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Tuesday 24 March 4pm
Arran is in lockdown as the full reality of the what the coronavirus pandemic means for the island hits home.
There remains no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Arran, as of 9am today, and there is no one in the Arran War Memorial Hospital awaiting test results, despite some wild social media speculation. However, no one should let their guard down, as the large older population makes the island particularly vulnerable.
All schools and nurseries shut their doors on Friday and following the latest advice from both the national and Scottish government all non essential shops and businesses have been closing in the past few days.
But the Arran community spirit has really come to the fore and there is a determination that the island can get through this and come out stronger.
All of the island visitor attractions, including Brodick Castle and visitor centre, and now the country park are closed. Both the distillery visitor centres at Lochranza and Lagg and the Arran Heritage Museum have closed their doors, and event after event has been cancelled, with normal social life almost wiped out. First to go last week was what would have been the 91st Arran Music Festival, then this weekend’s Spring Fest and now events as far ahead as the Arran Mountain Festival in May have been cancelled.
The Arran Medical Group and the Arran Services of the North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, not surprisingly, have found themselves on the front line. Three health centres – Brodick, Whiting Bay and Lochranza – are closed and anyone who wants an appointment will be given a telephone consultation first.
In another development, only ‘essential’ visiting is being allowed at Arran War Memorial Hospital, so no relatives can visit, and visiting at Montrose House and Cooriedoon has been stopped and the Stronach Day Care Centre suspended.
A huge blow to the island’s tourism industry was the shock closure of the Auchrannie Resort. Other hotels, pubs, restaurants and cafes remain open, waiting and watching the situation before deciding what to do next.
As a result of the closure the Auchrannie has had to temporarily lay off 138 full-time and 29 part-time staff. A skeleton staff of 21 will remain in the business, many of whom are working on a voluntary basis.
Co-founder and managing director at Auchrannie Linda Johnston said: ‘We are absolutely gutted that we had to take this unprecedented step. Our focus at this time will be on supporting our team members and the local community. We will also make sure the business is ready to open as soon as restrictions are lifted.
‘Our whole team have been absolutely amazing in their response to this crisis and we are overwhelmed by the messages of support from the community, visitors and businesses.
‘This will be a hard time for all of us but I’m sure that both Arran and Auchrannie will bounce back quickly when all this is over,’ she added.
The self-catering lodges and retreats at the resort remain open.
The situation has wiped out visitor bookings for guest houses and self-catering premises, with some reporting a year-on-year drop in bookings of as much as 80 per cent, leaving many businesses worrying for their future, although the Scottish Government has announced a range of measures to help.
CalMac has confirmed that ferry sailings will remain as timetabled, weather permitting, and will only reduce if crew or port staff fall ill, making it untenable to continue on the existing timetable. They have contingency plans in place if this situation arises, but that is not currently the case. Stagecoach buses are running as normal.
In a statement the Health and Care Partnership said: ‘Thank you to everyone for making every effort to follow the government advice. This will give us the best chance of 1) preparing for and caring for those with COVID 19 and 2) keeping our essential services staffed and running. These measures will save lives.’
In a change to previous advice everyone needing further advice about COVID 19 symptoms should phone 111 (NHS 24) – NOT THE GP PRACTICE.
This is the advice across Scotland. NHS 24 links to a hub based in Ayrshire & Arran with a wide range of staff to give the most up to date advice. If you need a telephone appointment or need to be seen this team will then liase directly with the GP practice or hospital on Arran.
You can find up to date information on COVID-19 on the NHS Inform website: