Confirmed Covid-19 cases on Arran are wake up call

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Sub-heading: Hospitality on the island receives another blow

By Hugh Boag

Arran has recorded its first positive coronavirus cases since April, it was confirmed as the Banner went to press.

NHS Ayrshire & Arran’s health protection team is completing contact tracing following a small number of confirmed Covid-19 positive cases on the island.

‘Close contacts identified through this process are being advised to self-isolate for 14 days by the test and protect team. The risk to the public is low,’ said Dr Joy Tomlinson, joint director of public health at NHS Ayrshire and Arran said.

‘To respect and maintain patient confidentiality it is not possible to release any further information at this time,’ she added.

The public are reminded that the symptoms of Covid-19 are a new persistent cough; high temperature; and/or loss of taste and smell. Anyone who develops any of these symptoms should book a test and self-isolate immediately.

The news is being seen as a wake up call on the island where, it is thought, some complacency may have set in to follow the government rules given how few cases the island has seen.

Meanwhile, as many as half the businesses on Arran are at risk of closing and more than 50 per cent are planning to release staff before Christmas, according to early results from a new business survey.

That news came as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a further blow to the hospitality industry with an extension to the current restrictions which has forced the closure all pubs and restaurants and pubs on the island, with some hotels following suit including The Douglas in Brodick, which will reopen on Monday for residents and takeaways.

However, the restaurants and pubs will have to stay shut for at least another week. After that will depend on what tiered restrictions are in place under the new strategic plan to be announced this week. It is almost certain Arran will face the same restrictions as those placed in mainland North Ayrshire.

The first minister also made it clear people should not travel from their health board area to another unless it was absolutely necessary.

The current restrictions, have also indirectly closed accommodation providers by
significantly reducing the reasons that visitors might visit and, through a reduction in visitors, the removal of ancillary income from restaurants and bars.

In addition, this is having a dire impact on the islands supply chain which is incurring
the same costs to support a reducing volume, according to the latest report from the Arran Recover Group, compiled before the latest announcement.

As a result they say it is imperative to ensure the Arran community and business is taking full advantage of Government support packages that already exist, and have now been extended. They also want to ensure Government fully understands the direct and indirect impact of restrictions on communities, infrastructure and economy as well as identify gaps or inadequacies in impact versus support required.

And the group issued a warning: ‘Government organisations appear to think “everything is ok now” but in fact it is worse than in March when the lockdown was introduced as the true effects are now being felt,’ the report said.

The new grants are part of a £40m package announced by the Scottish government last week. It will include a Coronavirus Restrictions Fund which will provide one-off grants of up to £3,000 to bars, restaurants and other businesses required to close by newly extended restrictions

Other businesses will have access to a smaller discretionary hardship fund administered by the local council with grants of between £1000 and £1,500, to support some businesses that can remain open but are directly impacted by the restrictions – including those in the direct supply chains of firms that are closed.

Meanwhile the Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson asked the Scottish government for its response to the Fraser of Allander Institute report, highlighted in the Banner earlier this month.

Fergus Ewing, the cabinet secretary for rural economy and tourism replied: ‘I agree that the situation is concerning. We know that Covid-19 continues to have a profound impact on our island communities. We are currently working closely with our partners, including North Ayrshire Council, Taste of Arran and the Arran Economic Group.

‘I do not underestimate the impacts and I understand that a tailored approach will be necessary. Our £30 million pledge to deliver the national islands plan and our new £2 million islands green recovery programme will be vital in stimulating new economic activity across our islands, helping businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic and creating new high-quality jobs.’

‘I know that Mr Gibson, who has been a forthright advocate for Arran over the years, will continue to ensure that the arguments are kept to the fore,’ he added.


The Arran Covid-19 test centre at Brodick health centre. 01_B43test01