A free online children’s book explaining all about Coronavirus is being produced in Gaelic by Stornoway publisher Acair.

The book was initially released in English earlier this month (6 April) by the award-winning independent digital children’s publisher Nosy Crow, who partnered with Gruffalo illustrator Axel Scheffler and medical experts at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to get the title available in record time.

The authors of the text were Nosy Crow staff members Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson and Nia Roberts, taking advice from Professor Graham Medley, two head teachers and a child psychologist.

The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for five to nine-year-olds, tackling common queries such as how the disease spreads, whether there’s a cure and how children can help during the pandemic.

Kate Wilson, managing director of Nosy Crow, said: “We were very aware that many parents and carers are struggling to explain the current extraordinary situation to children, many of whom are frightened and confused. We thought that the best thing we could do would be to use our skills to produce a free book to explain and, where possible, reassure children.

“We asked Axel, whose work is so familiar and so loved, to illustrate it. He was happy to do it and did it extraordinarily quickly. We hope it helps answer difficult questions in difficult times.”

Acair has previously translated Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson’s ‘An Gruffalo’ and stepped in to produce the Gaelic version of ‘Corona-bhìoras’ as soon as they were approached.

Acair manager Agnes Rennie said: “We have worked with Nosy Crow to produce many co-editions over recent years and were so pleased when they approached us to see if we wanted to create a Gaelic version of this new book.

“In the spirit of the original book, the Acair version is the product of a generous team approach and we are particularly grateful to Dolina Macleod, one of our regular freelance translators, who volunteered to create the Gaelic text which was then turned into the Gaelic book by Acair – all working from home.

“I never imagined that Acair would be involved in producing a book for children about the Coronavirus!"

You can find the free, downloadable Gaelic version of Corona-bhioras at Acair's Facebook page here www.facebook.com/acairbooks/ and via their Twitter feed.

The English version is here nosycrowcoronavirus.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/Coronavirus_ABookForChildren.pdf

It’s suggested that families who find the book helpful might make a donation to help our health service at www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk/

 

 

 

This year’s Womens Cancer Challenge on 16 May has gone virtual – by popular demand from the people taking part.

Organisers offered participants a chance to register their opinion on what to do about the annual fundraiser, running an online poll on whether to cancel or go ahead with a virtual event.

“Go virtual” was the overwhelming response – by 84% of those who voted. So this year Cancer Research UK will benefit from 30 minutes of walking, running, cycling or indoor fitness – and even from those who want to just walk up and down the garden path.

The idea is that everyone chooses their own form of exercise, following the Scottish Government guidelines about social distancing and group sizes, and registers to participate on Saturday 16 May.

You’ll get a printable sign emailed to you to pin on your shirt, showing that you are taking part, and you’ll be asked to send a picture of you in action to post on the Women’s Cancer Challenge Facebook page at www.facebook.com/WomensCancerChallenge/ You can find all the details there, including how to register.

Organiser Tony Wade said: “Cancer Research UK is struggling like all the other charities because of a loss of income from the fundraising which is usually done. We hope we can do a little bit to keep some cash coming in to the amazing Lewis branch of CRUK.”

 

 

An Lanntair Art Labs move online...

Welcome to An Lanntair’s new Art Labs online…

Our Art Labs are creative spaces where young people come together and meet, make art, and have fun; and they have been providing inspiration for young people in various locations across Lewis and Harris for several years.

Now, as we cannot meet in person, we’ve taken our Art Labs online with a new blog site where we hope Art Lab participants will join us to use the site and continue to explore their creativity by taking part in online challenges and activities - including the exciting An Lanntair Sketchbook Project!

The new An Lanntair Art Labs blog is open to any young person who would like to take part.

Go To: Art Labs online

Seeking something to do?
The Sketchbook Project is for you...

Would you like to take part in An Lanntair’s new Sketchbook Project? It’s set to be a really fun project where you can join in with others to make some great artwork…
 
Getting started couldn’t be easier as An Lanntair will mail out a sketchbook, along with a stamped return envelope, to anyone who would like to become part of the Sketchbook Project!

Sketchbooks are a fantastic tool for artists. They are small, portable, can be taken anywhere, and be used to explore different ideas and techniques.
 
And for those who take part in the An Lanntair Sketchbook Project, we will provide a Daily Challenge, one a day for 30 days, and at the end we ask participants to then mail their sketchbook back in the envelope provided.
 
When the completed sketchbooks return, we will scan each sketchbook and create an online exhibition of everyone’s work! And when lockdown finishes, we also aim to hold an exhibition of all the project sketchbooks in An Lanntair.
 
If you would like to take part in our Sketchbook Project and have a sketchbook mailed to your house, then please get in touch with our Education team by emailing Joe at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name and address. You will then be sent out a sketchbook and full instructions.
 
We look forward to hearing from you!

Find Out More: The Sketchbook Project

 

Musical family adventures
await with Full Circle online...

In addition to our online Full Circle Family Music Sessions announced last week, we’re delighted to introduce this week: Full Circle Family Music Playground…

Our brilliant Full Circle Arts Worker Heather Moger has prepared six shorter videos, along with notes to assist, to encourage creative music-making at home. The videos available in our Family Music Playground are: 
1. Creative Conversation
2. Animal Friends
3. Singing Spiders
4. Sound the Drum
5. Claves Go for a Walk
6. Claves Go for a Swim

You can download the videos to your computers/devices to avoid any connection issues and buffering; and these will serves as a resource for you and your family not only during lockdown, but well beyond too – an salann sa bhrot!

Each video begins with a song or instrumental activity from our live music programme, and includes ideas about how to personalise them to suit your family.

And there are also suggestions for varying and developing the material – leaving plenty of scope for your imagination. You might find it helpful to watch them in order, but feel free to pick and mix as you discover your favourites!

Go To: Full Circle Family Music Playground

A chance to discuss your art work with peers online...

We're inviting all artists of any discipline are invited to take part in an online Peer Review...

This is an in-depth review of one piece of work by one artist per session. It is better if the work presented is new, a work-in-progress, or still unresolved. The review will closely follow the procedure laid out by choreographer Liz Lermanand guidance of the Scottish Artists Union. 

Please get in touch with This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we can arrange a Zoom version of the Peer Review.

We can also use this opportunity for a chat about anything else that’s on your mind. 

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Find Out More: Peer Review

 

HA! Blog - Weekly Creative Challenge #2...

 


 Each week our new Ha! Hebridean Artist Blog will set a Weekly Creative Challenge - and CREATIVE CHALLENGE #2 is to: RESTRICTIONS...

We’ve all experienced how restrictions lead to creative output; we all have the ability to adapt and be resourceful – so, for this Challenge, set a restriction of your process.

Whatever your art form is, place a restriction – on the materials or colours you use, the chords in a song, or the words in a poem; restrict them in number, type, or quantity.

Need some inspiration? Take a look a Picasso’s ‘Blue’ period, or the works of Agnes Martin or Jackson Pollock. Get strict and see how where this artistic exploration takes you!
 

Find Out More: HA! Weekly Creative Challenge

And Finally...
THANK-YOU FOR OUR
THANK-YOUS! 

A HUGE THANK YOU to all our young island creatives who have helped us at An Lanntair say THANK YOU to all our NHS and Essential Workers…

Young island artists and pupils from Tong School answered our call to help brighten up the outside of our closed buildings by designing these wonderfully bold and bright Thank You posters for us to put on display.

An Lanntair staff and families have been joining in with people around the nation to Clap for our Carers every Thursday night – and we’re delighted to have our Thanks brilliantly on display now also.
 

