A call has gone out to NHS Western Isles and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to follow the example of Scottish island neighbours as tourists begin to return to nervous island communities from today (Monday 6 July).

Orkney Islands Council and NHS Orkney have jointly produced a letter for visitors, seeking their help to keep Orkney ‘special and safe’ as ferry services and flights begin to pick up after lockdown.

Orkney has had nine official coronavirus cases, slightly more than the Western Isles with seven. 

Loganair, Northlink and Orkney ferries are all distributing the letter to passengers on board planes and ferries bound for Orkney from this week.

Now members of CalMac’s Community Board are urging Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles to produce a similar message for travellers to the Western Isles, in an attempt to educate and inform visitors before the main influx of holiday visitors begins.

Orkney’s letter, signed by Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan and by Meghan McEwen, chair of NHS Orkney, reads: “Our islands are renowned for their hospitality. We welcome all those travelling and enjoy sharing with you the many aspects of island life that make Orkney such a special place.

“Today, we are looking for your help in keeping Orkney special – and safe.

“We take great pride in the efforts people in our community have made to minimise the spread of the coronavirus in Orkney.

“There have been high levels of compliance in Orkney with the Scottish Government’s guidance on lockdown, social distancing, shielding and self-isolation. The efforts of many have ensured that the total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is very small when compared to other areas of Scotland.

“Since the lockdown began, travel to Orkney by ferry and plane has been restricted to key workers with an essential need to visit our community. As lockdown measures are eased, visits to Orkney for a short break or longer holiday are possible once again.

“Please do all you can to prevent further cases of COVID-19 in our islands. Follow the latest guidance from the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland – and help us to keep you and our community safe.

“If you are travelling to our smaller isles we would ask that you take particular care as there are limited health services in these communities which could be overwhelmed if there was a serious outbreak.”

CalMac’s Community Board, which includes representatives from Lewis, Harris, Uist, Barra and Vatersay, has circulated and discussed the letter and agreed to recommend that CalMac should carry and distribute a similar message if it is produced by Western Isles authorities.

And Stornoway airport manager Duncan Smith also said today (Monday) that he would be happy to see such a letter distributed to passengers arriving by air if it were to be produced by NHS Western Isles and CnES.

Pictures show Orkney Islands Council leader James Stockan (OIC) and NHS Orkney chair Meghan McEwen (NHSO).