Keep near-mainland islands in lockstep with the mainland

Whatever general controls and strategies are employed at various stages in the epidemic, they should be applied evenly on islands and mainland areas. So if it is deemed that a particular restriction should be tightened or loosened, it must apply on near-mainland islands in the same way as it is on the mainland. I make this suggestion with Mull particularly in mind, as a resident there. More distant and larger island groups may take a different view and I do not presume to speak for them.

Why the contribution is important

We are all in this together, and that means as a nation. There is a view that perhaps individual islands can be 'sealed off' from the rest of the country, with very minimal, critical supplies going back and forth. This island 'bubble' would attempt to remain free of virus, and 'wait out' the epidemic until a vaccine becomes available. This isolationism is a) Dangerous. It creates a false sense of security, and may allow the virus to take hold quickly should it arrive, as it inevitably would with even the most draconian island isolation in place. b) Divisive. The risks are broadly the same in all of rural Scotland, and islands are not exceptional in their general risk and susceptibility. It would place huge strain on local representative groups, having to weigh up the competing interests of those who wish to remain 'isolated' with those who urgently need to begin economic and social recovery. c) Selfish. No man is an island. We cannot expect the rest of the country to keep us safe, feed and support us whilst we remain 'safely' isolated. d) Impractical. There are just too many valid reasons why people will need to move back and forth between island and mainland, even in strict lockdown. Our children are educated on the mainland. Services of all sorts come to the islands from mainland bases. Many people live on one side of the ferry and work on the other. e) Confusing. The rules need to be clear and easily understood. This will not be helped if they vary from place to place. Strategies must be devised and implemented by setting and sector. eg when the time comes for restaurants to open again in some form, that should apply the same in Pitlochry and Tobermory. If it is decided safe to allow measured, careful return of some types of tourist visitor, then that should apply to cotttages in Caithness and Mull. We cannot have different treatment of businesses based soley on location. It must be based on assessment of risk, NOT place. Islands do have one advantage - the common pinch-point of our ferries. So we have the ability to enforce the rules at those entry points, but the rules themselves must be the same as the rest of Scotland. So for example, if travel is only permitted if your contact tracing ap is 'green' , this can be checked at check-in to the ferry. In the event of a localised outbreak, there may be reason to implement temporary local additional controls to contain it, but in general that should be the only time when geographical distinctions are made.

by JoeReade on May 05, 2020 at 05:47PM

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Based on: 28 votes

Comments

  • Posted by TreeGarland May 05, 2020 at 19:22

    Absolutely agree with this. The issue with having "draconian" and unilateral decisions made for the islands is no immunity is being built up. When the islands do open for business if the infection is bought with the influx of people it is inevitable people on the Islands will get it. We've been so closed we have missed the first wave. There is no immunity. We will be the second wave and potentially start it from our source back to mainland. I feel the islands response has been fuelled by fear from unelected groups manipulating the Guidelines to their own ends. No intelligence has been used in these unilateral decisions. All Guidance should be applied to the whole of the UK.
  • Posted by DL49 May 06, 2020 at 13:08

    At some point in time, travel between all islands and the mainland will have to start to be normalised. That can’t happen if the restrictions are different. The whole country needs to be in step.
  • Posted by Mull2020 May 07, 2020 at 14:11

    Not necessarily. Mull has very limited hospital facilities. There are no ventilators in the whole of Argyll. Let’s take it slowly and review regularly.
  • Posted by FaceTheWest May 09, 2020 at 16:46

    100% agree
  • Posted by Scotia2020 May 09, 2020 at 19:52

    To answer the points in the above consultation response:- a) Isolationism - Not dangerous when vulnerable people require protection, what about the potential second wave. b) Not divisive - The Island has pulled together and social distancing rules are being followed. c) Not selfish - A mainland town can be locked down if needs must (limited travel) with the benefit of large medical facilities close by. Mull does not have this luxury. If restrictions are lifted on the mainland and unfettered travel and tourism resumes to the Islands, how will they cope in the event of an outbreak. d) Not impractical - The Island has pulled together and social distancing rules are being followed. Everyone on the Island has been contacted, resources are spread throughout the Island. An army of volunteers are helping. e) Not confusing - Mull has limited facilities. It is right that Island communities should have tailored rules based on risk. We don't expect the rest of the country to keep us safe but it is our duty to keep the most vulnerable on the Island safe. Note:- Mull's age demographics dictate a higher probably of deaths due to this illness. We all want to get back to normal but by thinking about cash (tourism) over the health of the local community is irresponsible.
  • Posted by frankd May 09, 2020 at 19:57