THANK YOU!

The Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) has become the first salmon producer in Europe to be recognised with a 4-star ‘Best Aquaculture Practices’ (BAP) certification.

The prestigious certification is a reflection of SSC’s commitment to Scottish provenance and sustainability, using the very best practices at each stage of the supply chain to consistently deliver the highest quality salmon.

With operations based across the West Coast of Scotland, SSC says it takes great pride in producing the finest sea loch fresh salmon. Dedicated to industry leading standards, all of its salmon is fully traceable from farm to shelf with the BAP certification providing further recognition of the producer’s robust supply chain integrity.

The Company already held two stars for its processing sites at Marybank and Cairndow, and its marine sites throughout the West Coast of Scotland and Hebrides. Last year, SSC was awarded a third star for sourcing its feed from BAP certified suppliers. SSC has been awarded the fourth and final star for its freshwater operations. Four stars is the highest designation in the BAP third-party certification programme.

Su Cox, Director of The Scottish Salmon Company, said: “Scottish provenance is sought after the world over – consumers want to know where their food has come from and that it is produced sustainably. To be awarded a 4-star BAP certification is testament to the care and commitment that goes in to responsibly farming our Scottish salmon at every stage of the supply chain.

“The BAP seal of approval means our customers can buy our Scottish Salmon with the confidence and reassurance that it is of the highest quality and integrity.”

Mike Berthet, BAP’S Market Development Manager for Europe, said: “The Scottish Salmon Company has proven its determination to have a fully BAP-certified operation by reaching four-star status.

“This certification recognises that SSC is contributing to a safe and nutritious product that is enjoyed all around the world, while enhancing the reputation of aquaculture as a responsible and sustainable industry.”

The world’s most comprehensive third-party aquaculture certification programme, BAP is administered by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) and is compliant with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) and Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI). 

The Scottish Salmon Company is the leading producer of quality Scottish Salmon with operations exclusively in Scotland, with 60 sites across the West Coast of Scotland and Hebrides.  The company is fully engaged in all stages of the value chain from smolt production through freshwater and marine farming to processing, as well as sales and marketing activity.  We are dedicated to producing the highest quality Scottish Salmon, exporting globally to 26 countries from North America to the Far East. The Scottish Salmon Company supports the development of sport in the local communities where its staff work and live. The company’s total staff number over 650 people. The main office is in Edinburgh.

For more information on The Scottish Salmon Company, visit: www.scottishsalmon.com

The United Kingdom Civil Air Patrol (UKCAP), an air support charity that uses volunteer pilots and crews, has this week undertaken an operation related to routine COVID-19 testing activity on behalf of NHS Western Isles.

The flight, which was undertaken on Tuesday (28 April) by a twin-engined aircraft with an experienced pilot, involved the distribution of test consumables between Stornoway, Benbecula and Barra.

It had been requested on Monday by liaison planners currently based in Stornoway as a test of CAP capability and response times, with a view to more widespread UKCAP airborne support in the coming weeks.

Barra landing for UKCAP flight

UKCAP national Chairman and Chief Pilot Archie Liggat said: “This week’s operation was a very straightforward flight for this aircraft. It follows a significant amount of planning in the background between the UK Civil Air Patrol nationally, local resilience forums and NHS planning teams.

“This flight once again highlights the UKCAP’s ability to augment our established public services in times of crisis and to undertake essential operations quickly, safely, effectively and at no cost to the public purse. This is only possible because our crews donate their aircraft and time for free.

“We are now discussing what additional support may be required by NHS Western Isles on an on-going basis and refining our plans to support this. These include the UKCAP potentially basing aircraft in Stornoway on a rotational basis to deliver support as required.

Pilot Des Hart at Benbecula Airport

“It’s important to note that all UKCAP flying activity involves a high degree of preparation and planning, with all crews and aircraft appropriately certified and insured. This is especially true of our current very limited operations in reflection of the national lockdown. As a result of this, today’s operation was also specifically agreed in advance with the Civil Aviation Authority and involved additional safety measures.”

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson, said: “As we face the unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, we have had to rapidly develop and implement new ways of working. UKCAP is another fine example of one of the many organisations and individuals stepping forward to assist us in managing and defeating this virus. We have a long way to go, and will face new challenges along the way. It is reassuring to know we have the support and input from UKCAP. I thank them on behalf of our communities in the Western Isles.”

The purpose of the UKCAP is to provide occasional airborne support to first responders, agencies, groups or individuals who would otherwise not have access to such a facility or who may need to temporarily extend the reach of their own established capability. Its role is strictly humanitarian and voluntary.

The UKCAP has aircraft, pilots and observers based all over the country operating from permanent airfields and farm strips. This ensures maximum flexibility and reduces transit time by air to the scene of assistance. The organisation also has an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability.

Approaching Stornoway Airport

 

At their meeting by teleconference on 14th April, the Presbytery of the Outer Hebrides of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) recorded their sadness at the death of their senior member, Rev. Malcolm MacLean (retired), which occurred on 18th March.

Mr MacLean was born in 1931 and brought up in Shawbost, Isle of Lewis.

After his studies at the Free Church College, he was ordained by the Presbytery of Lochcarron in 1965, Lochcarron being his first charge.

In 1973 he was translated to North Tolsta in the Presbytery of Lewis, where he remained until his retirement from the pastoral ministry in 1996, living thereafter in Shawbost.

Mr MacLean remained active, preaching God’s Word throughout the Western Isles and beyond, and overseeing a weekly prayer meeting in Bragar on the west side of Lewis.

"We are thankful for Mr MacLean’s labours in the Lord’s vineyard over more than fifty years," said the Presbytery statement. 

"Our condolences are with his widow, daughters and grandchildren and also his surviving brother and sisters.

"May Jesus Christ, the great King and Head of the Church, raise up other men who will also serve Him faithfully in proclaiming the glorious Gospel."

 

Bringing families together in the Western Isles amidst a worldwide pandemic was one of the NHS Western Isles’ objectives over recent weeks. 

With visiting opportunities suspended across island hospitals, NHS Western Isles has reunited families via ‘virtual visiting’ and has supplied wards with iPads to enable them access to their loved ones.

One family to benefit already from virtual visiting is Louise Sullivan’s, keeping her in touch with her elderly mother who is an inpatient in Western Isles Hospital in Stornoway.

Louise lives locally, and since her mother, Ella Barbour, was admitted to the Western Isles hospital, herself and her father, Billy Barbour, had been visiting her mum on a daily basis. However following implementation of the lock down, this has not been possible.

Louise Sullivan is pictured on a Virtual Visit to her mum.

Louise said: “My mum has been an in-patient since February this year. Since my mum’s admission, either myself or my dad have visited my mum every day. Therefore, although the visiting restrictions were completely understandable they presented a personal challenge in relation to keeping connected.

"Having the opportunity to use the Virtual Visiting instead has meant the world to us as a family. My parents have been married for over 50 years and have hardly spent a day apart and I know my dad really appreciates the chance to see my mum most days via the virtual link.

"It’s been equally important for my mum to keep connected with her family to aid her recovery. For me, one of the most precious moments has been seeing my mum’s face ‘light up’ when she saw her grandsons on the video. At this challenging time we have been very grateful of this service and all the effort from staff to make this work for us and other families.”

The Virtual Visiting facility is continuing to grow across our hospitals and care homes have also introduced a similar facility, enabling vital face to face conversations to happen between patients and the people that matter most to them in their lives, which is inevitably going to be instrumental in their recovery.

For further information or to book a visit, please telephone 01851 708205.

