Non-essential travel on inter-island ferries ended

Only critical travel can be undertaken by the public to travel to and from Scotland’s islands.

The announcement was made yesterday evening in response to the coronavirus pandemic, by the Scottish and UK Governments.

Critical travel is defined as:

  • Shopping for basic necessities;
  • Access to medical care or medical needs such as pharmacies;
  • Travel to take care of vulnerable people;
  • Travelling to and from work where work cannot be done from home

In addition to the already reduced timetables, from immediate effect and until further notice, travel on Shetland Council ferries will be for those who live on the islands, who have a critical need to travel to or from the mainland and for essential freight, supplies or business – and nothing else.

A council spokesman said: ‘We must place the responsibility on travellers to have carefully considered their journey and be prepared, if challenged, to prove they are an islander and/ or provide proof of their need to travel.’

For residents that evidence could be a recent utility bill plus photo ID.

For a key worker that is someone who needs access to or from the islands in the course of their business. Further information on the ‘key worker’ definition will be issued by the council in due course.

Business and freight can continue to use the services, emphasising the responsibility to observe NHS health advice on reducing the risk of coronavirus transmission. On board, passengers in vehicles should remain in their vehicles. Passengers in the saloons should stay two metres apart, observe good hand hygiene, catch coughs and sneezes and avoid touching their face.

In practice, this restriction on travel will mean the following for ferry services:

  • A ban on recreational and social travel; and
  • A ban on non-essential travel to the islands by non-islanders

These restrictions are intended to, within a context of the Coronavirus pandemic:

  • Support the established principles of social distancing;
  • Reduce the risk of transmission of the virus arising from people travelling between our islands unnecessarily; and
  • Continue to make reasonable endeavours to maintain reliable delivery of ferry services, albeit at a reduced level.
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