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Looking Back on Lockdown – September

By Gregor White

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A Spitfire visiting the Highlands had a special message for frontline workers.
A Spitfire visiting the Highlands had a special message for frontline workers.

There was thanks for frontline workers and fears about the longer-term impact of the lockdown.

A World War II Spitfire soared over hospitals in Inverness as part of a mission to say thank you to those helping in the fight against Covid-19.

The aircraft, emblazoned with the words THANK U NHS, flew over Raigmore and New Craigs hospitals as part of a morale-boosting UK tour.

Inverness businesses announced they were taking it on themselves to continue the popular Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

Government support for the initiative to persuade diners back into restaurants and cafés ceased at the end of August but city eateries wanted to keep it going.

Cru Holdings said it would continue the money off offer through September with others including Blackfriars, the Mustard Seed restaurant and La Tortilla Assesina also extending it to customers beyond the national cut-off.

A cold weather payment fund for Inverness residents experiencing fuel poverty was set to increase to meet expected greater demand due to the pandemic.

Councillors agreed to earmark £200,000 for the Inverness Common Good Fund discretionary payment fund, with eligible applicants to receive a payment of £86.

Serenity's Viv Mackie and Margaret McLean feared the consequences of the Covd lockdown. Picture: Callum Mackay
Serenity's Viv Mackie and Margaret McLean feared the consequences of the Covd lockdown. Picture: Callum Mackay

A mental health support group feared issues surrounding the pandemic could trigger a mental health epidemic.

Serenity, set up to help women with mental health issues, said it had seen the number of followers on its social media channels double in recent months.

Founder Viv Mackie said: "We are extremely concerned about a mental health pandemic and a possible increase in suicide rates due to people losing their jobs, financial issues, mental health deterioration and loneliness."

Talks began on reopening sports facilities attached to schools.

While other sports facilities reopened at the end of August those attached to schools had been "reserved" for educational purposes only since pupils returned to the classroom.

Nurse Murray Graham.
Nurse Murray Graham.

A health care worker from Inverness was to feature in a Gaelic TV documentary about his experience of working in Raigmore Hospital during the pandemic.

BBC Alba documentary Sgeulachdan a'Ghlasaidh (Life in Lockdown) followed the experience of a wide variety of people including nurse Murray Graham, who set up the ward for Covid-19 patients at the hospital.

He talked about how distressing it was that patients were not allowed visitors and often died without family around them.

Southside Care Home was ordered to make improvements.
Southside Care Home was ordered to make improvements.

An Inverness care home was ordered to improve measures to combat the risk of Covid-19 infection.

A snap inspection saw Southside Care Home rated "weak" for its response to the virus threat and NHS Highland said it would not place patients at the privately-run facility until improvements were made.

The Care Inspectorate found staff had no easy access to hand sanitiser and that both toilet seats and hoist equipment were unclean.

It was later confirmed all necessary improvements had been made.

The Inverness branch of the Royal British Legion Scotland cancelled its annual remembrance parade through the city.

The gathering usually attracted large crowds.

Aileen Mackay, head teacher at Smithton Primary in Inverness, was named a Lockdown Legend in a nationwide search to recognise the efforts of those who had gone above and beyond.

Nominated for the award from Tree of Knowledge by parents, pupils and staff, a social care worker who also voted for her told how Ms Mackay often worked 18 hour days during lockdown to do whatever she could to help.

The financial situation at Highland Council improved again as the budget black hole fell to £22.7 million.

Originally feared to be as high as £97 million during lockdown the picture was improved due to increased government support as well as better than expected financial positions reported by High Life Highland and Eden Court Theatre and lower than expected return to school costs.

Eden Court called off this year's pantomime, with the loss to the theatre estimated to be around £350,000.

The theatre had been due to stage Cinderella with producer Imagine Theatre, but announced the show was now being postponed to 2021.

In better news for the theatre this month also saw it host its first live performances in more than 200 days when a socially distanced crowd was entertained by Scottish Opera.

It was part of a series of outdoors pop up performances by the national company.

A team from Simpson Builders did their bit for charity. Picture: Callum Mackay
A team from Simpson Builders did their bit for charity. Picture: Callum Mackay

Beauly firm Simpson Builders handed over a cheque to the organisers of an annual Highland charity event that was cancelled this year.

As long-time supporters of the fundraising Highland Cross duathlon staff decided to stage their own sponsored swim across Loch Ness to benefit the many good causes it traditionally helps, raising £4160.

A new report revealed how the north of Scotland had been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, potentially costing the region's economy up to £2.6 billion.

The Highlands and Islands Enterprise study also warned the recovery could be slow, with a return to pre-Covd levels unlikely before 2023 at the earliest.

A major factor was the expected decline in tourism income, especially from high spending overseas visitors.

Senior management at one of the biggest companies in the Highlands had to go into self-isolation after one of them tested positive for Covid-19.

Seven members of the Cairngorm Group were affected including managing director David Dowling.

Other firms that saw brief closures this onth for similar reasons included Simpsons Garden Centre, where the café was briefly closed as a precaution, the Heathmount Hotel and Johnny Foxes bar.

An additional 52 teachers and support staff were to be appointed by Highland Council to support the return to education following lockdown.

A total of 41 teachers and 11 support staff were to be appointed over two years, paid for by a grant from the Scottish Government.

Highlands and Islands Students Association (HISA) added its voice to a growing number of bodies criticising politicians across the UK for "singling out" students in the wake of rising coronavirus infection numbers.

The Scottish Government and Universities Scotland told students they should not go to pubs, parties or restaurants in a bid to control the virus spread.

HISA said it believed the escalation of cases was "inevitable" after lockdown ended and not the fault of students socialising similarly to everyone else.

Unprecedented demand for flu vaccines prompted a local pharmacy to halt jabs for the under-65s.

Boots restricted its flu jab service in the wake of rising demand it put down to the coronavirus pandemic.

A spokesman said: "We know that this year our customers have been more conscious than ever about protecting the health of themselves and their families and protecting against flu has been front of mind for many of us."

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