NHS Western Isles Nurse and AHP Director/Chief Operating Officer, William Findlay, commented:  “We are very pleased with how well this service has been received and the positive difference it has made to our patients. This is an extremely challenging time for inpatients who are in an unfamiliar environment, at a time of considerable anxiety, and are not able to see their friends and family. This is why we took the decision to develop this service for our patients who do not have their own mobile phone, tablet or laptop to use, to connect with others. Keeping in touch with those important to us is clearly beneficial in terms of patient wellbeing.”

Virtual Visiting is currently available at Western Isles Hospital seven days a week between 2pm and 4pm (though availability may be extended depending on need). The service will be introduced by next week to Uist and Barra.

A Virtual Visiting Coordinator is the contact for relatives, and will schedule the virtual visits, which will take place (internally) using NHS Western Isles ipads. The Coordinator will also ensure that infection prevention and control measures are strictly followed.

To arrange a virtual visit for a patient in Western Isles Hospital, the relative or friend simply phones the Virtual Visiting Coordinator on 01851 708205.  Initially these visits can take place between 2-4pm and the coordinator will agree a time with the patient and inform the visitor. (Numbers will be circulated for Uist and Barra as soon as possible).

The ward clerks will also support the service and assistance will be given to patients when required.

Once your visit is scheduled, you can log on to https://www.wihb.scot.nhs.uk/attend-anywhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a quick, online survey, the Seas of the Outer Hebrides project is seeking your views on how we might best manage our seas for the benefit of people and nature once we have returned to a more normal situation within our communities.

We’d like everyone who lives in the Outer Hebrides to have a say in the future of their seas through this short, online survey, which is available in either English or Gaelic at the project home web page here: http://www.mpa-management.eu/?page_id=892. Everyone’s opinion matters: you don’t need to be an expert on anything marine to participate. It will take not more than about 10 to 15 minutes of your time.

Stornoway-based Seas of the Outer Hebrides Project Officer Charlie Main said: “By completing our survey you will help us better understand how your community values the sea, what the key issues are, and how we might collectively approach making decisions about marine nature conservation in the future. The survey sits alongside the work we are currently doing with key stakeholders including fishing representatives and community groups. The survey results will be key element in reshaping the approach to marine nature conservation in the Outer Hebrides.”

Seas of the Outer Hebrides (SEASOH) is overseen by a partnership of Marine Scotland, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, University of the Highlands and Islands and Scottish Natural Heritage.

The core aim of the SEASOH project is to deliver a regional management plan for the Outer Hebrides marine region, putting communities and people at the heart of the process and building consensus on the future management of Marine Protected Areas around the islands.

SEASOH is part of MarPAMM, an EU-funded project to develop tools for monitoring and managing a number of protected coastal marine environments in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Western Scotland.

The seven-partner MarPAMM project is match-funded by the EU Interreg fund and is being delivered by statutory organisations from across Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland (Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Marine Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage), academic institutions (University College Cork; Ulster University; Scottish Association for Marine Science) and a Non-Governmental Organisation with expertise in a relevant field (BirdWatch Ireland).

Ferry operator CalMac is hoping for a repeat of Easter this May holiday weekend with people heeding instructions to stay at home.

CalMac is continuing its checks on people travelling for non-essential reasons with port staff now asking to see a driver’s licence for proof that they are an island resident, or evidence that they are a key worker, before being allowed to board. 

CalMac is reinforcing the government’s stay home, protect the NHS, save lives message after seeing a recent increase in people trying to travel for day trips, particularly on the Clyde.

‘The good weather may tempt people to get out and about, but I would urge everyone to continue to follow government guidelines and stay home, Getting a day trip to the beach is not essential travel and we will have no hesitation in refusing to board anyone who does not have a legitimate reason to sail with us,’ said CalMac ‘s Director of Operations, Robert Morrison.

CalMac turned away 35 people from Largs, Wemyss Bay and Ardrossan over the last weekend. ‘It should not have to be down to staff to ensure people are not travelling. There has to be an element of personal responsibility taken and people really need to be asking themselves is my journey really necessary. If it’s for leisure and recreation the answer is clearly no,’ added Robert

Passenger and vehicle numbers are down 95% across CalMac’s 28 routes.

A number of routes have now been completely cancelled. These include Mallaig- Armadale; Tarbert, Loch Fyne- Portvadie; and Ardrossan-Campbeltown.

The total raised in donations to the Bethesda on-line appeal by Sandwick Bay Candles exceeded £68,000 by the time the deadline passed at 4pm yesterday (Wednesday April 29th).

And donations continued after the deadline…with the total reaching £69,118 by 10am today.  This was 34 times the original target!

The amount raised had carried on increasing at more than £1000 an hour during the evening of Tuesday April 28 and on through yesterday morning, rising to £100 a minute over a frantic lunchtime period.

More than 1,300 people were on-line from all round the world for the draw which started after 8pm last night and required a special licence because of the quantity of prizes on offer and scale of donations. 

There were more than 130 prizes donated for the event.  The broadcast on Facebook took almost 90 minutes – it’s available to watch on the Sandwick Bay Candles Facebook Page.

The original Sandwick Bay Candle Hamper prize was won by Catherine Asprey. Free food for life from the Crown Hotel was won by David Macleod.

More than 3684 individual donations were made.

The on-line fundraising campaign for Bethesda hospice past £26,000 overnight on Sunday April 26th and then just went viral.  A flood of small donations and an anonymous £100 took the total past £30,000 around 8pm on Monday.

Sandwick Bay Candles' Megan Macdonald originally launched the virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda hospice with a hamper worth £100 and the modest aim of raising £2,000 for the vital local service.

Below is the countdown up to the deadline as reported earlier via welovestornoway.com

04.17 30.04.2020 – total reached…£68,908

16.09 29.04.2020 – total reached…£68,286

15.42 29.04.2020 – total reached…£66,623

14.11 29.04.2020 – total reached…£61,659

12.32 29.04.2020 – total reached…£56,527

09.23 29.04.2020 – total reached…£50,152

08.52 29.04.2020 – total reached…£49,282

06.12 29.04.2020 – total reached…£47,931

22.08 28.04.2020 – total reached…£44,603

21.09 28.04.2020 – total reached…£43,221

19.44 28.04.2020 – total reached…£40,857

18.40 28.04.2020 – total reached…£39,250

14.10 28.04.2020 – total reached…£35,778

05.52 28.04.2020 – total reached…£33,276

20.05 27.04.2020 – total reached…£30,113

18.53 27.04.2020 – total reached…£29,257

14.45 27.04.2020 – total reached…£27,847

Prizes:

