THE Western Isles will join mainland Scotland in full lockdown from midnight after a surge in new coronavirus cases pushed its principal hospital to capacity.
The Scottish Government said its clinical advice was that the move from Level 3 to Level 4 was necessary to avoid the local NHS becoming “overwhelmed”.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said “a rising trend of infections” had made it essential to limit contact between households across the islands.
The islands of Barra and Vatersay are already in Level 4 as Covid hotspots, but the toughest tier of restrictions will now apply throughout the Outer Hebrides
It follows nine new cases being reported on Thursday and six today, placing a “significant strain on hospital capacity” in NHS Western Isles.
The Government said the hospital on Stornoway was “now reaching full capacity within available staffing resources”, with some non-urgent procedures being rescheduled.
However the hospital will maintain a full emergency service.
After the move, people in the Western Isles should not leave or remain outside their home except for essential purposes like caring, exercise and work that cannot be done from home.
Mr Freeman said: “When the situation demands it, we must act quickly and decisively to safeguard health, save lives and protect the NHS.
“As we said we would, we have kept the island areas under review.
“The advice of our clinical advisers is that due to a rising trend of infections, lockdown is now necessary in the Western Isles. Discussions are underway to offer support and ease the pressure on local health services.
“It is essential that we further limit interaction between different households to stem the spread and bring the situation back under control, while we vaccinate more people.
“At the moment, lockdown is the best way of keeping each other safe, as vaccination continues. It is how we can protect ourselves and our loved ones.
“I continue to be very grateful to people across the country for their patience and resilience in the face of this extraordinary challenge and I am sure those in the Western isles will realise the seriousness of the current situation makes this move necessary and respond accordingly.”
Apart from the Western Isles, only Shetland and Orkney are still in level 3 in Scotland.