Coronavirus crisis grips city
by Colin Campbell Friday, March 26
AS a far from normal weekend approaches police were last night keeping watch over an Inverness city centre so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
Officers used to dealing with fights and drunks amid clamour and noise were on duty to try and prevent the spread of a potentially deadly menace which is hidden and unseen.
In the past two weeks people in Inverness and elsewhere have become accustomed to absorbing and accepting changes in life which at the beginning of the month would have been beyond belief.
And none more so than the police, where in the city centre the need to deal with trouble and unruly behaviour has been replaced by watchful monitoring aimed at keeping people off the streets unless they have a good reason for being there.
New government rules to try and halt the spread of the coronavirus allow people to be out for limited reasons, including to go to the shops and for daily exercise.
On a calm and pleasant spring night around 10pm one takeaway was open in Academy Street but there were no people about.
Elsewhere, apart from the police, the streets were deserted.
Three officers were on foot patrol, circling the precinct.
Four others were stationed on the Upper Bridge Street complex, looking down on the High Street and Church Street, and across the riverside.
Unverified reports have circulated on social media of several warnings that have apparently been delivered to individuals by police officers, but there have as yet been no reports of anyone being arrested for breaching the guidelines, which are compulsory and legally enforceable.
Police Scotland chiefs have said their intention will be to persuade people to obey the rules, rather than arrest them, and to avoid a heavy-handed way of dealing with a unique situation.
With all city centre bars, clubs and restaurants closed, officers will again be on duty this weekend to monitor streets where at night normally boisterous or raucous behaviour has vanished in a precinct now shrouded in silence.