  • Hebscape Gallery - £50 voucher and photography book Solas by Darren hebscapegallery.co.uk
  • The Portsoy Gift Box - £25 gift voucher
  • Bliss Therapy - £35 gift voucher with Annemarie
  • Cutting Room and Allure Beauty Therapy - microdermabrasion facial and blowdry 
  • The Chief Cook - £25 voucher
  • Hygge Hebrides - x1 night stay in brand new glamping pod with smorgasbord meal 
  • KopiJava - hamper x2 1kg bag of coffee beans and cafetiere valued £60
  • Angus Campbell's Ltd - £50 voucher
  • Stornoway Golf Club - introductory golf membership £100 
  • Boots Pharmacy - £50 gift card
  • SparKlean - £25 voucher
  • Buttercup and Wren - £40 voucher
  • Sweenyness - lambskin rug
  • Donald Smith Graphic Design - set of 3 Scottish posters
  • The Barbers - 3 free men's haircuts
  • Sixan7 Self Catering, New Holdings - 2 night stay for up to 6 adults (low season) 
  • Ralia Hair extensions & Makeup - 1-1 make up training day £199
  • 3 Sail Loft - weekend stay (Fri-Sun) when restrictions lifted  https://www.3sailloft.co.uk/
  • Back and Sides - men's hamper
  • M Mac Photography - photoshoot valued at £60 
  • Anderson & Macarthur / Hebridean Estate Agency - 12 bottles of wine
  • Carpet World - £50 voucher
  • Hebridean Copper Kettle Fudge - hamper of fudge
  • Loom Graphics - King and Queen T-shirt  https://www.loomgraphics.com/
  • Cross Stores Ness - £50
  • Eilidh's Wedding and Events company - £100 voucher
  • Scalpay Shellfish hamper
  • Scalpay Harris Tweed - £50 voucher
  • Rangers Club - bottle of Whisky and club merchandise 
  • Eagleton Bed and Breakfast - 1 night stay
  • David Speer - Pet Portrait valued at £100
  • N°11 Hair By Lynette - Cut and Blowdry
  • Tangles Hair Design - £50 voucher with Emma
  • Artizan - piece of jewellery worth £100
  • Buildbase - x2 Bulk Bags of Concrete Mix, x10 Rugby Cement 25kg bags. Delivered to site in Lewis or Harris.
  • HebrideanGems - 30cm by 30cm piece of abstract fluid art
  • Makeup by Al - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/muamaca/
  • Floor to Floor - 80 x 150cm rug
  • M Mac Photography - photoshoot
  • Tesco - giftcards
  • Sea PINK aroma - £50 voucher
  • Hebridean Bothy Pods - x1 night stay www.hebrideanbothypods.com
  • Island Dark Room - 25 x 25cm print www.islanddarkroom.com
  • Shiantview Cottage, Orinsay, Isle of Lewis - 4 night stay (mid October - end of March) www.hebrideanselfcateringholidays.com 
  • Islewear Jewellery - £100 voucher
  • Margarita Williams, Holmasaig Gallery - £100 voucher 
  • Brue House - £100 to spend on Harris Tweed products www.bruehouse.co.uk 
  • The Lighthouse Gift Shop - Harris Gin bottle lamp with Harris Tweed shade
  • Salka Jewellery - £100 of sea glass jewellery  www.salkajewellery.com/ 
  • The Crown Inn Hotel Stornoway - Takeaway pizza and sides for 4  AND if we reach £20000 in donations they are offering FREE food for LIFE for ONE person. T&C's apply
  • Body and Sole - skin care pack http://www.bodyandsolestornoway.co.uk/
  • Cards and gift wrap - craft kit   www.cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/
  • The Blue Lobster - voucher for 2 hot drinks, 2 bakes and a mini goodybag from their fabulous lifestyle shop
  • Bronwen Roberts Hair - cut blowdry and Olaplex (Inverness) treatment www.facebook.com/bronwenrobertshairx/
  • Immerse Hebrides - £30 voucher   www.immersehebrides.com/
  • Stramash Ness Hamper of goodies  www.etsy.com/uk/shop/StramashNess
  • Camerons Chip Shop - £20 voucher
  • The Crafty Weaver - Harris Tweed items www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheCraftyWeaverStore
  • Maybury Gardens - filled pot  www.bespoke-blooms.co.uk/
  • Rosemarie's Pantry - cake and cookies  www.rosemariespantry.co.uk/
  • Gill Thompson Harbour Print - pack of cards  www.facebook.com/gillthompsonartistprintmaker/
  • Halo Bags - Mixed Family bag of goodies  www.facebook.com/halobagsstornoway/
  • Tropic Skincare with Sharon - £50 voucher  www.tropicskincare.com/sharonmacdonald 
  • Stag Bakeries - 3 delicious cakes www.stagbakeries.co.uk/
  • Hebrides Dance Studio - £25 voucher http://www.hebridesdance.co.uk/
  • BE Designed by K £20 voucher  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BEDesignedbyK
  • Callanish Digital Design - print or chopping board https://www.callanishdigitaldesign.com/
  • Eleven Restaurant - £50 voucher  https://www.caladhinn.co.uk/stornoway-restaurants-2/
  • Delights - £75 voucher http://www.delights-hebridean.com/
  • Pickleberry Studios - handcrafted goodies  https://www.instagram.com/pickleberrystudios/
  • The Lash and Brow Room - £30 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/the_lashandbrow_room/
  • Sugar Sweet Treats - treat box  https://www.instagram.com/sugarsweettreatssty/
  • Fitness Studio Stornoway - £50 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/fitnessstudiosy/
  • Co-op Macaulay Road - Fabulous Hamper
  • Body Shop - Louise Morrison £50 of products
  • Sea in Design - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/seaanddesign/
  • Eilean Siar Hampers - small gift box  https://www.facebook.com/eileansiarhampers/
  • Aperture Lane Photography - £70 digital gift voucher https://www.aperturelanephotography.com/
  • Gneiss Things - pair of handcarved stone keyrings  https://www.gneiss-things.com/
  • Island Whisky Shop - bottle of Jura Whisky
  • Pixie Bheag - https://www.facebook.com/PixieBheag
  • Ishga - men's and women's gift set  https://uk.ishga.com/
  • Blue Reef Cottages - 2 night stay. To be taken during low season November to March excluding Christmas/New Year and if / when restrictions are lifted. Max occupancy 2 adults.          https://www.stay-hebrides.com/
  • Coralbox Gift Shop - otter teatowel  https://www.ecwid.com/store/coralbox/
  • Hebrides Alpha - Harris Tweed Clock  http://www.harristweedclock.co.uk/
  • Influence - https://www.facebook.com/Influencestornoway/
  • ENJO with Debbie Lamb - £30 voucher  https://www.facebook.com/enjoukwithdebbielamb/
  • Dancing Flower Crafts - 2 prizes Harris Tweed washbag £25 and cushion £55  https://m.facebook.com/dancingflowercrafts
  • Moorfield Cottage - Isle of Harris. Any winter week Saturday to Saturday between the end of September and end of March either this year 2020/21 or 2021/22. Ideal for a couple  https://www.facebook.com/moorfieldharris/
  • Traigh Mhor Pony Trekking - x3 riding lessons for 2 people valued at £90  https://www.tolsta41.com/
  • Comunn Eachdraidh Nis - afternoon tea for 3 people
  • Donnie's Wee Tablet Shed - 1kg of tablet www.lochleventabletcompany.co.uk
  • Home and Floors - £50 voucher
  • Lewisian Nice - harris tweed heart garland and lucky dip bag
  • Corncrake Holiday cottage - weekend getaway
  • Edith & Finlay's Habost Hens - Hamper including eggs, candle, prosecco, bottle of gin, mug, chocolate, biscuits etc
  • £25 xbox voucher - from Aidan (gifting from his birthday presents!)
  • Adventure Island Stornoway - family visit includes two kids entry, food and drink for two adults/two children
  • Isle of Harris Distillers - A martini serve gift set (shipping only within the UK)
  • Sundown Cottages - 2 night stay  https://sundown-cottages.com/
  • Kenny Macarthur and Bruce Mackenzie - 2 tradesmen/joiners for the day
  • The Sports Emporium - TSE Wheely Holdall Luggage Bag - 90L Capacity (Norrie Petrie) Free UK Shipping
  • Derek Mackinnon Photography - £150 framed photo https://www.derekmackinnonphotography.co.uk/
  • Rarebird - £50 voucher 
  • Uig Candles - £50 voucher
  • Decor8 - £100 voucher
  • Surf Lewis - £40 voucher
  • Coaching with Alanah - 12 week nutrition coaching program
  • Stornoway Painters and Decorators - £50 paint voucher
  • Hebrides Bothy - 1 night stay https://hebridesbothy.com/
  • Moran Gaol - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/morangaol
  • Alice Mac Prints - A fabulous skylarks print  https://www.alicemacprints.co.uk/
  • EJayDesign - Gold hanging frame of Scotland  https://www.facebook.com/EJaydesign/
  • County Hotel Stornoway - £50 voucher
  • Tiger Textiles - framed print www.tigertextiles.moonfruit.com/ 
  • Heb Fizzies - £25 goodie bag www.facebook.com/Hebfizzies
  • Island Bites, Isle of Harris - £20 voucher
  • Harris & Lewis Smokehouse - £50 voucher
  • Laxdale Holiday Park - 2 nights in a Wigwam for 2 people  http://www.laxdaleholidaypark.com/
  • Lewis Macleod Driving School - 5 driving lessons and a guaranteed slot in the driving school
  • The Kitchen Centre - £250 to be used against a fitted kitchen or fitted bathroom
  • Heatherlea Cottage, Skigersta Isle of Lewis - 4 night stay  https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/31138149 

