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Facing a tide of evidence about the limited impact of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 – plus rising public discontent - the Scottish Government is ending the the latest phase of personal restrictions from next week (Monday January 24). 

And the latest update last night (Tuesday January 18) from NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson reported 18 cases: 13 on Lewis, 1 on Harris, 3 on South Uist and 1 on Barra. There are 2 drop-in vaccination clinics today COVID booster, 1st & 2nd dose Covid and Flu): Western Isles Hospital: 9am - 4pm; Uist & Barra Hospital: 10.30am - 5.30pm.

Alasdair Allan, the SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, has welcomed the latest Covid-19 announcements made by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.(Tuesday January 18). 

The 64% drop in positive PCR tests (a drop seen across all age groups) indicates that the combination of booster vaccines, the public’s sacrifices to help stem transmission, and the temporary protective measures introduces in December have all helped to blunt the impact of the Omicron wave.

Mr Allan said:“It is heartening to see evidence of the Omicron variant’s declining spread, and I know many businesses and individuals will be relieved at the further relaxation of restrictions announced today.

“Here in the Western Isles, we have been impacted in a much greater way in terms of case numbers during this wave than in any of the others. I would like to acknowledge the immense efforts of all those involved in our health and education services in particular who have worked so hard during this extremely challenging time.

“I would encourage everyone to continue to do all they can to limit the spread of this very transmissible variant, especially making sure to get all doses of the vaccine to which you are entitled if you have not already done so.” 

  • From Monday 24th January, the remaining statutory measures introduced in response to Omicron will be lifted (including limits on attendance at indoor public events; 1m physical distancing between groups in indoor public spaces; requirement for table service in hospitality premises serving alcohol; and the closure of nightclubs)
  • Also from Monday, the guidance advising adults against non-professional contact indoor sport, as well as the guidance asking people to stick to a 3 household limit on indoor gatherings, will also be lifted
  • Working from home where possible should remain in place, but the Scottish Government will be engaging with businesses now regarding a return to a more hybrid approach from the beginning of next month
  • The Covid certification scheme has not been extended to other premises
  • The Scottish Government continues to advise taking a lateral flow test before meeting up with people from other households.

Ms Sturgeon said it would "not be proportionate" to introduce Covid certification requiring customers entering bars and restaurants to show proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test "given that cases are now falling quite rapidly". 

However, she did not rule out adopting the measure in future, adding: "If cases were to start to rise very sharply again, extension of certification may well be a more proportionate alternative to other, more restrictive measures."

The changes in place from Monday put Scotland back to the 'Beyond Zero' phase of restrictions first introduced in August. 

And NHS Western Isles is introducing new visiting arrangements in all Western Isles hospitals from today (Tuesday).  

The new arrangements, which apply to Western Isles Hospital in Lewis, Uist and Barra Hospital in Benbecula, and St Brendan’s Hospital in Barra, mean that all patients will be permitted one visit every day from one designated visitor (or two designated visitors in the same visiting slot from the same household).

The designated visitor/s identified will be for the duration of the inpatient stay, and can only be changed in exceptional circumstances.  Each visiting slot will be 30 minutes and visiting times are 1.30pm – 4.30pm and 6pm – 7.30pm. 

Essential Visiting for those inpatients who require more frequent visits will continue to be arranged as required, without restrictions on the number of visits or visitors (subject to ward conditions and availability). Essential visits can be arranged for a range of situations including a birth partner supporting a woman during hospital visits; a person receiving end-of-life care; to support someone with a mental health issue; or dementia, a learning disability or autism where not being present would cause the patient to be distressed; or to accompany a child in hospital. 

All visits (including Essential Visits) must be booked in advance by contacting the hospital switchboard on 01851 704704.  

Visiting will be subject to availability and ward conditions, and dependent on each patient’s individual preferences and wishes. The current arrangements will be subject to ongoing review.  

Whilst visiting arrangements have been relaxed, the above visiting restrictions remain in place to protect our healthcare services.  

Whilst our hospitals continue to be busy, and the COVID-19 transmission risk remains where physical distancing is challenging, NHS Western Isles will continue to take steps to mitigate, as far as possible, risks in busy ward areas.  

"We would however stress to visitors and patients that transmission risks are ever-present and visitors must risk assess their own visits and ensure that they have taken every possible precaution to protect inpatients - many of whom are at increased risk of more serious illness if they contracted COVID-19.

"This includes ensuring that you take LFD tests before every visit, carefully observing safety precautions (including wearing face masks in public places, keeping gatherings with other households as small as possible; washing your hands regularly; and covering your nose and mouth if coughing or sneezing)."

NHS Western Isles will continue to strictly enforce infection prevention and control requirements for all visitors, including the use of hand sanitizer, wearing clinical face masks provided at the front door (or additional Personal Protective Equipment – PPE on request) and physical distancing.