    Over 1/3 rd of the population of Mull are in the vulnerable category (i.e. over 70 or with health issues) see: https://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/documents/analytical_reports/Inhabited_islands_report.pdf and http://healthyargyllandbute.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Mull-Iona-Coll-and-Tiree.pdf Research of the effects of the virus in China suggest that the fatality of these vulnerable groups is significant, in the order of over 20%, see: http://weekly.chinacdc.cn/en/article/id/e53946e2-c6c4-41e9-9a9b-fea8db1a8f51. This suggests that there might be over 200 fatalities on Mull should the virus spread through the island. So unless test, trace and track are fully implemented on everyone who travels to the island then maybe that's what we can expect. What evidence is there that the test, etc policy will be implemented?
  • Posted by Cathy1980 May 09, 2020 at 20:09

    I agree with all of these ideas. Our facilities on Mull are no different than in the rural highlands. We must follow government's guidelines and not have different rules for neighbouring locations.
  • Posted by flocor01 May 09, 2020 at 20:11

    I 100% agree with this idea. We who live and work on the Island and whose income depends on those coming to the island do not want to be kept in a bubble. We need to move forward when the rest of Scotland decide to do so. We are no different from other rural areas in Scotland and must not think that we should be treated any differently.
  • Posted by Ali May 09, 2020 at 20:37

    I 100% agree with this. If the island stayed in its own little bubble we would be selfish! At the minute we seem to be ruled by people that have no idea and think they know better for everyone! Yes our vulnerable over 70's etc need help being protected but they haven't thought about people with young family's not able to afford food shopping from the shops on the island, people that have holiday let's and no source of income coming in. Let's move forward stick with the government guidelines and not single Mull out we need to move at the same pace as everyone else.
  • Posted by frankd May 09, 2020 at 20:53

    Some thoughts about the effects of Covid19 and how relaxing lockdown might affect our community. Reports 1 and 2 below suggest: Approximately ⅓ of the population of Mull are in the vulnerable category for Covid19. About ⅔ of the population are of working age and about half of these are employed in agriculture, fishing, forestry, education, health & care services, construction, transport, etc. (i.e. locally focused business and activities). Almost ⅓ of the population are employed in the sectors called "accommodation and food services activities". This category includes our local shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, as well as hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation. Therefore, once tour operators are included about ⅓ of the population are involved in tourism. Report 3 below indicates the results of infection in a community. An initial relaxation might be to allow locally focused businesses (e.g. shops, health, education,construction, product sales and raw materials, etc) to operate and travel off island where necessary. Given the small number of people that this would involve, anyone infected could be tracked and traced and quarantined or treated with symptoms. However, the figures in Table 1 of Report 3 indicates that even in this working age group there could be a significant risk of death (which increases with age). In this scenario maybe over ⅓ of the population could return to near normal life and maybe the vulnerable ⅓ could be allowed to travel within the island and mix in small groups (bubbles) with a small risk that could be dealt with. If the lockdown is substantially relaxed to allow tourism with social distancing then the risks to the community are significantly increased. Although there are suggestions for a health passport we don't know if it would be checked on entry to their destination, if people become infected whilst travelling here or become reinfected after testing negative. Table 1 in Report 3 suggests that over 20% of people classified as vulnerable are likely to die if infected. So that suggests maybe ⅓ of the population should effectively have to go back to lockdown should tourism be allowed. Social distancing will have financial consequences for the ⅓ of the population involved in tourism, some businesses may become unviable whilst others will have reduced income. Furthermore, as has been mentioned elsewhere, local services (e.g. shops, garages, health and care, etc) could be overwhelmed with tourists or become infected and be forced to close down with consequences for everyone. So clearly a lot to think about. I don't know what the answer is and just hope that we all survive to see a successful vaccine in the not too distant future. Reports used: 1 "Scotland’s Census 2011: Inhabited islands report 24 September 2015" (https://www.scotlandscensus.gov.uk/documents/analytical_reports/Inhabited_islands_report.pdf) 2 "Population Demographics of Argyll and Bute Mull, Iona, Coll and Tiree" (http://healthyargyllandbute.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Mull-Iona-Coll-and-Tiree.pdf) 3 "The Epidemiological Characteristics of an Outbreak of 2019 Novel Coronavirus Diseases (COVID-19) — China, 2020" (http://weekly.chinacdc.cn/en/article/id/e53946e2-c6c4-41e9-9a9b-fea8db1a8f51)
  • Posted by HT2020 May 09, 2020 at 20:55

    I am in 100% agreement with Joe’s statement. We must adhere to the Government guidelines 👍
  • Posted by May79 May 09, 2020 at 20:58

