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Arran is emerging from the worst outbreak of the coronavirus on the island since the pandemic began in March last year.
Some hotels, B&Bs, pubs, cafes and shops on the island have been forced to close temporarily, or adopt new measures of working, after staff tested positive for the virus, meaning co-workers had to self-isolate. Several businesses, not related to hospitality, have also been affected.
Officially 15 positive cases have been recorded, but local reports suggest the number could be higher. It is thought most cases involve the younger generation and while several have been very ill, the health services have not been overwhelmed.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran’s Test & Protect team have confirmed that a contact tracing exercise has been carried out on Arran, following a number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection which have links to hospitality venues and accommodation providers on the island.
But there are signs that the worst of the outbreak could be over. Auchrannie was due to fully reopen today (Friday) after it was forced to shut both their hotels after two positive tests among back of house staff – the contact tracing impact meant 32 members of staff had to self-isolate. The Douglas Hotel, which also closed, reopens on Monday, with most other businesses affected reopening in the following days.
As a result of the outbreak all visitors are being urged to test before they arrive on the island and everyone in the 18-50 age group, who are due to get their second vaccine on July 31 at Arran High School, are being urged to do so.
Lisa Davidson, assistant director of public health at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said: ‘We have undertaken a careful risk assessment to identify any individuals who may have had contact with the confirmed cases. These individuals have been contacted and told to self-isolate for 10 days and book a test.
‘To reduce the spread of coronavirus, we encourage anyone planning to travel to the island to test before they do so. You can order rapid lateral flow tests by visiting the Scottish Government website here www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested/pages/no-covid-symptoms. Delivery is to your home anywhere in the UK and they should arrive within 24-48 hours.
‘If your test result is negative it is not a guarantee that you do not have coronavirus. You must continue to follow national and local restrictions, including coronavirus guidance. If you develop coronavirus symptoms you must self-isolate and book a PCR test,’ Ms Davidson added.
As reported in last week’s Banner, since the beginning of the vaccination programme 4,102 island residents have had at least one dose of vaccine and 3,218 are now fully vaccinated having had both doses. The remainder of adult population will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month.
However, health officials say that regardless of your vaccination status, people living in Ayrshire and Arran are reminded to follow the current guidelines and FACTS to help stop the spread of coronavirus in our communities.
Meanwhile, the tourist trade on Arran is looking forward to a boost with the confirmation that the whole of Scotland will move to level zero on July 19. As a result there will be no requirement for customers to pre-book a two-hour slot to go to a pub or restaurant. However, customers will still be required to provide contact details to assist Test & Protect, and they will still be required to wear face coverings except when seated.
More people will also be allowed to meet indoors and attend weddings and funerals.
It is still hoped that Scotland will move beyond level zero from August 9 – the point at which the government aimed to scrap most legal restrictions. A decision on this will be taken next month.
Among other announcements in Ms Sturgeon’s statement to Holyrood were plans to remove the blanket requirement for close contacts of those who test positive to self-isolate, as long as they have had two doses of vaccine.
In addition, fully-vaccinated people returning from amber list countries will not need to quarantine as long as they take a test after arrival.