Coronavirus crisis grips city
by Colin Campbell Saturday, March 28
AN elderly Inverness woman worried about family members in virus-plagued Madrid and in Manila yesterday welcomed new restrictions here as action against the growing threat bore down more heavily on the Highland capital than ever.
The woman – Ms Amparo – said: “It is a big inconvenience but it is good. We have to fight it in every way we can.”
Wearing a face mask, she shrugged when she saw a long queue of people with trolleys waiting for entry to the Tesco Metro store in Tomnahurich Street, and said: “People have to wait. But it can help save lives.”
With virtually nothing else left open in the near-deserted city centre, there were also new precautions at banks. Staff members were positioned outside the Halifax Bank of Scotland in High Street and the TSB opposite, while customers spoke to them from a taped-off distance of two yards.
At HBOS, while no-one was being refused entry, customers were told the bank was dealing with only limited transactions and inquiries, and, if at all possible they should use cash machines to withdraw money.
The noose tightened ever further on what remains of normal life in the city on a day when more than 180 people in the UK died from the coronavirus, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for it.
In the Highlands, 36 people are known to be infected by the virus.
Ms Amparo (73), who lives in May Court, is of Philippines nationality but is a long-term resident of Inverness. She said: “I have two kids working in Madrid. They are ok, but we speak very often on the phone. They tell me it is very, very strict over there, and people can hardly leave their homes. The virus spread there is worse than it is here and I worry for them. I just pray they’ll be ok.”
She also has family members in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which is also in lockdown, with the army in charge of roadblocks around the city to curb movement in and out. “They are ok also. We speak often, and they are afraid because Manila is very crowded. This virus is a nightmare, right across the world.”
She said she now leaves her flat only to buy food, and always wears a face mask when she goes out. “At my age I am at high risk of the virus. I do not lose sleep over it but I know it could be very bad if someone of my age catches it.”
Inside the Tesco store, where until Thursday customers were free to walk around as normal, barriers and tape directed people in a “one-way system” through the store, while staff pointed out the procedures in place. Shoppers then formed a lengthy queue – standing two yards apart – before being directed to checkouts. However staff at the checkouts – who in all stores are emerging as the unsung heroes of this crisis – offered friendly chat to a succession of customers from only a couple of feet away.
At a time of such heightened anxiety and awareness, their close proximity to so many people – inevitable as it may be – is one of the most striking anomalies of the current extraordinary situation.
Face masks were being worn by a significant number of the people who were out on the streets.
One of the few well-known parts of Inverness unaffected by the transformation of life brought about by the coronavirus – the canal banks – saw people strolling along in the warm Friday sunshine throughout the day.
It was a reassuring place to get away from it all. But even there it proved impossible to entirely escape reminders of how much life has changed in Inverness over the past two weeks. Around 5pm a young couple were walking along the sunlit pathway hand in hand – both wearing pale blue face masks.