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Looking Back on Lockdown – July


By Gregor White

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Craig and Collette MacLeod were ready for costumers in the beer garden of The Innes. Picture: Gary Anthony
Craig and Collette MacLeod were ready for costumers in the beer garden of The Innes. Picture: Gary Anthony

As lockdown restrictions were relaxed many businesses were preparing to reopen, while a row broke out over coronavirus test samples found next to the A9.

City businesses were gearing up to welcome back customers as lockdown eased.

Beer gardens were allowed to open from July 6, subject to booking and social distancing restrictions with Craig MacLeod of The Innes Bar, Innes in Inverness saying: "We are full steam ahead for Magic Monday," as he anticipated the reopening date.

New shielding was installed in Inverness Taxis vehicles to protect customers and drivers.
New shielding was installed in Inverness Taxis vehicles to protect customers and drivers.

A range of safety measures were put in place by Inverness Taxis ahead of an expected increase in business.

The firm fitted all vehicles with plastic shielding and installed contactless payment methods.

All cars were also fully cleaned between journeys and there were automatic temperature checks for staff and customers at its Church Street office as well.

Helen and William Crawford at The Old School Beauly installed new tech.
Helen and William Crawford at The Old School Beauly installed new tech.

A thermal imaging camera installed at a Beauly shop placed it at the cutting edge of coronavirus safety measures.

Husband and wife Helen and William Crawford installed the camera – similar to those used at airports – at The Old School Beauly to instantly detect whether staff or customers were running a fever-level temperature.

Tony Story at the Kingsmills Hotel. Picture: Gary Anthony
Tony Story at the Kingsmills Hotel. Picture: Gary Anthony

Tony Story, managing director of Patio Hotels, which owns the Kingsmills and Ness Bank hotels in Inverness, said additional cleaning measures in place to protect guests was going to cost an estimated 15 to 20 per cent extra per room.

Rooms were to be electrostatically sprayed and cleaned to hospital standard and sealed between guests.

"I'm expecting to lose more money by being open than being closed," he said.

Indoor shopping centres in Inverness were also getting ready to reopen.

Having to wait longer than streetfront premises which reopened last month Eastgate Shopping Centre manager Jackie Cuddy said the centre had undertaken cleaning and sanitisation procedures to ensure it was safe for visitors who would be asked to follow a "roadway" keeping them to the left throughout the centre.

Parking was also restricted, to control shopper numbers.

Willie Cameron of Cobbs models the Nessie face mask. Pictures: Gary Anthony
Willie Cameron of Cobbs models the Nessie face mask. Pictures: Gary Anthony

As face masks became compulsory in Scotland's shops, Loch Ness's most elusive resident was quick to get in on the act.

Nessie was set to promote Highland tourism on hundreds of face coverings made exclusively for Drumnadrochit-based hospitality and catering firm Cobbs.

Ashers’ new shortbread biscuits were keeping up with the times.
Ashers’ new shortbread biscuits were keeping up with the times.

Ashers Bakery kept up with the times with a new range of shortbread figures sporting face coverings.

The Law Abiding Scots were billed as a funny coronavirus-themed twist on Ashers' long-standing kilt-wearing MacGingers biscuits.

Highland Hospice welcomed a £792,000 grant from the Scottish Government, part of a package of support for Scottish hospices to offset some of the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic.

The charity had been facing a £1.1 million funding shortfall after having to close its shops, cafés and the Ness Islands Railway.

Eden Court Theatre was to bid for part of a £10 million fund to support performing arts venues in Scotland.

The theatre saw the removal this month of large-scale outdoor artwork Excavation, which had been on-site since 2007.

Chief executive James Mackenzie-Blackman said the removal of the artwork would allow more space for outdoor events, necessary as social distancing requirements remained in place.

Later in the month the theatre announced the cancellation of all scheduled shows through to December while also announcing that plans were being put in place for a phased reopening of the building.

A medical bag was found at the side of the road on the A9.
A medical bag was found at the side of the road on the A9.

Outraged politicians were demanding to know how Covid-19 test samples and sensitive personal medical details came to be abandoned next to a busy Highland road.

A medical bag full of vacuum-packed blood samples was found by a member of the public by the A9 near Tain.

The bag also contained patients' personal details.

NHS Highland said there was never any risk to the public as the samples were properly packed and still intact when they were found.

The samples had been being transferred from Caithness General Hospital to Raigmore Hospital.

NHS Highland later announced it was changing its transport methods to make sure samples were carried more securely in future as charity Highlands and Islands Blood Bikes also issued a statement making clear its members had not been involved in the incident.

High Life Highland outlined plans for the reopening of libraries, museums and other facilities.

Under its "bounceback" plan the charity planned a gradual reopening involving new booking systems for a number of venues.

Work resumed on council housing projects across the region.

Prior to lockdown work had been under way on 312 homes, with a further 191 in the tender process and 134 waiting for tenders to be received.

Latest figures from the Scottish Government showed almost 6500 Highland businesses had received a combined £69 million support through the pandemic.

The funds came from separate support schemes for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

A budget black hole predicted by Highland Council in the wake of the pandemic and lockdown stood at £35.7 million this month, almost three times less than previously feared.

A new estimate of a £44.7 million gap was also set to be reduced by a further £12 million, with extra funds coming from the Scottish Government.

Local authority bosses had previously thought the gap could be as much as £96.9 million.

The deficit included more than £18 million in lost income from school meals, ferries, lets and car parking.

Liz MacMillan was making face masks for fellow villagers.
Liz MacMillan was making face masks for fellow villagers.

A Kiltarlity woman made around 600 face masks to give away to her neighbours.

Liz MacMillan used her time on furlough to do her bit and said: "There are a lot of elderly people here in the village and they get the most out of wearing them.

"A mask just gives them the confidence to get out and about for a short walk or to go on short errands without all the anxiety."

Inverness bus firm D& E Coaches faced a £1.5 million loss in income with the cancellation of this year's Highland cruise ship season.

A record 106 cruise ships carrying 250,000 passengers had been expected to call at Invergordon, with D&E taking many of them on day trips around the Highlands.

The firm had also been hit by the loss of big regional events including the Belladrum music festival.

Inverness Farmers' Market returned for the first time since lockdown was imposed.

Market director Debbie McBean said: "We've really missed it and a lot of our stallholders have been selling online.

"They have done extremely well, but they are obviously missing the market."

New temporary accommodation at Raigmore Hospital and greater use of community hospitals would possibly be needed to tackle a massive backlog of treatment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic a regional MSP said.

Edward Mountain said the pandemic had a caused a "perfect storm" for NHS Highland, from which it could take years to recover.

Raigmore had lost 30 per cent of its beds due to Covid-proofing measures while 3000 Highland patients were likely to have seen treatment for a range of conditions altered, postponed or cancelled during lockdown.


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