Coronavirus crisis grips city
by Colin Campbell Tuesday, March 24
THE Highland capital is in lockdown today.
It follows restrictions across the UK announced on Monday night by Prime Minister Boris Johnson which are unprecedented in peacetime.
However, without in any way downplaying the gravity or urgency of the situation, these may not be as dramatic or draconian for many people as they sound.
There is no such thing as normal life in Inverness or the Highlands these days – nor should there be – but the sanctions still allow people at least partly to maintain some kind of semi-normal routine.
Gatherings of more than two people will not be allowed in public – with police given powers to enforce new restrictions.
All shops selling “non-essential” goods are to be closed.
Supermarkets will remain open, along with pharmacies and funeral parlours.
People are being told they should leave the house only for shopping to buy basic necessities; for one form of exercise per day, either alone or with people with whom they share a home; for any medical need or to provide care to a vulnerable person; to travel to and from work where this is unavoidable.
Police will have powers to disperse gatherings that breach the rules and/or issue fines.
It means people can still go to the shop and can still go out for a walk, which is all that many people – particularly older people – often do anyway.
All offices for “non-essential workers” have already closed, with people working from home, so their activities will be unaffected. And the vast majority of shops selling “non-essential goods” were shut in Inverness yesterday on barren and largely empty streets.
The overall situation is hugely, almost unimaginably different from “normal life” two or three weeks ago – but it is not hugely different from the way life was for many people in Inverness yesterday morning.
There seems virtually unanimous acceptance that anything and everything is acceptable to try and counter the coronavirus. Last week was the shock and bewilderment phase of this incredibly grim unfolding story, when schools closed and pubs, clubs and restaurants were ordered to shut, leaving the usually packed city centre a weekend ghost town.
How much police involvement there will be remains to be seen. Certainly, any groups of youngsters seen loitering about the streets can expect to receive swift attention.
But the hope after last’s televised address to the nation from Mr Johnson must be that anyone who up to now was not taking the virus threat wholly seriously will be persuaded that they have to change their attitude and their ways – in their own interests as well as that of other people.
However, yesterday morning at 7.30 in the Tesco store in Tomnachurich the customer traffic and atmosphere was little or no different to what it was at that time of the day before the coronavirus threat struck. Given the fairly small number of people there, “social distancing” occurred naturally.
There were no panic buyers, and early morning shoppers – the same as in “normal” times – browsed the aisles in a “normal” way.
On the newsstand at the store the headline in the Telegraph bellowed in massive type: “End of Freedom”.
As people left the store and others walked across the car park towards it on a bright and gusty morning, that seemed a ridiculous over-dramatisation of our new, restricted reality.