The latest coronavirus figures - confirmed at 2pm today Monday 16 March - show there are still no cases in the Outer Hebrides.
The total has remained at two for Highland Region.
There have been 15 cases in Shetland - with four new ones since yesterday - so far, but still none at all in Orkney. Shetland Council is closing a number of its main schools and nurseries this week for “operational and resilience reasons”.
A total of 4,895 Scottish tests have been concluded so far. Of these:
- 4,724 tests were confirmed negative
- 171 tests were positive - that's 18 more than on Sunday. In all, 93 of the cases were in Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas.
Event cancellations – Tuesday 17 March
There have been a number of further cancellations of events following Government advice last night (Monday 16 March).
- Uig community’s performance of Dr Zoolightly, scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Uig Community Centre, has been cancelled.
- Autism Eilean Siar has cancelled their coffee morning, planned for Tuesday (24 March) at the Failte Centre on Bayhead.
- Friday night music sessions at the Failte centre have also been cancelled until further notice.
- Stornoway Karate Club has cancelled all classes for four weeks.
- Alzheimers Scotland – Western Isles has cancelled their programme of support groups as a precaution and to allow them to focus on supporting people at the Solas centre. Groups suspended include: Dementia café at Clan MacQuarrie community centre and football memories at Ionad Stoodie in Garrabost, both on 3 April; music for memory at the Failte centre on 7 April; Tolsta café on 14 April and the men’s café at Back football club on 28 April.
- Pairc Trust announced today that they have decided to suspend healthwalks in Pairc for the time being, because of the social, face-to-face contact they involve. A trust spokesman said: “Such a shame - just last week we were visited by a film crew from the Scottish Health Council who took some coverage of our walk in Orinsay. They are making a film to show how beneficial healthwalks are for well being.”
- The Galson Trust and Scottish Ambulance have cancelled two life-saving skills workshops which were due to be held at Sporsnis in Ness on Monday (23 March) and at Clan MacQuarrie community centre on Monday 30 March.
- The Skye-based charity lucky2Bhere has suspended all emergency life support training, including a session due to be given on Thursday (19 March) at the Marybank Community Hall. Installation of a new defibrillator/AED at Lava’s Garage is to go ahead as planned.
- Point senior citizens group Young at Heart has suspended all meetings until the situation improves. Chair Ken Nicolson said: “Disappointing, but needs must. Good health is more important than anything. Please take care, look after yourselves and one another. Follow all the advice given regarding the virus and look forward to meeting again soon.”
Click for our summary of existing national advice on coping with the onset of coronavirus
More news will be added as it becomes available
Developments in the Western Isles from Friday 13 March to Monday 16 March, are reported below and include:
- Island landmarks close
- Island communities plan self-help
- Island league football suspended
- HebCeltFest statement
- Monday 16 March - Coronavirus cancellations
- Provincial Mòds ‘may not happen’
- First virus cruise cancellation
- Commissioners to limit travel
- NHS Western Isles: Hospital visits
- Social group cancellations
- Community kindness takes hold
- CnES Care Home Visiting Restrictions
- Cafe's cleansers taken in 'virus' theft
- Care home closed to non-essential visitors
- Small business changes against virus
- Coastguard special measures
- Outer Hebrides LEADER postpones event
- Sport cancellations
- All sport and leisure facilities and Comhairle offices remain open.
- From tomorrow (Tuesday 17 March) all activities run by ISL/Sports Development will be suspended, including swimming lessons.
- Aquafit classes and ‘Move More’ group activities held during the day will also be suspended.
- All other adult Fitness classes will continue at this stage.
More CnES details here: https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto/16301-covid-19-comhairle-update
Solas day centre remains open – people and family will be updated immediately of any changes, reports Marion MacInnes
Locality Leader Alzheimer Scotland, Western Isles | 01851 702123 | 07771 925 730
18 Bells Road, Stornoway, HS1 2RA
Plea over 'panic-buying'
Western Isles Emergency Planning Tweeted on Monday 16th: "There is a lot of anxiety around coronavirus in the WesternIsles, however panic buying of foods and other goods can only make the situation worse. Spare a thought for those not able to buy large amounts who will suffer if you buy too much..."
