THERE are fears coronavirus is spreading “rapidly” across the islands, after health bosses identified a cluster which they believe could be linked to the outbreak in Aberdeen. 

Nicola Sturgeon confirmed three cases have been identified in the last 24 hours. 

Earlier this morning, NHS Orkney’s interim chief executive, say they thought there could be at least nine people been linked to these new cases.

Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said: “There is also currently an Orkney-based cluster, which is under investigation and an incident management team will meet in Orkney, later today. This may include residents of other NHS board areas.

“All the work that should be done is being done in Orkney to contact trace everyone involved and ensure that they are self-isolating.

“While Orkney had a number of cases at the beginning of the pandemic, it has had very few since. I would urge everyone on the islands to guard against complacency. If you have what might be symptoms of coronavirus, isolate immediately and make immediate arrangements to be tested.

“We are also investigating if this Orkney-based cluster potentially includes a link to the Aberdeen outbreak".

The health board's chief executive, Michael Dickson, told BBC Radio Orkney: "The biggest concern is that we're talking a minimum of nine people, a number of which have already tested positive.

"The other factor is how distributed they are across Orkney and spreading across into the mainland as well. So it's not only a case of having this number of people who may be symptomatic and some of which have tested positive, but it's the distribution of them."

There's speculation that this could soon lead to a local lockdown. 

But, speaking at Thursday's coronavirus briefing, the First Minister said it was too soon to say if that was likely. She said the government wouldn't hesitate to impose restrictions if it help kept transmission of the virus under control.

She also warned all of Scotland's islanders not to become too complacent just because they have gone a long period of time without a coronavirus case.

"Human nature, being what human nature is, that may understandably lead to a sense of feeling on the islands that the threat has gone, the risk has gone and therefore maybe people are not being as assiduous in complying with all rules. 

"I would take the Orkney situation right now and say to people in all of our island communities, just remember, even for you, this risk is still there, so it's just as important that you're complying with all of these rules as it is that people on the mainland are doing so."

Though NHS Orkney has not officially confirmed a new case of the virus since 15 June, the positive cases had been attributed to mainland health boards because of where the patients lived.

Orkney's Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur said: “The news of a spike in new Covid cases in Orkney is deeply worrying.

"It is also a timely reminder that this virus remains a real threat and that we all have a responsibility to act with the upmost care to keep ourselves and our community safe.

“I know from my discussions with NHS Orkney that steps are being taken to trace all possible contacts related to this particular outbreak and ensure the necessary precautions are taken.

“I will also be speaking to the Health Secretary later today to establish what further action is being considered to contain this outbreak and minimise the risk to the public.

“In the meantime, I would echo the plea of NHS Orkney’s Interim Chief Executive, Michael Dickson that anyone experiencing symptoms urgently books a test and follows the relevant health guidance.

"If anyone who is sick needs to travel, please contact NHS Orkney immediately. NHS Orkney has a direct line to book a test on 01856 888 211.”