First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced this afternoon (Tuesday 10 November) that visiting between members of two households indoors can resume in the Western Isles from Friday (13 November).

In her summary of tier changes in local authorities across Scotland, the FM said that Highland, Moray, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles will remain at level 1, with restrictions still in place and all necessary precautions taken in workplaces, hospitality, schools and colleges, and health care settings.

But from Friday, residents of the three island authorities will be able to meet with one other household inside their homes - up to a strict maximum of six people.

The First Minister was addressing MSPs at Holyrood on the impact of the tier system on the spread of Coronavirus.

Earlier it was learned that a fourth person from the crew of the CalMac ferry Isle of Lewis has tested postive for Covid-19.

The individual is from the same work 'bubble' as the other three and has been self isolating since they received their positive results.

During Monday, there were no further cases of Covid-19 related to the island of Lewis, or the rest of the Western Isles, said the latest update from NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson. 

Following the three recent cases associated with the MV Isle of Lewis, the NHSWI Test & Protect team worked with CalMac Ferries to ensure all contacts were traced, Mr Jamieson said. 

All CalMac services to Lochboisdale and Castlebay have returned to normal this morning, according to CalMac's service update.

Meanwhile, the First Minister has backed away from putting a coronavirus travel ban into law for now. However, Nicola Sturgeon warned she is continuing to prepare the move on a legal footing.Under the current five tier system, restrictions on travelling from one council area to another amount just to advice.

Addressing MSPs today, the First Minister stressed the importance of travel restrictions as part of a targeted approach to tackling covid 19. It was important that people from Tiers 1 and 2 did not exchange visits with Tier 3 to avoid rises in cases in the less affected areas.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has welcomed the Scottish Government announcement today that within Level 1, those living in Shetland, Orkney and the Western Isles will, from Friday, be able to meet one other household inside their homes, up to a maximum of six people.

CnES Leader Roddie Mackay said: “This is very good news for the Islands. It is testament to our communities that this relaxation has been introduced.

"The Comhairle has been making the case for household meetings and as recently as yesterday evening we, together with our colleagues in Shetland and Orkney, met with Cabinet Secretary Aileen Campbell to continue that discussion. So we are very pleased that Government has listened and responded positively. Of course, the reason we have been able to do this is because people have been so compliant with the rules and guidelines and I would encourage everyone to continue doing so."

Alasdair Allan MSP said of the reduced restrictions: "I am really pleased that people will once again be able to visit each other’s houses – especially as we head into the dark winter months.

“Social isolation has been a real issue throughout the pandemic and the islands are in a unique situation with a lack of public transport or alternative meeting places such as cafes in rural areas. I hope this will bring a lot of comfort to people who have been struggling.

“If we continue to exercise caution and stick to the rules, the trend of easing restrictions will hopefully continue.”

Shadow Health Secretary Donald Cameron has written to the Scottish Government urging it to introduce regular and rapid Covid-testing for Calmac ferry staff.

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP, acted after concerns were raised at outbreaks of coronavirus in several island communities, including the Uists, Lewis, and Mull.

He said: “Although there has not been a direct causal link identified between the outbreaks on the islands and Calmac’s operations, it is a fact there has been an outbreak among staff on a ferry serving the Western Isles.

“And, given the vulnerability of our island communities, owing to a lack of emergency medical facilities and ICU capacity close to hand, we must be vigilant to minimise the possibility of transmission.

“Indeed, the First Minister has just today, indicated that the relaxation of restrictions in the Western Isles, could be put at risk by the importation of the virus.

“I believe it is crucial that the Scottish Government acts quickly to establish a system of rapid Covid-testing on all publicly funded ferry services."