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By Hugh Boag
Arran is this week adapting to life in level 3 lockdown after the new five-tier system of local Covid-19 restrictions came into force.
That is the second highest tier of lockdown and means that the tourism and hospitality industry on the island faces more tough months ahead.
At least there is some good news at level three the definition of cafes will be removed, which will enable all hospitality premises, including pubs and restaurants, to operate in the daytime, up to 6pm, but without the sale of alcohol and many establishments on the island are expected to continue with their takeaway offerings.
Scots living in the central belt have been told to stay in their own local authority area meaning hotels on Arran have been forced to cancel bookings from all visitors coming from outwith North Ayrshire. They can, however continue to be able to serve evening meals to residents and several including The Douglas and Auchrannie have had deals for locals to enjoy.
The new rules also see a continued ban on household visits, although the measures are to be reviewed weekly.
The Scottish government has been consulting with local authorities about the tier arrangements and there is pressure being put on both the government and North Ayrshire Council for Arran to be given special dispensation due to the lack of Covid-19 cases on the island.
However, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week made it clear that she did not intend a break up local authority areas at the moment, meaning Arran will have the same restrictions as the whole of North Ayrshire. However, she hinted she may consider this in the future, citing the islands in Argyll and Bute as an example
However, an easing of restrictions on Arran is seen as a double edged sword. For while it would undoubtedly help the economy, it may not be helpful in curbing control of the virus.
Last week the island was given a wake up call when it was confirmed that there had been small number, thought it be less than five, positive cases of Covid-19 on Arran, as reported in last week’s Banner.
In a statement issued by Arran Medical Group this week, Arran clinical lead Dr Greg Hamill said: ‘After months of expectant waiting it is understandable that these new cases will add to worries for some.
‘While the picture can change quickly, we are not seeing cases arise “wild” in the community when people develop symptoms and it is not clear where they were exposed to the virus. This gives a better chance of limiting any further spread. Thank you for understanding that no more detail can be given about cases while ensuring the confidentiality we can all expect if affected.
‘Looking at the rise in positive tests across Scotland it seems certain that more cases will come to the island but we can have some optimism that we are now better prepared to meet this challenge. Earlier this year the outbreaks on Arran were contained with little ability to test those affected. We are now much better placed with good access to tests, results and a robust contact tracing system.
‘All of this emphasises the need to keep going with face coverings, social distancing and hygiene measures. It remans vital to immediately isolate, as a household, if anyone develops symptoms and to arrange a test by calling 01770 601033 to arrange a test. Please do not attend without an appointment
Dr Hamill continued: ‘It is also worth repeating a message about compassion. These are wearying, worrying times as we all try to do our best in an ever changing situation. It can be all too easy to fall into the trap of listening to the rumour mill and speculation as cases arise. In other areas there have been some examples of cruel and insensitive community gossip often at complete odds with the facts. This can have lasting effects on those affected and their loved ones, who may already be facing difficult times. We must recognise that we cannot know all the details of cases and that the right course is compassion and kindness, not judgment.
‘Thank you for all your continued efforts and support,’ he added.