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The First Minister has this afternoon (Tuesday 11 May) announced that the Western Isles is to move straight from the current Level Three Covid restrictions to Level One, with effect from Monday 17 May.

FM Nicola Sturgeon was speaking during her daily Coronavirus briefing, at which she said that a ‘hugely successful’ vaccination programme, very low levels of Covid incidence and high compliance with restrictions were responsible for the decision to step island communities down to the least restrictive level.

Islands including Shetland, Orkney and all islands in the Highland region, except for Skye because of its land connection by bridge, will join the Western Isles at a much more relaxed level one.

Ms Sturgeon said: “We must all continue to be careful, responsible and vigilant (but) the situation overall is now a very positive one, so that we are in a position to restore a much more normal life.”

The whole of the Scottish mainland is expected to move to Level Two on Monday, with the exception of Moray, where a rise in cases and the possible presence of variants of the disease means a further period of Level Three restrictions, including limitations on travel into and out of Moray.

But, the First Minister said: “For island communities the situation is different and very much more positive. Case levels have been very low for some time now and there have been very good vaccination programmes.”

The change on Monday will mean fewer restrictions on daily living, including on welcoming visitors and guests into your home.

From Monday up to six people from three households can meet in your home or theirs, and may stay overnight.

Full guidance on the Level One restrictions and what is allowed will be found at https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/

Alasdair Allan MSP welcomed the First Minister’s announcement:  “This is very encouraging news for the islands, and hopefully represents a major step towards something much more like normality.

"Significantly, the First Minister indicated that one reason for the islands coming down to level 1 on Monday, while the rest of Scotland is at level 2, is because the vaccination programme in the islands is making such rapid progress. The NHS locally deserves a great deal of credit for that.  

“We still need to show vigilance – the recent situation in Moray proves that the virus can reappear suddenly in any community. However, people in the islands will be really heartened to see the normalising of many aspects of visiting friends and traveling normalised, and to see the opening up of more of the local economy.” 

The leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “This is very welcome news and reflects what we have been saying about the easing of restrictions in Island areas.

"Of course, we must continue to follow the rules and guidance but I am sure we are all delighted that finally there is a significant breakthrough in the restraints we have had to follow. I commend people throughout the Western Isles for their adherence to following the guidance which has enabled us to move to this stage. It is important that we continue to do so and that we continue to sign up for the ongoing vaccination programme.

"Make no mistake, this is good news but the challenges we face, particularly across our economy, remain significant and I would call on Government to ensure that Island economies are supported during what remains a very challenging time.”

FACTS guidance – Face coverings, Avoiding crowded places, Cleaning hands regularly, maintaining distance and Self-isolating if you have symptoms, still applies.