PPE from Hubs For Unpaid/Family Carers and Personal Assistants

Following the recent announcement by the Scottish Government, local Hubs across Scotland will extend their provision of Personal Protective Equipmentto include unpaid/family carers and personal assistants, states a release from Comahirle nan Eilean Siar.

Social Care Hubs are geographically designated points of contact, managed by Scotland’s 31 Health and Social Care Partnerships for PPE stock allocation for Scotland’s Social Care sector (made up of private, public, and third sector organisations).

The three local Hubs are based on Lewis/Harris, Uist and Barra and will now be the primary model for distribution of PPE supplies to the whole social care sector where carers are unable to source PPE through their normal routes.

The statement says: "If the carer is still able to access supplies through their normal route, we would expect them to continue to do so, whilst assuring them that the Hub will provide supplies if these routes dry up. The Hubs' stocks are used for people who cannot get hold of PPE themselves. 

"It is anticipated that as demand for PPE increases, traditional supply routes may ‘dry up’. Where the cared-for person has received a letter regarding shielding measures, then these people will be prioritised.

"The Hubs will be open Mon - Fri, from 9am-5pm. Provider representatives and individual carers may be eligible to access stock through their designated Hub. Any order should be placed in advance by calling 01851 600 501 or 07970 262732, asking for the PPE Hub.

"Carers are expected to collect their PPE themselves, or have made alternative arrangements agreed with by the Hub. Where a family member is unable to pick up the PPE from the Hub, then the Hub will normally make arrangements for the PPE to be delivered to the carer’s address.

"Hubs also can assist in providing urgent PPE within normal working hours. If the emergency arrives out-with normal working hours, then Health Services will be involved given it will be a clinically suspected or confirmed COVID – 19 case and if there is a need for PPE, Health Services will provide PPE until the Hub re-opens.

"No formal verification should be required to prove someone is a carer. However, the Hub will want to assure themselves of the legitimacy of requests, and that PPE is being supplied to those carers on the basis of need."

A CnES spokesperson said: “Our main approach will be one based on trusting the individual carer. They will know their caring situation best. However, Hubs may need to make some decisions about need and prioritisation.

"A small number of questions will be asked in order to understand whether unpaid carers contacting us are eligible for PPE. We want to avoid carers travelling to their local Hub only to discover they are ineligible. These questions will also ensure a degree of consistency in decision-making around this between different Hubs. The questions take into account the COVID-19 advice for unpaid carers providing personal care. This advice is now available on the Scottish Government website.

"Hubs will make decisions on eligibility for PPE in line with this advice.

"It will be important for us, as your local Hub representatives to be working collaboratively with local carers’ groups, who will be receiving queries from carers on access to PPE and may be able to support this process.”

The London Marathon didn't happen when planned this year but that didn’t stop island resident Chris Whittington completing his own Marathon in a Church car park near his home on the Isle of Lewis.

Regular runner Chris Whittington had set himself the challenge of running the London Marathon but due to the current Coronovirus pandemic, his plan was on hold until he came up with an alternative.

He took on Marathon Lunainn on Saturday (April 25), running 26.2 miles / 218 laps of the car park in Point in just over 3 hours 47 minutes, breaking his personal best and raising more than £1800 for The Leanne Fund.

Chris provided live video updates on his Facebook page while running and got many cheers and even some musical performances from the community making it an extra special event.

Chris said: “It was nice to be doing something worthwhile on a weekend when I would have been disappointed about not running London, and The Leanne Fund is such a worthwhile cause, and one that is clearly of great importance locally.

“I’m overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity, I couldn’t have anticipated it would raise the amount that it has - I think it’s pretty much at what the Point 5/10K raises last year which is fantastic.

“I decided to fundraise for the Leanne Fund because it is a local charity that does great work and directly supports so many people within our close-knit community - particularly during the pandemic. The London Marathon have been advertising the 'two point six challenge', in an effort to get individuals to support the UK's charities at a time when large sums of money would normally be raised by various running events.”

Chris admits Marathon Lunainn was a challenge even though he has taken on marathons before, the first while on deployment in Afghanistan and Marathon Hebrides in Harris last year.

He powered on with many distant cheers from local families which kept him going to the end.

He said: “On the day, Marathon Lunnainn was pretty hard work. It was hard on parts of the body I wasn't expecting due to the number of turns and was quite mentally tough. What got me through was the fantastic support of a few socially distanced families that came down to cheer me on and got me to a marathon PB of 3 hours 47 minutes and 32 seconds.”

“I have run two marathon distances prior to this. My first marathon was on deployment in Afghanistan six years ago with a friend - very flat but very hot! My second (and only 'official') marathon was the Marathon Hebrides in Harris last year. I still hope to run London on the rescheduled date on October 4th as I've been trying for 11 years to get it!”

Chrisetta Mitchell, Leanne Fund said: “We are so grateful to Chris for completing this amazing challenge and raising vital funds for The Leanne Fund.

“While all our planned fundraising is postponed or cancelled we really appreciate this funding boost as we continue to provide lifeline services to individuals affected by CF and their families”

The Leanne Fund is continuing to provide vital support to those affected by Cystic Fibrosis and their families across the Highlands and Islands, Grampian and Tayside regions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The charity, which relies heavily on fundraising and donations, is currently working extremely hard to continue assisting those with Cystic Fibrosis who are classed as extremely vulnerable to severe illness from infection with COVID-19.

If you would like to contribute to Chris’ fundraising, you can donate here: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Chris.Whittington

Crofters – have you submitted your SAF 2020 yet?

Your form needs to be in by Friday 15th May.  

The RPID office in Stornoway is closed for face-to-face appointments but we are still open for phone and e-mail support.  

If you would normally need to speak to us to get your SAF submitted, we want to hear from you soon.  Please don’t leave it to the last week to get in touch.

Phone our Stornoway office on 0300 244 8501, leave a message and one of the local team will call you back.  

Or you can send a message to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Making perfectly sure that they’re keeping busy during lockdown, sport and health service staff have been re-deployed to the Co-op on Macaulay Road for the past few weeks.

Workers usually based at Lewis Sports Centre – sports development staff and sports facilities staff – have been helping the Co-op’s own home deliveries team to supply vulnerable people with essential shopping.

