Scottish leaders are begging people to stop crowding the country’s remote islands to hide from the coronavirus

General view of Castlebay the largest settlement in Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • Scottish leaders have warned citizens not to cram into rural and remote communities to flee the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Local media reports have said many Scots have headed to the country’s Highlands and islands in caravans or retreated to their vacation homes to self-isolate.
  • Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, ordered ferries not to transport non-essential travellers to the remote islands, where small communities would struggle with an avalanche of tourists.
  • Officials warned that the rural health care services can’t accommodate a crush of people and that the travellers risk transmitting the virus to the local communities.
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Scottish leaders are urging citizens not to self-isolate by all packing into the same remote islands and rural areas to try to escape the novel coronavirus.

Lawmakers have warned that a number of residents have done just that, fleeing to the Scottish highlands in caravans or retreating to their vacation homes.

Scotland’s tourism secretary, Fergus Ewing, warned in a searing statement that the crowds swarming the remote areas could devastate local businesses, interfere with health care services, and ultimately cost lives.

“I am furious at the reckless and irresponsible behaviour of some people travelling to the Highlands and Islands. This has to stop now,” Ewing said. “Let me be crystal clear, people should not be travelling to rural and island communities full stop. They are endangering lives. Do not travel.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the issue in a speech Sunday, warning that the crowds would put extra pressure on rural health services.

She said the government has since ordered all ferry companies not to transport non-essential travellers to the islands.

“I want to turn now to reports of people flocking to Scotland’s remote communities. It may well be an understandable human instinct to think we can outrun a virus – but the fact is we can’t,” Sturgeon said. “What we do is risk taking it to the places we go.”

Of the more than 500 confirmed coronavirus cases in Scotland, Just eight of those cases so far are in the Highlands, according to the BBC.

Officials said they’d like to keep it that way, adding that they fear the travellers will the virus with them and infect local communities, overwhelming medical facilities that don’t have the resources to treat them.

One lawmaker, Angus MacNeil, tweeted a sobering image of a medical facility on the Scottish island of Barra, where fewer than 10 cots were set up in preparation for COVID-19 patients.

McNeil said the setup was “not far” from that of a third-world country, adding that there were no ventilators, little oxygen, and no coronavirus tests.