    I agree with these ideas. Mull has to move forward with rest of Scotland. The economy ,cash or otherwise has to be restarted or there will be no one living on Mull of working age. The retired people who own their own houses and who have Index linked pensions are unaffected by the ‘cash’ economy that tourism brings unlike the working people with mortgages who rely on it. Surely we are all able to follow Scottish government guidelines and also risk assess our own particular circumstances if we have vulnerable and shielding family members.
  • Posted by Mull2354 May 09, 2020 at 21:01

    Absolutely agree with Joe's post. We cannot be treated any different to other parts of Scotland.
  • Posted by Paddy1981 May 09, 2020 at 22:43

    100% agree with Joe's ideas but we should be aligned with the whole UK we're in this together! We need to balance the risk of covid 19 against the risk to health through the economy and mental health. The long term effects could be much worse and cost more lives than the virus itself.
  • Posted by Liz May 09, 2020 at 23:04

    Totally agree. We must stay in step with the mainland.
  • Posted by MullWorker May 10, 2020 at 11:06

    100% agree trying to have the isles act differently would be tough on its people. Once a government decision has been made everybody can work with it.
  • Posted by Penmore May 10, 2020 at 13:42

    Your policy published on 4th May (https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-test-trace-isolate-support/ ) to Test Trace and Islolate needs to be firmly in place and adequate to protect Island Communities before there is any easing in the lockdown.
  • Posted by Scotia2020 May 10, 2020 at 13:59

    100% disagree. The islands must not be in lockstep with the mainland. The demographic of the islands and the available medical facilities dictate that. It would be lovely to see a cross section of islanders voicing their opinion, rather than residents with a vested interest in returning tourism making all the recommendations.
  • Posted by bfoandc May 10, 2020 at 14:13

    I do understand the sentiments behind the idea and fully appreciate the economic arguments for having the islands treated in step with the mainland. However, the islands are different from the mainland and this was the driver for the passing of the Islands (Scotland) Act 2018 which means that public authorities must take our island communities into account whenever introducing/changing policies and do an impact assessment. The other reality is that according to Epidemiologists this virus (if no vaccine is found) will infect 60-70% of the population. Having a relatively low number of infections to date has been great for protecting the health services. However it does mean that now many islands have a large number of people susceptible to infection. Yes, we have done pretty well in 'flattening the curve' so far but if we have an influx of visitors at the same time as we have major outbreaks of the virus will island health services cope then? I'd hate for all the effort and lost money incurred so far to be for no useful purpose and, of course, if our health services were swamped would that encourage visitors? I can't see how all areas of Scotland can actually move together when they may be at different stages of virus infection. I'd suggest that it should be a gradual process both nationally and locally. Sadly thanks to the lack of testing (even with taking 50,000 swabs to America for testing) we don't have any idea of the real infection rates nationally never mind locally. Without that information any change is effectively a gamble.
  • Posted by Ideas81 May 10, 2020 at 14:53

    Don’t treat islands differently from mainland.
  • Posted by AlJones May 10, 2020 at 15:18

    Living on a much smaller island but fairly close to Mull, I completely agree with the original poster.
  • Posted by jcgreenhalgh May 10, 2020 at 17:29

    I agree with 'bfoandc' above - in Mull & Iona we are effectively now more vulnerable than large swathes of the UK population, since we have (probably!) had no contact with the virus. Our 'all-island lockdown' from the mainland needs to be relaxed gradually, otherwise our very limited health services could be overwhelmed. A sudden influx of tourists would also be a burden on the current systems in place for acquiring food and other essentials (many of them run by volunteers). My own suggestion would be for the islands to be the first to try out any tracing system the Scottish Government decides upon, in a simliar way to England's trial on the Isle of Wight (which one to choose also seems to be contentious - does anyone know anything about the Google app?). This seems to be the way out of lockdown, and once it was working well for example in Mull, then perhaps those of our schoolchildren who are educated on the mainland could be the first to begin travelling again?
  • Posted by FlyOnTheWall May 10, 2020 at 18:35

    Completely agree with Joe. We are part of Scotland and the UK and must be in step with the rest of our nation. We just have to trust that our elected representatives will make the appropriate decisions based on all the scientific information available. From what we have seen so far they are being very careful with those decisions and will not be in any rush ease the lockdown measures. They seem to be taking a safety first approach to me. Some would prefer a faster return to normal; some would prefer slower but it's not our decision and we're back to the trust point I made above. I think it is very unlikely that our decision makers would separate the islands out for different treatment and they would be wrong to do so - our health service and economy is just the same as in most of the rest of Scotland.
  • Posted by DotStewart May 11, 2020 at 21:04

    I completely agree. I live on Iona (an island off Mull) and feel very strongly that we must follow the same laws, guidance and timeline as the rest of Scotland.
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