Sports facilities services manager Tony Wade said: “It’s a joint operation between Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s sports team and the Co-op, responding to an emergency request from the Co-op for help packing and sorting deliveries for people who are vulnerable and can’t travel to shop.”

Comhairle sport and health staff are also still ensuring that people can get their exercise, despite the fact that sports centre doors are shut and training sessions suspended.

Tony Wade said: “We’ve been learning some new tricks with technology, trying to be as adaptive as we can. We have online activities available including fitness instruction and teaching and one-to-one training advice already available in Stornoway and in Uist, with Harris due to be offered some home-grown help soon.

“We know there’s plenty of online exercise options already available, but it’s nice to have a familiar face to do your exercise with and we want to maintain that contact with the people we would normally see.”

Online fitness classes can be booked by Slainte Mhath members here- www.cne-siar.gov.uk/leisure-sport-and-culture/sport-and-health/online-booking/ . Non members or those who don’t wish to book online can contact - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The CNES MyWellness app is also available and will be updated with a further three weeks of workout content this week. The MyWellness app is free and has three levels of workout available each day. Anyone interested can check it out here- https://www.mywellness.com/cnes

Individual training advice in Uist and Barra comes via Nicola Steele directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..uk and Lewis and Harris customers can contact Lisa Weir at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

NHS Western Isles has today (Wednesday April 29) launched its new dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) health support telephone line for those living and working within the Western Isles.

It is 01851 601151.

This local service has been set up to answer general health queries or concerns from members of the public, health and social care staff and category 1 responders, regarding the Covid-19 situation.www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot

Dr Maggie Watts, NHS Western Isles Director of Public Health, said “We know that people still have lots of questions about COVID-19 infection.

"This line will provide an additional resource that can help answer these queries and support our local population in understanding more about the virus, the disease it causes and the important ways in which they can help reduce its impact in our communities.”

Information can also be found at the new local support website, which is a one-stop gateway offering easy access to essential and accurate information. It can be accessed at www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot

Please note – if you or a member of your household is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, then you should still call NHS24 on 111 in the first instance, says NHS Western Isles.

Further information can also be found on NHS Inform at www.nhsinform.scot

Over the past six months, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partners have been working together through the OHCPP’s Anti-Poverty Strategy Group and with food charity FareShare, to bring additional food to the islands on a regular basis.

The food is transported in FareShare vans and taken to Stornoway by CalMac at no charge and is stored at the local Citizens Advice Bureau Office, also at no charge, and distributed by various agencies during the course of their usual work duties.

Councnillor Angus McCormack, Chair of the OHCPP Anti-Poverty Strategy Group said: “We acknowledge the efforts of our partners in bringing food to the islands and the distribution of that food to families most in need, and particularly the role of CalMac and CAB in that emergency service.  These are extraordinary times, impacting on lives and livelihoods, especially those in poverty and this is a vital service that can help families at this particularly challenging time”.

Steve Hankinson, Strategy Manager at the Citizens Advice Bureau said: “This is a great example of several services working together to get much needed help quickly to all parts of the Islands. This support is completely confidential and has helped over 500 people so far and the demand is rising due to COVID-19.

"FareShare have agreed to send us more supplies and more frequent deliveries have been arranged.

"If you would like any help, know of someone who might also benefit or are part of a Community Group helping others: please call us on 01851 705727.

"Please remember that this help is for all parts of the Western Isles and is completely confidential.”

The OHCPP’s Anti-Poverty Strategy Group consists of representatives from the Comhairle, Tighean Innse Gall, Department for Work and Pensions, Social Security Scotland, Hebridean Housing Partnership, Community Energy Scotland, Job Centre Plus, NHS Eilean Siar, and the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

It’s exactly 250 years ago today (29 April) that captain James Cook first set foot on the continent of Australia. He landed at Botany Bay – which became a British settlement, a penal colony and then a city known today as Sydney. The world knows Sydney as a city that never sleeps – one of the first in the world to wake up and always available for a party late into the night.

Burt there’ll be no party today. Quite apart from Australia’s uneasy perspective on the ‘discovery’ of a continent which had already been inhabited for thousands of years, the streets of Sydney under lockdown are not in the mood for a party.

These pictures of Sydney this week tell their own story – traffic-free, almost pedestrian-free, with closed shops and restaurants.

Entertainment hot-spots like Cockle Bay Wharf at Darling Harbour closed their doors at the end of March. Their management said: “Our priority is the health and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and partners. In line with the latest Government guidance in relation to non-essential gathering restrictions, Cockle Bay Wharf is now closed for onsite dining and entertainment until further notice.

“We thank you for your continued support during this difficult time and encourage you to support local restaurants and cafés where possible, with takeaway options. We hope to see you dining at one of our venues as soon as possible, once the current situation subsides.”

Darling harbour 

Edinburgh emigrant Robert Dale now lives in the west Sydney suburb of Balmain. He supplied these pictures and said: “For some of us, the lucky ones who generally work from home in any case, life isn’t really impacted that much.  You can’t go to your usual dining and drinking venues, and it’s the owners of those who we fear for most.

“Small local restaurants are all offering their menus for takeaway, and pubs have either closed or are becoming off licences; the proprietors put on a brave face but you can see they are really struggling and it’s just wearing them down.”

Sydney’s Light Rail, the new tram service, is only just in full operation – the first tram between Kingsford and Circular Quay, where most ferry services arrive and depart, only ran on 3 April this year.

A spokesman for Transport for New South Wales said: “It is not business as usual at the moment but we know our network remains a critical part of your daily lives and we are committed to keeping these essential services running.”

There’s good news on the horizon for Sydney. Yesterday (28 April) the city said it was easing restrictions on going to Bondi and other eastern beaches and, in New South Wales as a whole, there’s a relaxation of movement restrictions coming on Friday. Up to two adults will be allowed to visit another person’s home at one time.

Perhaps it’s a glimmer of early light as parts of the world begin to wake up from Coronavirus.

 

A guide for retailers which provides advice on how non-food establishments can make their premises safe for customers and staff in the coronavirus crisis has been published.

The guide, published by the Scottish Retail Consortium in association with USDAW, has been backed by a number of MSPs, including Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron who supported a motion submitted by Labour's deputy leader Jackie Baillie MSP to the Scottish Parliament.

Mr Cameron said: “The retail sector makes an invaluable contribution to the economy of the Highlands and Islands and I am therefore very pleased to endorse this guide which provides very useful advice to shop managers on how to keep themselves, their staff and their customers safe.

“It is becoming clear that there will be no early end to social distancing and as more shops re-open we will have to continue to take great care in how we conduct ourselves when out shopping.

“This publication is very timely and I am sure will make a useful contribution to helping us adjust to the new retail environment.”

The motion by Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton, Scottish Labour, states: "That the Parliament welcomes the publication of Social Distancing: A Guide for Retailers on how to implement Government advice by the Scottish Retail Consortium in association with USDAW; notes that it includes detailed implementation practices for non-food retail stores to help them operate safely and protect staff and customers as and when there is a government-easing of the COVID-19 lockdown, which permits more trading; understands that it draws on the industry’s existing guide for retail warehouses and the experience of pharmacy, pet food and grocery retailers during this crisis, which has shown that is possible to operate safely and responsibly in this new environment, regardless of the size of premises, and commends this guide to the wider retail industry and other customer-facing sectors of Scotland’s economy as they prepare to get the economy moving again."

Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie will also act as Labour’s finance spokesperson at Holyrood, party leader Richard Leonard has announced.