Island landmarks close
Harris Tweed Authority has updated their arrangements following Government advice and has closed their office to the public from today (Tuesday 17 March).
In a statement this morning a spokesperson said: “In our best efforts to be responsible to both our staff, our customers and the small tight-knit community we live in, the HTA is following advice and closing the office to the public for the time being.
“The priority is of course that everyone tries to keep healthy and to look after and look out for each other. We are thinking of our Harris Tweed family across the globe now more than ever. Stay safe, everyone.”
Also closed today is the Callanish visitor centre. Centre manager Victoria Harvey said: “The safety of our staff and visitors is paramount and we are going to take today to seek further clarity from the government guidance. We will post an update across our social channels and on our website later today which will detail any changes to the services we provide.
“The stone circle will be open as normal and we just ask that you use your best judgement, and self-isolate where necessary. Our top priority is the health and safety of our staff, our visitors and our island and this is such a troubling time. Our thoughts are with you all.”
Gearranan Blackhouse Village is also closing to the public from today until the end of June.
Island communities plan self-help
Community organisations in the islands are making plans for ways in which people can help each other as closures and service restrictions are put in place.
The Tong community hall is closing to bookings and groups for the foreseeable future, but the committee are getting together to plan support for vulnerable neighbours and those in self-isolation.
Their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/207557566481020/?fref=nf is one place to go for help, with a statement today saying: “Please also get in touch if any vulnerable members in the village need help. The TRA will do all they can to support anyone who needs help, shopping or just a chat on the phone if they are self-isolating. No one is in this alone!”
They’re looking at word-of-mouth contacts through churches and other organisations as well as at social media solutions, such as a WhatsApp group for neighbours to call for help.
Members of Tiumpanhead Community Association in Point are offering individual support to their neighbours in the Aird district via their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TiumpanHeadCommunityAssosiation/
Lochs Services are looking for volunteers to help identify elderly or vulnerable people who may need a delivery, with deliveries also dependent on community volunteers. If you can help, contact them on 860377.
Island league football suspended
The traditional summer season of football in the Western Isles looks set to be suspended, with an announcement today (Monday 16 March) from Lewis and Harris Football Association (LHFA).
In the statement published this morning, LHFA said: “The LHFA has received confirmation that all football under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Football Association is suspended until further notice. This advice includes all matches within the Scottish Amateur Football Association and any member leagues and associations. This also applies to friendly matches.
“A decision to continue or suspend training is at each club’s discretion at this time but all clubs must follow the current medical guidance issued by the Government and health authorities when making the decision.”
Some clubs had already made moves to suspend training and competition planning, with Lochs Football Club announcing on Friday that they were cancelling all football activities at all levels.
Stornoway Athletic (Aths) also announced yesterday (Sunday) that all plans for friendly and festival matches and under-7s coaching in Sandwick Hall on Mondays were to be suspended until further notice.
The club said: “Coaching at the astro-turf will continue on Monday nights at the normal times until further notice. Parents and carers should make decisions on children attending based on the current advice and their own situation. There is no pressure from Aths to attend coaching if you have any concerns. Our position may change as time moves on.”
Matches in the island league were due to begin in the second week of April, with the first cup matches in the Acres Boys Club (ABC) cup tournament due soon afterwards.
The Hebridean Celtic Festival said today (Monday March 16th):
"We know that a lot of people are understandably concerned about coronavirus and also what it means for HebCelt Festival. As things stand today, we are continuing to prepare for the 25th anniversary festival in July. However, the situation is changing day to day, even hour by hour, and we are conscious of the Scottish Government’s advice on events involving more than 500 people. We hope things will improve in the coming weeks, but the health and wellbeing of everyone concerned must be our main priority. We will continue to review the situation and take any further guidance from the Government and medical experts. Rest assured all tickets are protected. If we were required to cancel the festival, your tickets would be refunded.
Thanks for your continued support of HebCelt. Look after each other!"
