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Scilly islanders apprehensive despite Tier 1 ‘early Christmas present’

The Isles of Scilly will be the only area of England under Tier 1 restrictions from Boxing Day.

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The Scilly isles are the only remaining area of the UK set to be under Tier 1 restrictions, but islanders say they are not celebrating (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Scilly isles are the only remaining area of the UK set to be under Tier 1 restrictions, but islanders say they are not celebrating (Ben Birchall/PA)

The Scilly isles are the only remaining area of the UK set to be under Tier 1 restrictions, but islanders say they are not celebrating (Ben Birchall/PA)

Residents of the Isles of Scilly have said they are apprehensive despite enjoying a “very strange early Christmas present” in being the only area of England in Tier 1 from Boxing Day.

The islands’ population of 2,000 will be the only people still under England’s most lenient Covid restrictions from December 26, after Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced new measures on Wednesday evening.

Hospitality venues will continue to be allowed to open with table service on the isles, with the “rule of six” applying indoors and outdoors.

“It’s a very strange early Christmas present… part of a very, very privileged 0.004%,” local councillor Steve Sims, 62, told the PA news agency.

“Whilst it is a relief, it’s a very sobering situation and I remain apprehensive as I’m sure most of my fellow islanders will be.

“It’s been a combination of our isolation, a lot of luck and, importantly, a huge amount of hard work by the council’s public health team, transport providers, local businesses and not least the islanders and our visitors taking Covid very seriously.”

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Steve Sims is a local councillor on the Isles of Scilly, where he was born and still lives (Steve Sims)

Steve Sims is a local councillor on the Isles of Scilly, where he was born and still lives (Steve Sims)

Steve Sims is a local councillor on the Isles of Scilly, where he was born and still lives (Steve Sims)

Mr Sims, who lives in St Mary’s and was born on the islands, said Scilly has only had two recorded cases of Covid-19 but locals are “certainly not celebrating” their tier and feel for other areas which are seeing restrictions tighten.

Nearby Cornwall has moved into Tier 2.

“I’m confident that we will be able to maintain our current situation … but I would urge people not to see the islands as a safe haven, our health facilities are limited,” Mr Sims added.

“Whilst we famously welcome visitors with open arms, perhaps the smiles will be a little strained at the moment.”

Mr Sims’ wife, Beth Hilton, edits local magazine Scilly Now & Then and said people on the islands are “very protective” of their low infection rate.

“I don’t think we’re jumping up and down celebrating the fact that we are still tier 1, although it is very welcome news and means we can still go out socially at Christmas if we wish to do so,” the 46-year-old said.

“There is a lot of apprehension in the community because of our limited health facilities and lack of capacity on (the) island to deal with a serious case.”

James, who preferred not to reveal his second name, moved to St Martin’s in February – just weeks before the first UK lockdown – to take over running of the local vineyard.

“Our first year was very different to the one we had planned,” the 35-year-old told PA.

“We’ve not been back to the mainland since moving here, but I know family and friends have found it tough and it’s no pleasure to know that we’re amongst the ‘lucky ones’ when so many people are having such a rough Christmas.”

James had planned to return to the mainland to visit family but they will now remain on the isles for the festive period and plan to visit some of their island neighbours on Christmas Day.

PA


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