Ms Baillie has also been given responsibility as Campaign Co-ordinator for the Scottish Parliament elections in 2021 with political oversight of party organisation, reporting to Richard Leonard. She will also be working with Labour Councillors on the Local government elections for 2022, she will work closely with the General Secretary across all areas of party activity, including external engagement, resourcing and candidate selection.

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands MSP David Stewart is leaving Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet. His role as spokesperson on the eradication of poverty and inequality will be taken up by Rhoda Grant, who moves from the finance brief. n“I would like to thank Dave for his service in my shadow cabinet, and I look forward to working with him in the future,” Mr Leonard added. “I would also like to thank Rhoda for her work in the finance brief, especially in responding to the recent Budget and playing a major role in securing free bus travel for under-19s. I know she will build on that work in her new portfolio.”

 

The dream of a new Community Hub for South Harris & beyond has moved a step closer to reality, thanks to a grant of £13,580 from the Scottish Land Fund. 

The Leverhulme Community Hub Steering Group have worked for more than four years with the aim of securing the purchase of the “Old Block” building at Leverhulme Memorial School. 

The Group’s vision, derived from a widespread demand for services locally, is to create a multi-purpose community facility, which will provide a range of services.  Plans include a café, charity shop, laundrette, gym and Post Office.  

It had been hoped to open Phase 1 of the Hub this summer, with the building on lease, but the Covid19 Pandemic means that will not be possible.  The Steering Group are, however, looking forward to a bright future and the news of the SLF money means they will now aim to secure the purchase of the building by the end of the year.   

Prior to the Covid 19 situation, the Stage 1 application was made to the Scottish Land Fund for funding to assist with the costs of the documentation that is needed to support a Stage 2 application (which will cover the purchase of the building).   

The Stage 1 grant of £13,580 was approved on 16 April 2020.  This means that works to complete the business plan and the physical plans for the building can now go ahead, albeit under the terms of our “new normal”.

Over the coming weeks the Hub Committee and their advisers will be working to draw everything together for a deadline of 12 June 2020 when they plan to submit a Stage 2 Scottish Land fund application. 

The outcome of this will be known on 27 August 2020. Government restrictions mean the Steering Group cannot currently arrange meetings to consult and inform people of plans but other ways of doing this are being looked at,  to ensure that as many people as possible have the chance to be informed developments.

The Steering Group will be using a range of different ways of keeping people informed and giving them a chance to have their say.   Followers of the project are urged to keep an eye on the Group’s Facebook page, the local magazine, De tha Dol? and other local press.  A website is in the process of being set up and details of that will be made known shortly.  

The Committee says it is delighted to be working with Sandra Macaskill of CaskieCo, who has a great deal of experience with communities buying land and buildings, to prepare the business plan.  The aim is to have as much local input as possible to inform and approve this when the time comes.

Alzheimer Scotland’s Western Isles services are determined to keep their support for people with dementia and their families going, even though they had to close the Solas day centre early in the Coronavirus crisis.

The centre closed on 13 March but, says locality leader Marion Macinnes, the team quickly sprang into action to see what could still be done to support people.

Marion said: “We looked at what could be delivered via technology to continue therapeutic relationships and activity. After whistle-stop staff training sessions in technology like Attend Anywhere we were soon able to start offering support on digital platforms, such as for dementia advisor one-to-one and peer group sessions for carers and families.

“We’ve got new services coming online all the time – such as a full programme of activities being rolled out soon on Zoom and we have worked with Western Isles library service to organise the loan of IT equipment support, plus set-up where that is needed.”

Not everything the team are doing relies on technology. Staff are keeping in very close contact with people and families to monitor any changes, issues arising, or new support needs and they’re also working closely with health and social care colleagues, looking out for the same issues.

Practical offers of support came in the shape of goody bags delivered to carers, each containing hand soap, hand sanitiser and a wee treat, while activity packs were also developed for non-internet users.

Marion said: “We are aware not everyone has internet or wants to use this option, so we organised doorstep visits in the sunny weather, regular phone calls, texts and email support. Low level home support is approved for people in critical need.

Building up new ways of working with the growing number of new community support networks, Alzheimer Scotland Western Isles have been offering dementia awareness sessions on digital platforms.

Marion said: “We are aware that many communities are offering vital local practical support, so we have been actively signposting these amazing networks. Some people have felt overloaded with information and have needed support to navigate this – although it’s a great problem to have, as the offers of support have been tremendous.

“Our ongoing work as a national organisation is to continue to work with Scottish Government highlighting themes which may emerge around the human rights and support needs of people with dementia and their carers, as well as more practical issues.”

In the midst of all the changes everyone is having to contend with, Alzheimer Scotland in the Western Isles is working hard to continue with local fundraising, a huge concern as they, like so many other charities and volunteer groups, will struggle to maintain support for individuals without vital funds.

Luckily members of the community have stepped up there, too. As Marion said: “Currently we have a couple of personal challenges under way and we’d love if people could support us if they can. The support of the local community has always been so amazing to help us make sure no one faces dementia alone.”

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/marion-macinnes3?fbclid=IwAR1vgZEuH-H6KeEFEcJNBumsxKB7WGyBykzQR4w_J41837U_f3f9ny7GvB0
https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/karenmacrunslondon?fbclid=IwAR0X9D1g2KgtP_yOjUj8Zwwp0BVO9wIMbJEEGOXJmGFYfpiRPrKwD15kmD4

The picture shows one of the goody bags made up for carers.

Celebrity crofter Donald ‘Sweeney’ MacSween is to get a huge lift on his croft in Ness, after winning a year’s use of a big tractor designed to move over a ton in weight.

Sweeney has been announced today (Tuesday 28 April) as one of three winners of the Up to Speed scheme run by New Holland Agriculture, together with the Prince's Countryside Fund. He’s to have the use of a New Holland telehandler for a year, an enormous boost to his business.

The Up to Speed scheme provides cutting-edge machinery to young people, new entrants, or those who will make a difference in their local community but would otherwise not have access to this type of farm machinery.

Early this year the Prince's Countryside Fund entered into a partnership with New Holland, a major British tractor manufacturer. Nearly 50 farmers across the UK applied to the scheme for one of three items of big business equipment on offer for a year’s loan.

Now a full-time crofter with a sideline in TV appearances – both on his own croft and as a presenter for sheep dog trials – Sweeney said he was ‘over the moon’ at the news that he was one of those picked as a winner.

He said: "I have been looking at having a telehandler for a while now because I need something that can lift a ton. When Lewis Crofters delivers feed and other supplies we have to manhandle it, which has not been ideal during the Covid-19 crisis. 

“On my own I couldn’t afford anything other than a tractor and the one I have is a 40-year-old Massey Ferguson which can lift smaller quantities.

“This couldn’t have come at a better time. With no football and no tourists this year I am going to have much more time for improving the croft, spreading hen manure and sand from the beach to raise the Ph of the land.

“The longer the lockdown goes on, the more key crofting becomes to our local economy. I’m producing eggs and meat for the local market and this will make such a difference to me and my neighbours."

Sweeney's existing 40-year-old tractor collecting sand from the beach

 

 The new model of New Holland telehandler which Sweeney will have on loan for a year

 

 

 

 

 

A whole summer in lockdown might not seem like much fun, but 13-year-old Sarah Smith from Stornoway has decided to make good use of it – trying out new hairstyles while raising funds for charity.

Sarah has pledged to get all her beautiful auburn hair shaved off to raise funds for Bethesda and, in a double donation, she’s also going to give her long locks to the Little Princess Trust, who will turn them into a real hair wig for a child with cancer.