Monday 16 March - Coronavirus cancellations
Other cancellations attributed to the current Coronavirus situation and associated health advice have been announced today. They include:
- Point Youth Club, which meets on Friday evenings at Tiumpanhead Community Centre in Aird, has cancelled all meetings until after the Easter holidays, when they will update parents further.
- The committee of the Co-operative Community Football League has decided to cancel the rest of the season of Back 8s football matches. A new summer format of Friday night 5s is also liable to delay in starting up.
- Stornoway publisher Acair is asking customers not to make personal calls to their office at An Tosgan, but to place orders via their website instead.
- Stornoway Rugby Club will not be holding junior rugby training until 29th March, in line with Scottish Rugby’s current advice.
- The Harris Tweed Authority’s Story Room display is closed to the public for the time being, although the office in Stornoway Town Hall is still open for callers.
- Sharon Mackinnon School of Highland Dancing has cancelled the Mackinnon Festival Highland dancing competition, due to be held on Saturday (21 March) at the Nicolson Institute
- T’ai chi classes by T’ai Chi Hebrides at the Bridge Centre and Sandwick Hall on Tuesdays are closed until the end of April
- Outer Hebrides for Independence has postponed the Independence March planned for Stornoway on 18 April. A new date is expected to be set in August or September.
- Stornoway Judo Club is following advice from Judo Scotland and postponing classes at least until after the Easter holidays.
- Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland is temporarily suspending meetings of the Stornoway Monday Stroke Club on advice from their national office.
Other businesses are taking measures to limit any potential spread of infection.
- Harris and Lewis Smokehouse restaurant has stopped taking cash payments and will not be using re-usable cups. Other precautionary measures include hand sanitiser for the use of all customers as they enter the restaurant.
- Uig community shop has intensified their hygiene regime, particularly in high contact areas. They are also encouraging people to shop in moderation and will be increasing the availability of their delivery service to customers self-isolating at home. Call the shop on 01851 672444.
- The community pop-in lunch planned by North Harris Free Church for Tuesday 17 March has been cancelled due to current health advice.
- Mollans café in Callanish has agreed a protocol with environmental health officers to allow them to continue to operate their takeaway service safely. Customers will be asked to ring ahead on 07985 233723 to place orders, which will be brought to their car. Mollans has also offered a delivery service to customers in Callanish, Breasclete, Garynahine and Tolsta Chaolais who are self-isolating.
Provincial Mòds ‘may not happen’
The organisers of the Royal National Mòd, An Comunn Gaidhealach, have issued a statement on the impact of Coronavirus following their meeting on Friday (13 March). The directors have written to all local groups and committees with their summary guidance, which includes a warning that they do not anticipate local and provincial Mòds planned for May and June this year to take place. With Uist Mòd set for 29 and 30 May, Lewis Mòd for 1 to 5 June and Harris Mòd for 12 June, this would effectively cancel the local Mòds for the year. The date for the local Mòd in Barra and Vatersay is yet to be set. An Comunn Gaidhealach said that guidance would be issued in due course concerning the autumn round of local Mòds and the Royal National Mòd itself, due to be held in Inverness from 9 to 17 October.
The cruise line Cruise and Maritime Voyages (CMV) has been the first to announce that it is suspending all worldwide cruise embarkations “due to the escalating global pandemic of the COVID-19 Coronavirus.” All departures of their cruise vessels until 24 April are suspended. They say Government advisories and impending lockdown of ports around the world have contributed to their decision, as have health and safety concerns for their passengers and crew. CMV’s ship Astoria was due to be the first official cruise visit of Stornoway’s 2020 season, calling in to the port on Thursday 9 April with a potential total of 550 passengers.
Astoria was due to make a total of three visits to Stornoway during April and May this year and her sister vessel Marco Polo is also due to call in May.
Also cancelled is the visit of the Norwegian training ship Gann, due into Stornoway on 6 May. The ship, which provides training to maritime students from Norway and other countries, has closed to students and cancelled all registrations. She is due for her second call to Stornoway in September..
Commissioners to limit travel
Crofting Commissioners will limit their travel to Inverness this week by telephoning into their Board Meeting that will be held on Thursday 19 March. At this point in time the meeting will still be open for members of the public to attend, but those Commissioners who live in more remote areas will take part in the meeting via a telephone link. This decision has been taken to limit the possibility of any contact and possible transfer of illness that may occur, albeit that the risk is low at present.
