People will hear bad news that’ll banish any trace of complacency

Coronavirus crisis grips city

by Colin Campbell                                                                                                                           Friday, April 3

I DON’T know anyone who knows anyone who has been infected by the coronavirus within the Highland area. With only 58 cases reported at the last count, that’s not surprising.

Dr Ken Oates…absolutely no room for complacency.

It was this dearth of people with even indirect experience of the impact of covid-19 that no doubt prompted NHS Highland’s director of public health, Dr Ken Oates, to warn even at this early stage against any spread of complacency.

He said: “We are benefitting greatly from the social distancing measures and self-isolation, but it is clear that the epidemic won’t go away, the virus won’t disappear. It will come in greater numbers and it’s vital that we continue to get our public to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and don’t become complacent and assume that because we are in a rural area it will be fine.”

Is there any sign of complacency creeping into this crisis already? Surely not. Even so, Dr Oates’ warning is fully warranted.

A relative in Perth on Tuesday told me she had made a call to two elderly friends of the family in Brechin this week, and was shocked to learn they had both caught the virus and, although still at home, had been “very unwell”, but were recovering gradually.

Her shock was understandable. The 24/7 coverage of the epidemic on TV and radio makes everyone familiar enough with what’s happening in other places to other people, so much so that after getting the latest general updates I now often switch off, without waiting for more detail.

But if I called a relative or friend – and I’m sure most people these days are making more phone calls than usual – and he or she told me they had fallen victim to the virus I suspect I’d almost fall off my chair. I’d be as shocked as my relative in Perth was. No matter the nightmarish statistics we hear from across the globe, it’s just not something you expect to hear from someone you know.

The chances of a full recovery without hospital treatment being required are very high. But that wouldn’t make the knowledge that someone you know had been affected any less shocking and alarming.

If Dr Oates is right, a significant number of people in these parts will over the next few weeks hear that relatives or friends have been struck by the coronavirus. And that will banish any trace of emerging complacency in a racing heartbeat. He says the worst is yet to come here, and I suspect no-one will be rushing to cast any doubt on that assertion.

Store staff are the unsung heroes in this crisis

 SHOP, supermarket and superstore staff are surely the unsung heroes in this crisis. Whoever would have thought that these folk, normally barely noticed by customers in their mundane jobs, would now be propelled into the frontline in a battle against a national emergency?

The heroes in our hospitals and our health service we recognise, salute, and literally applaud, as happened in streets everywhere at 8pm last Thursday. But it’s now clear who the definition of “essential workers” also includes.

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Shoppers at Tesco in Inverness keep well part, but store staff across the city are frequently unable to maintain social distancing.

Without sufficient store staff to keep things ticking over a surge in panic-buying would be the very least of our problems. But while everyone else can go to shop, maintain social distancing, and leave as quickly as they choose, staff are rooted in place for hours at a time. Entire reels of precautionary tape may be criss-crossed across floors, but store workers so very often find themselves far closer to customers than the recommended two yards. And as everyone is aware, the checkout assistants have to be – there’s no avoiding it – too close for comfort, and particularly for their own comfort.

When all this is over, the tape will be removed and a visit to a store will once again be just another routine outing to stock up on supplies. Maybe we’ll even see toilet rolls on offer again.

But it would be good to think that the work and efforts of store staff will be remembered and appreciated. Because they deserve a trolley-load of gratitude and appreciation from the people they are serving just now.

Volunteer army is eager to get to work

 AN Inverness news and views correspondent who lodged as a prospective volunteer told here the other day of how the delay between signing up and actually getting to do something seemed elongated, to put it no more critically than that.

Two people from different organisations called him on the same day to ask mainly the same questions. A routine but maybe time-consuming police check will also be required. The process from first to last could – and by the look of it will – take several weeks.

There can be no doubt that those organising this effort will be doing their level best to streamline it and to move things forward as quickly as possible.

Let’s just hope that the pace will speed up as the co-ordination process becomes smoother and more familiar to those responsible for developing it.

We know that there are old folk in need of support and some will feel lonely and isolated. But by the very nature of their situation, their feelings remain unpublicised and their stories remain untold. Manifestly, the sooner our eager army of selfless volunteers are set to work the better.

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