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Looking Back on Lockdown – October


By Gregor White

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Margaret Payne.
Margaret Payne.

New restrictions raised fears for the future of many businesses as statistics underlined the economic cost of the virus.

An inspirational 90-year-old who "conquered" a mountain in a staircase challenge was named Highland community champion of the year.

Margaret Payne climbed the stairs at her home 282 times, to the equivalent height of 2398-foot high Suilven, raising £434,562 for the NHS, Highland Hospice and the RNLI.

She was awarded the community champion prize at the national Helping it Happen Awards in the same month she was also named as a recipient of the British Empire Medal in the Queen's birthday honours list.

The Victorian Market reopened after being closed for two days at the end of September as a precautionary measure following news that one person who contracted coronavirus had links to the site.

Highland Council postponed a by-election in the Aird and Loch Ness ward due to the pandemic.

Following the death of Conservative member George Cruickshank a by-election had been due to take place on November 5.

The decision to postpone for safety reasons this month was taken after consultation with the Scottish Government, the Electoral Commission and others.

Wes Taylor-Marriott and Lucy MacGillvray at Johnny Foxes, which ws giving out hot water bottles to customers.
Wes Taylor-Marriott and Lucy MacGillvray at Johnny Foxes, which ws giving out hot water bottles to customers.

Hospitality businesses were warning new restrictions would be the final straw for many struggling businesses.

In the face of rising infection numbers all licensed premises were barred from serving alcohol indoors for 16 days. City premises Number 27, Botanic House and Hootananny all announced they would be closing for the duration.

Kit Fraser, the owner of Hootannany's in Church Street, said: "What Nicola Sturgeon is doing is like Prohibition.

"She is driving drink into houses and that is where the virus will spread."

Some other premises took an innovative approach to dealing with the restrictions as the Kingsmills and Ness Walk hotels set up restaurants and bars under canvas and invited customers to bring their own blankets, while Johnny Foxes supplied hot water bottles for its customers eating or drinking outdoors.

Pupils were to be given vouchers in place of free school meals if they had to be asked to self-isolate during term time.

Chairman of Highland Council's education committee, John Finlayson, said: "I hope that the support these vouchers provide will offer some reassurance to families that they are not alone during this very challenging time."

As many Highland Covid-19 cases were detected between September 13 and October 14 as in the previous five months combined according to new figures.

NHS Highland recorded 334 confirmed cases over the single month.

Worrying new figures showed 44 per cent of households in the Highlands saw their incomes drop during the pandemic.

The figures, in a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggested the region was suffering worse than Scotland as a whole where around a third of households overall were similarly affected.

Universal Credit claims in the Highlands had also rocketed by 78 per cent since the start of lockdown, with those aged 16-24 worst affected.

There was a 97 per cent increase in claims among those aged 16-19 while claimant rates climbed by 93 per cent for those aged 20-24.

Overall the number of those seeking benefits went up from 11,277 in March to 20,119 in August.

Seats at Cromarty Cinema would remain empty as a planned film festival was cancelled.
Seats at Cromarty Cinema would remain empty as a planned film festival was cancelled.

The Cromarty Film Festival was cancelled by organisers – a particularly bitter blow in the wake of the Black Isle village not long having seen the opening of its own purpose-built cinema.

The event had been planned for December.

Politicians were demanding answers from NHS Highland after it was implicated in a national scandal about treatment of the sick and elderly during the pandemic.

An investigation by the Sunday Times Insight team claimed a coronavirus triage tool which sought to "ration" intensive care treatment was uploaded onto a system used by Highland medics.

The paper's expose claimed several NHS boards "denied" intensive care treatment for some older Covid-19 patients during the height of the pandemic's first wave, with those over 80 repeatedly recommended for exclusion along with some younger people with existing health conditions.

Never official poliy for the NHS in either England or Scotland, NHS Highland said upload of the system had been an "error" and it had never been used in the region.

Mark and Lisa Huis were among people protesting against coronavirus restrictions.
Mark and Lisa Huis were among people protesting against coronavirus restrictions.

Protesters gathered in Falcon Square in Inverness claiming it was time for the country to "wake up" about Covid-19 restrictions.

Campaign group Saving Scotland Together called on the public to say no to more legislation, while some speakers called for a complete end to current restrictions.

A new walk-in Covid-19 testing centre opened in the Highland Council car park.
A new walk-in Covid-19 testing centre opened in the Highland Council car park.

A new walk-through Covid test centre was opened in Inverness.

The facility in the car park behind Highland Council headquarters was able to process up to 288 tests a day.


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