Rod Mackenzie, Crofting Commission Convener, said, “Most of our Commissioners live in remote areas and we consider it prudent that where possible the Commission should limit travel to ensure the risk of transferring any infection is kept to a minimum. This is a time of year in the crofting calendar where most crofters self-isolate anyway with lambing and calving imminent and most of us would like to keep the exposure to infection at a minimum.”
NHS Western Isles: Hospital visits
- Do not visit anyone in hospital if you have a fever/ respiratory / cough or cold symptoms.
- All visitors must hand sanitize when entering and leaving clinical areas.
- People must go to NHS Inform for up to date information and advice: https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus
- If you develop flu like symptoms, please do not attend your GP or hospital but call your GP or NHS24 on 111 for advice if you need it.
- People with a new onset of continuous cough or high temperature should self-isolate for seven days.
Social group cancellations
Island groups are taking measures to protect the most vulnerable, with closure of facilities which specifically serve older people and those with compromised immune systems.
Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative (WICCI) trustees have taken the decision to close the WICCI centre on Cromwell Street for treatments as of tomorrow (Monday 16 March).
The closure has been described as ‘for the foreseeable future’ and comes in light of advice and direction from other cancer support centres in Scotland. WICCI centre manager Helen Sandison said: “Very sorry to be doing this, but hope you can all understand the need to keep everyone as protected as we can.”
Stornoway’s Failte Centre on Bayhead has similarly decided to close until further notice. In an announcement today (Sunday) a spokesman said: “We have taken advice on the current Covid 19 situation and have decided that, as we are ALL in the age group most at risk from the virus in the Thursday Lunch Club, we will be discontinuing our lunches as from today.
“This is very disappointing for us as we make a point of not closing but in this instance, we think that we are being prudent. We will keep this closure under review and we look forward to reopening as soon as we can.”
The Hebridean Men’s Cancer Support Group have cancelled their next four Friday meetings and postponed their AGM, due on 25 March. The committee plan to meet in two weeks’ time and to review the position in light of any developments over that time.
And in Barra, the Garadh a Bagh a Tuath community project is closing their Thursday café until further notice, although the garden itself remains open for the time being.
Community kindness takes hold
Shops and community groups across the Western Isles are making moves to ensure that nobody gets left alone or in want as the impacts of coronavirus begin to make themselves felt.
Some shops also aim to reassure regular customers that they will be able to get what they need – whether they need to self-isolate or not.
Stag Bakeries has issued an appeal for good sense as their mobile shop heads out on the road to supply essentials to regular customers in out-of-town areas.
Posting on Saturday, they said: “Please be mindful when using our mobile shop. The mobile shop is a lifeline to many of our island’s most vulnerable elderly and some housebound, this is the only means they have of getting their weekly shopping.
“It is enough of a challenge to provide this service out of a van without the need to impose ‘rations’ on certain items. The van serves the same areas Monday to Friday and, while we always welcome new customers, we have an established regular customer base.
“We currently have plenty stock of everything – toilet roll included – and have no reason to think our supply is going to run out. If everybody just does what they always do there will be plenty to go round and we will not run out!! Please don’t make us have to ration.”
The Co-op convenience store on Cromwell Street had a similar message, subscribing to a national advert on behalf of supermarket retailers. The message asks all shoppers to be considerate in the way they shop. It reads: “We understand your concerns, but buying more than is needed can sometimes mean that others will be left without.
“There is enough for everyone if we all work together.” The Stornoway Co-op described it as “a really important message – show you care and share.”
In Tong, the committee of the Community Hall are encouraging villagers to look out for neighbours, vulnerable people and those who are self-isolating by using the increasingly popular self-isolation postcard.
Designed to be dropped through the letterbox to offer help to those isolating at home, the postcard is also being distributed via social media in Point and through church groups in Stornoway.
Care Home Visiting Restrictions
Upon advice from the Scottish Government in relation to Coronavirus, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is implementing a practice of having a single representative as residents’ named visitor at its Care Homes.
