Orkney Islands Council is warning local people that, despite the potential lifting of some national travel restrictions this week by the Scottish Government, opportunities to travel locally by bus, plane and ferry will still be limited due to capacity constraints arising from social distancing.
Additional rules will also be in place around the booking of travel and passenger behaviour whilst travelling.
With the Scottish Government likely to move to Phase 2 of the lockdown next week, this will include a shift in the definition of 'essential travel' to 'necessary travel' instead for public transport across Scotland.
However, two metre social distancing rules remain in place - and consequently fewer people than usual will be able to use a ferry, bus or plane during any one sailing, flight or journey in order to ensure that distancing can be safely maintained.
The Scottish Government has also maintained its position that travel on the external ferry services into and out of Orkney should remain restricted to essential travel only.
The Council is therefore issuing a plea to local people intending to travel that they should avoid travelling at peak times on all forms of transport and should restrict their travel as much as possible to allow access to those whose travel is necessary – and therefore prevent capacity issues.
Key workers should ensure that they book early and are prepared to verify their key worker status on booking.
Inter-island ferry travel will also need to be booked in advance - meaning the turn up and pay system is suspended for the time being - and payment for travel should be done at time of booking.
In line with Scottish Government Guidance face coverings will also be required when travelling, in order to protect transport staff and other passengers.
These restrictions will apply to Orkney Ferries, to Stagecoach buses and to Loganair flights.
The Scottish Government has also maintained its position that travel on the external ferry services into Orkney should remain restricted to essential travel only.
In recognition of these travel restrictions, the council has extended the Food Fund Scheme for isles residents for a further four weeks, with vouchers being issued shortly.
North Isles Councillor Graham Sinclair is Chair of the Council's Development and Infrastructure Committee. He said: “Our isles communities have faced huge challenges during this crisis, not least that of the restrictions placed on travel and transport.
“Although the Scottish Government looks likely to lift some restrictions next week, our isles folk are unfortunately not going to see a significant difference in travel opportunities. The two metre social distancing rule will affect passenger capacity for our ferries – and we also continue to experience issues around the availability of staff and the effect that has on opportunities around timetabling.
“I would assure our isles residents that we continue to bring these issues and challenges to the attention of the Scottish Government and will do all we can to maximise sailings if necessary, taking on board the views of our isles residents throughout.”