Dingwall coronavirus outbreak is another severe blow to Inverness and Highland pub trade, as anxious residents ask: What have we done to deserve this?

by Colin Campbell

On August 2 it was reported that a total of 13 coronavirus cases had been linked to the a bar in Aberdeen, the Hawthorn bar.

Dingwall is coming to terms with virus shock.

It was a shocking turn of events at a time when bars and the hospitality industry were back in business and there was at least the hope that the virus threat might be receding.

As a result the Granite City went into full lockdown. Inverness news and views reported the major setback under the headline:

Worst news for months, disastrous for Aberdeen, and far too close to home 

Now it emerges that at least 12 coronavirus cases have been linked to three pubs in Dingwall, so much closer to home.

The population of Aberdeen is 240,000. The population of Dingwall is just 6,000.

As we reported on Sunday, is it any wonder that people there have been shocked to the core by such a serious outbreak in their small community.

In a vivid account of town reaction one woman said: “It really is terrifying. It moves at such speed and seems to be incredibly mobile. Normal illnesses are understood, what they are, where they come from, what causes them and how they spread. But the coronavirus is terrifying because it transmits so easily and sort of creeps up on people apparently out of nowhere. That is truly frightening.”

Health chiefs, probably trying to downplay the outbreak to avoid a flare up of anxiety and fear, described it as “a small cluster” of cases.

From what we are hearing, few people in Dingwall regard it as “small”. If it had happened in inverness, 15 times the size of Dingwall, it would not be regarded as small. It would be the grim talk of the city.

How much more so among the 6,000 residents of the Ross-shire town.

Health chiefs also warned that more cases of the virus are likely to emerge there. In Aberdeen, the number rose to 32.

Another man in his 50s our Ross-shire correspondent spoke to said: “In recent weeks I’ve been becoming increasingly  nervous about going out. News that cases of coronavirus have been confirmed locally is horrifying. It really has set me back. It’s just so stressful. The strain of not knowing if things will ever get back to normal is draining the life out of me.”

After 10 gruelling months and now with the virus on his own doorstep, that is a very understandable reaction.

Another woman we spoke to yesterday said simply: “It’s awful news. What have to done to deserve this?”

And yet again this vicious, unpredictable, snake like virus raises questions which will remain unanswered because no-one, health experts or otherwise, knows the answers.

In geographical terms, Dingwall would up to now have been considered a fairly remote, small, safe town.

But for the first time, at least in the Highlands we’ve seen that nowhere can be considered safe.

Whether any form of social distancing was in place in these pubs is unknown. But even if it was lax, bar customers would have  been doing what bar customers do, drinking, chatting, laughing. In these circumstances through airborne transmission the virus can spread. If one or even two people caught it it would have been alarming. But 12 is a stunning number of infections.

Latest reports are that Dingwall folk are keeping calm and carrying on, albeit in an atmosphere of heightened tension and anxiety. It’s all they can do. Many older people are, for now at least, said to be restricting their movements even further. For the most at risk groups the vaccine should be on the way and it can’t come soon enough.

For the pub trade in Inverness and elsewhere this is yet more bad news of the worst possible kind. Owners who have lost money and sweated blood to remain in business now face another major challenge to reassure people that it’s safe to frequent their premises when they reopen. Whether their efforts will be enough after the shocking events in a town just 12 miles away very much remains to be seen.


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