The Comhairle is also restricting visiting times in all its Care Homes to the hours of between 2pm – 3.30pm and 6pm - 7.30pm.
The only exceptions to these times will be where the named representative is supporting a resident during meal-times. Residents’ representatives will be contacted directly by Care Home staff to discuss this.
These measures started from 7.30pm on Saturday 14th March 2020.
The Care homes affected are Dun Berisay, Dun Eisdean and Ardseileach in Stornoway, Harris House in Tarbert, Isle of Harris, Trianaid, in Carinish, North Uist, Taigh a’Chridhe Uile Naomh in South Uist and St Brendan’s in Castlebay on Barra.
A spokesperson said: “We are following national advice on this matter. We understand that relatives and friends will be concerned but we are asking for understanding and co-operation. This is about reducing risk and protecting health. Many Care Home residents are vulnerable due to age and underlying medical conditions and these steps are being taken to afford the best possible protection for residents and their carers.”
Comhairle Care Home contact details can be accessed here: https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/community-care-and-criminal-justice/community-care/island-care-homes/
Further information and guidance on Residential Care residents is available at https://www.careinspectorate.com/images/COVID-19_-_Clinical_Guidance_for_Nursing_Home_and_Residential_Care_Residents.pdf
Cafe's cleansers taken in 'virus' theft
This morning (Friday Match 13th) the Woodlands Centre café in the Castle Grounds found that all the hand-cleansing materials had been stolen from its toilets.
Iain Maciver, the factor of the Stornoway Trust, condemned the irresponsibility of those involved, the needlessness of the act and warned that this sort of action could cause such public faciities into closure as they were no more able to buy such supplies locally than anyone else, with supermarket shelves often devoid of soap, hand cleansers and toilet rolls.
Local suppliers are now imposing individual sale limits on the quantities of the increasingly scrarce commodities.
Care home closed to non-essential visitors
Blar Buidhe care home in Stornoway was closed to non-essential visitors as of 12 noon yesterday (Thursday 12 March) in a move to protect residents from the possible arrival of Coronavirus in the Western Isles.
The decision has been taken by the group HC-One, who operate Blar Buidhe, and who have taken the decision across all their homes to restrict visiting to essential visitors only.
Non-essential visits include social visits from relatives and loved ones, visits from individuals such as hairdressers and entertainers and from professionals and contractors carrying out non-essential services.
Blar Buidhe manager Donald McIntosh said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, but we hope you will understand that it purely in the interests of protecting our residents from Coronavirus, which will remain our absolute priority.
“There is currently no restriction on healthcare professionals visiting the homes and there will be no adverse effect on the continuity of care. For further information please call 01851-706067 We thank you all for your understanding in this matter”
A statement from HC-One issued yesterday (12 March) said: “We know our visitors, including relatives and loved ones, would want us to do everything possible to keep the residents in our care safe and well.
“If you can delay your visit or achieve its purpose through another method, such as through a phone call or video call, please do so. Requests for essential visits will be considered where exceptional circumstances arise. These can be arranged by contacting the home manager.”
Small business changes against virus
Small businesses are considering closures and limitations on business as the risk of Coronavirus reaching the Western Isles becomes more real.
Yesterday (Thursday 12 March) Stornoway’s Crown Inn published a notice informing customers that bookings from overseas customers had been cancelled and refunded and that currently no future bookings from countries outside the UK were being taken.
They said: “As a local business that invites guests from all over the world and with Coronavirus continuing to spread, we have taken the decision not to accept any accommodation bookings outwith the UK until further notice. We are taking all the precautions necessary to safeguard our employees and local visitors.”
Stornoway business Wee Studio issued an announcement this morning (Friday March 13) saying that the business would close today. Business owner Keith Morrison said: “Due to the ongoing Coronavirus situation I've taken the decision to close the Wee Studio doors for the foreseeable future starting today at lunchtime.
“I'm sure a lot will be happening in the next few weeks, but at the moment I'm planning that I will be re-opening March the 30th. Stay safe everyone.”
Meanwhile some other businesses have put safeguarding procedures in place to prevent possible spread of the illness should any customer become infected.
