coronavirus regulations have had a significant impact on our lives and I would like to thank the vast majority of people who are sticking to the rules and doing the right thing to avoid the spread of the virus as we move through the easing of restrictions.
“People should not travel outwith their local authority area except for essential purposes. While Easter weekend is traditionally a time for visiting friends and family, I would urge people to stay local and follow the regulations on gatherings.
“If you are visiting beauty spots within your local area, do so safely and respectfully – leaving no trace of your visit. Please also park responsibly to allow emergency access.
"Our approach throughout the pandemic has been to engage with the public, explain the legislation and encourage compliance, but we will not hesitate to use our enforcement powers as a last resort."
Highland Council is also issuing give top tips for businesses in order to minimise the spread of Covid-19 as they prepare to re-open in accordance with the Scottish Government timetable. Businesses which require advice on re-opening should contact its Environmental Health team on firstname.lastname@example.org
Related news: Three new Covid cases detected across NHS Highland