Coronavirus crisis grips city
by Colin Campbell Wednesday, April 1
EVERY day the extraordinary seems that bit less extraordinary. A city without shops, restaurants, pubs, theatres, leisure centres, cinemas, barbers, hairdressers, hotels, travel agencies, church services, libraries, and where every office is closed is no longer the fantasy, or nightmare, it would have seemed three weeks ago.
People are adjusting to the temporary new world we’re living in.
The bewildering novelty of an empty city centre surrounded by empty streets has drained away. Empty streets and an empty city centre are what anyone would expect emptiness to be – drab, grey and somewhat boring.
The partial lockdown – which remains open to flexible interpretation – could still dominate life in Inverness in three months time, or longer. During that period there will be the disorienting daily grind of just getting through it.
But that daily grind is undoubtedly worse for some than for others. Those who no longer have jobs to go to and are beset by financial worries, old folk who can’t get out, grandparents who can’t see their grandchildren. And, it almost goes without saying, doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who have yet to find out how bad this will get, and how much they personally could be placed at risk.
Families in the best circumstances to make the best of a very bad job are struggling to keep children entertained. As one parent said: “It’s difficult enough to keep things on an even keel in a semi-detached in Glenurquhart Road. God only knows what it’s like in a flat 10 storeys up in a high-rise in Glasgow.”
However, the coronavirus has not hit Inverness and the Highlands as badly as it has elsewhere.
At the last count, fewer than 50 people were reported to have been infected across a region with a population of 320,000.
Raigmore and other hospitals have not been overwhelmed, no-one is reported to have died from it, and it is unclear if anyone has even been hospitalised by it.
Medics say it is far, far too early to be excessively optimistic, and any vestige of complacency could be dangerous and life-threatening in itself.
But the statistics, at this early stage, have to be viewed as at least reasonably encouraging.
Face masks are being used by a significant number of people and social distancing has become an instinctive response by virtually everyone.
In other parts of the country there have been rising protests over heavy-handed tactics used by the police in enforcing guidelines which have been inadequately defined, primarily pertaining to travel and exercise.
There has been nothing of that nature reported here. The police are visible and people out walking and cycling are used to seeing police vehicles cruise by, but common sense prevails and there have been no reported complaints about over-zealous officers overstepping the mark.
Leading Inverness economist Tony Mackay has confidently predicted that once this is over the majority of businesses will be able to reopen and recover from their drastic loss of trade quite quickly. That remains to be seen. But his upbeat assessment might just raise morale in what currently seems a dire economic situation.
So life goes on and folk make the best of it. Maybe this crisis will somehow fade earlier than anticipated and the stay at home city will rapidly come back to life and normality. At least the summer’s coming. Thank heaven it’s not late November.
But for now people hunker down, concentrate on staying safe and well, and adapt to the daily grind of just getting through it all.
The volunteer army is eager to pitch in
OUR Ross-shire correspondent, who has applied to do voluntary work during the current situation, writes: “Yesterday, after a week or so, I had two calls from different people from different organisations, both attempting to move along the process of marrying-up volunteers listed on a database with those requiring assistance.
“The first caller asked about any previous experience in the care sector I might have. The second wanted to clarify my ability to travel around to visit people. The fact that two people ‘phoned looking for further information would appear to show early signs that crossed wires could be an obstacle in matching the submitted database information with volunteers.
“The first caller, a pleasant woman, said she had a checklist of things to go through, a boxes-to-be-ticked sort of thing. The first question asked was, ‘Can you cook?’ The second question was, ‘If so would you prepare meals for folk?’ And so it went on. The second caller was a man. He went over much the same territory. Interestingly they both observed that it would likely be a week or two before anything would be progressed. I had imagined that by now things would move forward more quickly. They both made mention – rightly so – of police carrying out background checks on volunteers.
“I understand a large number of people have put themselves forward for volunteer work, and I’m sure they are all needed. In these very difficult times I wouldn’t be critical, we want to help. But I just hope that this becomes well co-ordinated and we get the chance, and doesn’t get bogged down in any confusion and bureaucracy, which could put some people off. There no doubt are people who would welcome assistance in the current circumstances sooner rather than later.”
There’s no better time to have a party!
OUR Ross-shire correspondent writes: “This week I received an emailed invitation to attend a family gathering to celebrate the birthday of my niece in England, which would be a fine, uplifting get-together. But my first reaction was that it would of course be impossible to attend in the current circumstances.
“However, on reading on I realised this was no ordinary family occasion. It was going to be a very modern celebration adapted to allow people to have a bit of fun unhindered by the sweep of the coronavirus.
“The party will be ‘attended’ by scattered members of the family and friends from throughout the UK using the computer programme Zoom, which transmits live visuals and sound. So the birthday celebrations will proceed with attendees sitting in their homes in front of screens enjoying the company of their loved ones.
“It’ll be on Friday and around 25 people across the country will be linked up, and a unique rendition of ‘happy birthday’ will doubtless be sung. I now need to download and become familiar with the Zoom application. Those who use it say it’s simple but doubtless I’ll be climbing the walls! But I’ll get there. Many people are a bit down at the moment and this, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, is just what’s needed to lift folks’ spirits. It’s true we won’t be in a convivial room together enjoying each other’s company in the normal way. But all in all, I can’t think of a better time to see friends and family at a party, even if we are hundreds of miles apart. In fact, I reckon it could be just about the best and most memorable gathering we’ve ever had.”