Health salon Body and Sole said today: “As the situation around novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, we are doing everything we can to make sure we follow guidelines to stay hygienic and safe. We must ensure the safety of each other now on the island.
“Please note if you are showing any signs of symptoms, please cancel your appointment until you feel symptoms ease. We need to protect the vulnerable and in my profession I work very closely with the public. Hand sanitiser is available to use on our front desk, please feel free to use it on entering the salon and leaving. Thanks and stay safe and well.”
And Hebrides Dance and Wellbeing Studio has put in place protections including sanitising spray for use on yoga mats and changes to some exercise and dance routines to avoid physical contact between customers.
Business owner Kirstie Anderson encouraged people to help keep themselves and others well, including by taking health exercise. She said: “Please be vigilant about hygiene before and at classes (I'm sure you all already are!). Good hygiene helps prevent the spread of not only the novel coronavirus but colds and flu as well.
“Please wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This is more effective than using hand sanitiser. Please remain home if you're not feeling well.
“If you're feeling well, I hope you'll feel happy to continue your exercise and activity with me. Healthy bodies have strong immune systems to fight off illness.”
Coastguard special measures
Western Isles Coastguard teams and the HM Coastguard operations centre are implementing special measures to remain prepared for an outbreak of Coronavirus in the Western Isles.
They said: “As a Category 1 emergency responder we have had to implement special measures to ensure that HM Coastguard is able to respond effectively to emergencies during this period of crisis caused by COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
“To that end, we are unable to participate in much of our usual activity such as talks, visits and open days which could expose external organisations or ourselves to heightened risk of transmission of the virus. We are unable to attend joint exercises and training and cannot allow visitors into our stations.
“Our response capability remains unaffected and we look forward, as does the rest of society, to the resumption of normal life and the lifting of these very necessary restrictions.”
Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG postpones event
Taking into account all current information on the outbreak of the Coronavirus it is with regret that the Outer Hebrides LEADER LAG announces the postponement of the LEADER and EMFF Celebration and Film Launch Dinner Reception which was due to take place on Thursday 19 March.
The LAG also intended to host a similar event in Uist in April, however both events have now been postponed until later in the year. We will notify you of the new details when they are confirmed and we hope that you will be able to join us then to celebrate LEADER, EMFF, your projects and businesses.
For more information, follow us on Facebook (Outer Hebrides LEADER) or follow us on Twitter @LEADEROuterHeb.
Sport cancellations hit islanders
Cancellations of sporting fixtures nationally and internationally are now affecting island players and athletes.
Lewis Camanachd’s 2020 season has been indefinitely postponed, after the Camanachd Association announced this morning (Friday 13 March) that all matches are to be cancelled.
The association said: “While it is unlikely that shinty matches would have exceeded the 500 person quota for events put in place by the Scottish Government yesterday, we are mindful of the concerns that exist and risk associated with the spread of the virus particularly to those most vulnerable and for those travelling long distances in close proximity to others.
“Consequently we have taken the difficult decision to postpone all matches under our remit. The wellbeing of the people in our communities is primary in this decision and we hope that this decision removes any expectations or pressures on participating during a time that we can be focused on doing all we can to suppress the spread of the virus.”
Stornoway Rugby Club is also among teams who have learnt today that future fixtures are being postponed, after Scottish Rugby announced that all rugby is being suspended in the face of the virus.
Scottish Rugby today issued a statement saying: “With effect from Sunday 15 March at 6pm there will be a short period without domestic competition (or training) whilst a further assessment can be made. This will be in effect up to, and including, 29 March 2020.
“This will impact rugby in all domestic league and cup fixtures, training, festivals and other rugby events. We have taken on board all expert medical advice before now and we are taking a precautionary approach to give time to assess what the impact of Coronavirus will be on Scottish society in the coming weeks before deciding on next steps.
"This decision has been taken with the best interest of everyone involved in the game and in support of the country's work to address the impact of Coronavirus."
Stornoway RFC were next due to play a re-scheduled fixture away to Peterhead on March 21, and at home against Gordonians 2nd XV on Saturday 28 March.