Lockdown travel puts pressure on the Highlands

Earlier this week, Nicola Sturgeon released a statement warning people to stay away from the Highlands amidst the Scottish coronavirus outbreak. In response to an influx of people moving to the Scottish Highlands to escape the virus, the First Minister of Scotland told accommodation providers and ferries to refuse “non-essential” visitors. According to Sturgeon, mass movement to the Highlands will lead to rural hospitals collapsing under the pressure.

During a covid-19 briefing in Edinburgh, Sturgeon claimed that the virus “cannot be outrun” and attempts to do so by moving north puts unnecessary strain on remote communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. She stated: “It may well be an understandable human instinct to think we can outrun a virus but the fact is we can’t”. Sturgeon added: “What we do is risk taking it to the places we go, and in our remote and rural communities that means extra pressure on essential services and on health services that are already more distant from people”.

Elaborating on this advice, Sturgeon continued: “Right now, our priority must be to protect people from this virus, protect our NHS and protect Scotland”. “From now on ferries will be for those who live on our islands, who have an essential need to travel to and from the mainland, and for essential supplies for business – nothing else” she added.

“Hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation, you should not be accepting visitors”, Scotland’s First Minister said.  Sturgeon advised, “provide accommodation for your staff and make yourselves available to help essential workers and support essential services, that is all”. The SNP leader also said that government policy and rules are not to be broken. Anyone seen to flout official guidelines will face punishment.

This movement to lock down the Scottish Highlands came as no surprise following Finance secretary Kate Forbes’ tweets concerning the risk involved in seeking to escape to less populated areas of the county. Forbes wrote: “If you live elsewhere, please don’t use the Highlands as your means of self-isolation. People live here who are trying to follow government guidance and the continuing flow of campervans and other traffic who appear to be escaping the cities is not helping.”

Public calls for people to stay away from perceived ‘safer’ locations is both logical and fair. The more people that populate in our remote Highlands, the greater chance of spreading Covid-19. As a highly infectious virus, those seeking to escape highly populated areas such as inner cities in favour of less populated places will endanger Highland and Island residents. Indeed the official NHS page states, “Everyone must stay at home to help stop the spread of coronavirus” (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/).

It is only right that we help prevent the spread of the virus and help our NHS in this time of immense pressure. When movement north means we risk adding to the chances of endangering others, we should simply follow governmental rules and stay home. With sensible and well-informed decision making, (i.e. in complete abidance with official policy), we will soon be able to combat this pandemic and return to normal.

Image: fw42 via flickr.com

 

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