The islands of Barra and Vatersay are in a local shutdown in the face of Covid-19.
A total of 10 cases have now been reported from the Isle of Barra in less than three days.
Latest update from NHSWI Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson. No new cases of #COVID19 today (Thursday January 14). However, we have unfortunately had an issue with the transportation of samples from Barra today and we would sincerely apologise for the delay in results for individuals at this tense time.
NHS Western Isles says:
- There are currently 10 positive cases and more than 80 close contacts identified and asked to self isolate.
- NHS visiting services to Barra are postponed until further notice.
- "We would in particular ask individuals on Barra to be vigilant for all symptoms (regardless of how mild) of COVID-19 and in particular loss of or change in taste or sense of smell, which has been a common symptom with regard to this particular outbreak.
- "We would also remind them of protection level 3 requirements including having nobody visit your home or go into anyone else’s home. There should be nobody leaving or coming to the area unless absolutely necessary. Even in these circumstances journeys should be carefully risk assessed and postponed if at all possible.We would urge people to stay at home wherever possible and to avoid shopping every day and to only go shopping for provisions where necessary.
- "We would also stress to everyone that has been identified as a close contact of a positive case of the vital importance of following the requirement to self isolate for a period of 10 days to ensure nobody inadvertently spreads the virus, even if they are asymptomatic."
- Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is closing Castlebay Sports Centre with immediate effect.
- Adult Day Services in Barra are closing.
- Visiting at St Brendan’s Care Home and Hospital has been suspended.
And, "in view of the outbreak and increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases in Barra," Hebridean Housing Partnership will operate the repairs service in Barra on an emergency-only basis.
Investment works in Barra due to take place this month are suspended for the time being. HHP says: "We are working closely with our contractors and partner agencies to ensure the safety and well-being of all concerned whilst following Scottish Government and NHS Western Isles Guidance."
Individual businesses have taken the decision to close or to limit their hours with immediate effect.
Castlebay Post Office and Macroon’s tea room announced this morning (Thursday 14 January) that they will reduce their opening time to an hour and a half from 9am, Monday to Friday.
Post Office managers said: “We are both medically vulnerable, one of us extremely so, together with many others on the island who like us who are scared and very wary of how to proceed.
“In order to limit exposure and potential contamination whilst still trying to offer a service we feel this is the best and safest thing we can do. May God keep us all safe. Better days will come.”
Today (Thursday 14 January) Barra and Vatersay representatives will meet to discuss with emergency planning officials what further measures can be taken to protect the population.
Their call last night (Wednesday) to all islanders was: “STAY HOME, if possible, is a vital message to our community at this time. Commending our voluntary and statutory organisations for their immediate pro-active approach with regard to the Covid-19 outbreak on the island.”
Services have been put on stand-by to offer help and support so that as many islanders as possible can stay at home.
Cobhair Bharraigh is operating a 24-hour emergency phone line on 810906 – the service is being diverted to home call-takers so may take a little longer to get through. The centre itself is closed but is offering a shopping and pharmacy collection and delivery service free of charge on request.
Shopping at the Co-op should be done by phone with Cobhair Bharraigh, who will take your number and call you back for your order. Payment is either by Co-op gift card or Cobhair will pay on your behalf, advise you of cost and ask you to leave payment in an envelope by your door.
For repeat prescriptions, phone 810333, allowing two days for prescription delivery, and advise the surgery that Cobhair will collect. Contact 810906 to arrange collection and delivery of all prescriptions.
Meanwhile churches in Barra yesterday (Wednesday) suspended public Mass until Wednesday 27 January, in light of the recent Covid cases on the islands.
Canon John Paul said: “There will be no weekday or Sunday Public Mass during that time on the island. However, our churches will remain open for private prayer.
“This is just a precaution but it is necessary to remind ourselves that the Coronavirus is everywhere and we have to do what we can to keep ourselves and our islands safe.
“Please remember in your prayers those who have been directly affected and those who are isolating. They are all in our thoughts at this time.”
Parents are being asked to keep their children at home unless they have absolutely no alternative, to avoid additional pressure on teachers supporting key-workers’ children.
Schools have issued a plea to parents and carers to follow the advice issued in the Bulletin for Parents on 8 January, stating that key worker provision can only be used when you have absolutely no other childcare options available to you and that children can only be at school whilst you physically attend at work.
Eoligarry primary school headteacher Suzanne Foreman said: “It has now been confirmed that Covid is on Barra and we are moving into a critical few weeks both here and nationally.
“There are comprehensive remote learning programmes set up which staff are delivering. Please also remind your children about the importance of washing hands/mask/space.”
Staff at the Garygall CnES depot recycling centre have been identified by the NHS track and trace system and the depot has therefore been closed until at least 21 January, with updates to come as the situation develops.
Mewanwhile, Isle of Barra Distillers say: "As a result of the recent outbreak of coronavirus on the Isle of Barra and the circumstances involving track and trace, our team has been instructed to isolate. We are continuing to follow government guidelines during this uncertain time and have closed the distillery until Monday 25th January.
"We are very sorry for the inconvenience caused to our customers with outstanding orders, but it is essential that we take action to prevent this virus from spreading and to keep our team and island home safe.
"From Monday 25th January, we will proceed to fulfil online orders with Royal Mail and have this shipped to you with 1st class delivery, as opposed to 2nd class in order to get it to you sooner.
(This report has been updated and expanded numerous times since first being posted)