Mum Fiona is the one who will be wielding the clippers on Saturday 9 May – a date her daughter has chosen with a special purpose in mind.

Fiona said: “I was due to be getting married to Kevin Macdonald, the podiatrist, on that day and I think Sarah was thinking of taking my mind off the fact that we’ve had to postpone the wedding.

“She’s been talking about doing something for charity for a while and, while we’ve been in lockdown, her hair has been getting really long and annoying her. I was asking her if she’s absolutely sure, because it will look so different, but she found an app on her phone where you can make yourself look bald and she reckons she’s got a nice shaped head for it.”

An app’s not the same as reality, but mum and daughter are both ready for any tears on the day. Fiona said: “I am a wee bit worried about how it’ll be when she actually sees it, but she says if she cries, she’ll just go to her room and cry and then she’ll get over it.

“I think she’ll rock it – and she’s been doing research on styles while it’s growing back and reckons she’ll try out some new looks, like keeping one side shaved and growing the other.”

Sarah’s plan has already been a spectacular fundraising success. Her JustGiving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Fiona-Smith91 has taken £1,160 in donations, more than doubling Sarah’s £500 target for Bethesda.

As for the shavee herself, she’s keeping a calm, mature head on her shoulders through all of the preparation. She said: “I hope I manage to raise a lot of money for a worthwhile cause.

“My mum is a nurse on Bethesda and it is a wonderful place, a hidden gem. People are scared of it, but it’s more than just an end of life place.”

 

Highlands & Islands MSP Rhoda Grant has today (Tuesday April 28) issued a fresh call on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make further changes to his Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allows businesses to claim state money for employee salaries.

The qualifying date for when an employee must have been on the employer’s payroll was earlier changed from 28 February 2020 to 19 March 2020. However, many people say they remain shut out of the scheme.

Mrs Grant said constituents she is supporting are among them.  In her letter to the chancellor today she says: “The changes you made gave thousands of people hope, at least until they read the small print and realised there is a new loophole.

“The employee’s pay information had to have been submitted to HMRC by March 19th. This was unrealistic and was underlined by the chief executive of HMRC days ago who told the BBC that most employers will pay their employees at the end of the month.

“This means people who moved jobs at the end of February or the beginning of March cannot, in most cases, expect their information to be processed by their new employer and submitted to HMRC until the end of the month.

“Please step up and rectify this and allow people who are starting new jobs to qualify for this furlough scheme. The HMRC and Treasury can validate proof of employment to ensure these applications are not fraudulent.”

She said: “These people have been left disappointed and angry. They have worked for years without any interruption. They have never asked for anything from the government and now, the one time they need it, the help is not there."

Under the scheme, employers can apply for cash grants online and put employees on furlough, meaning their job is put on hold and they do not work, but they are still employed. The state then finances 80 per cent of furloughed employees' salaries, up to £2,500 per month.

 

 

The University of the Highlands and Islands has launched an emergency fund to help students who have been affected by the coronavirus crisis.

With campuses across the Highlands and Islands closed due to the outbreak, academic staff have switched to delivering their courses online. While many of the university’s 40,000 students have been able to continue their studies from home, an increasing number have reported they do not have the equipment or internet connections they need to access online classes and resources.

The university has set up an emergency study fund to address this issue, offering support to college and university students who are unable to purchase essential technology due to financial hardship. The fund is being used to provide students with a range of equipment and services, including laptops and broadband connections.

Local businesses and individuals including Mark Mair, chair of the Moray-based aviation museum Morayvia, and the Turriff-based company, Ace Winches, have already supported the cause. The university’s IT department is working to refurbish existing laptops and purchase new ones. The contributions have helped to deliver laptops to over 40 students across the Highlands and Islands so far. The devices are being deployed on loan agreements so future students can benefit from them too.

Alison Wilson, Head of Development at the university, explained: “The response to the fund has been fantastic and we are extremely grateful for all of the donations. However, the demand from students is increasing rapidly - we’ve had another 45 applications in the past three days alone. As well as applying to funds set up to help Covid-19 related causes, we are also urgently seeking donations from anyone who might be able to help. We need to act quickly to reduce the risk of students dropping out or having to repeat their studies. 

“We want to help all of our students who are struggling with access and hardship issues and this may require anything from £250 to £750 per student depending on support needs. We would love to hear from any organisations or members of the public who may be in a position to donate to the fund and help students in need right now.”

Esther MacKinnon, a BA (Hons) archaeology student from Alness, is one of those who has benefitted from the fund. She said: “I am delighted to be able to carry on my studies and complete my first year. Since I got the computer this week, I have been able to access recordings of classes and I can now join classes online which is great. There is so much that is difficult at the moment, but I am glad to keep going with my study.”

Alan Simpson, president of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, added: “Working with the university, HISA has managed to secure £40,000 to be put towards student support in digital poverty. I am really pleased that we have been able to respond to feedback from our students and provide this additional funding, but much more will be needed to meet the needs of students across the region.

“The welfare of our students is always our main priority and so I am really happy that some of this funding will also go towards helping students with their rent, bills and food. Many people have lost their jobs and are unable to apply for universal credit because they are full time students and this funding has the ability to support them.

“I am immensely grateful to the university’s management for recognising the need for this fund and for all that the public have already donated.”

If you would like to provide support to students in need or find out more about the emergency fund, visit www.uhi.ac.uk/en/development/emergency-study-fund

A combination of natural disasters and political instability looks set to be a recipe for a COVID-19 catastrophe in the Caribbean island of Haiti, writes Taylor Edgar

After last year enduring an extended lockdown because of political turmoil which only ended in December, Haiti is now bracing itself again. A decade on from the 2010 earthquake which left 200,000 dead, this Caribbean island is slowly beginning to fear the worst over COVID-19 despite assurances on TV by the government.

Island entrepreneur Any Hyacinthe Lanauze is quick to credit the government with swiftly closing the border with the Dominican Republic, partially closing the island’s airport and prohibiting large gatherings.

However, these measures have not been matched by an equally vigorous effort in the health care system or COVID-19 education. Any says: “The country doesn’t have a formal response centre for COVID-19 patients. Nor proper medical personnel trained to assist the patients if they decide to go to the hospital. Many people in Haiti either do not have access, or if they do, the hospitals are without nurses and doctors. People often have to travel long distances to get proper care.”

Speaking from her home, 40-year-old Any told welovestornoway.com: “Neither the government nor anybody else in Haiti has a proper way of knowing the truth about COVID-19. They have thermometers to see if someone has a fever and that’s about it. They say that people will be able to get tested for the virus. But this is yet to be seen. We as a nation, hope that the government will do better than what we are hearing but not seeing right now.”

The mother-of-three who owns a school and runs an events business is fearful that the Haitian government is merely copying the COVID-19 moves of the US government rather than determining a solution to suit Haiti.  “The government,” asserts Any, “are not connected with the reality of the local people. They need to make local decisions for us. In some cities, in the remote countryside,  people don’t even know about the virus, nor will they know how to take proper precautions against it.  The government has many committees in place to inform the communities but with little or not enough actions.”

She is alarmed, too, at an early reopening of the island, an idea which appears to be getting promoted by the Americans. Comments Any: “One of my main concerns is that our government is about to cave in to the pressure by the United States to reopen the airport and the borders. They say the curve is getting flat to the point that we should not worry about the virus anymore, but we have no certainty of that. Already a lot of people have purchased their tickets for the next flight to Haiti and knowing how fragile my country is, to me, it is depressing. I think that it is when the pandemic is going to knock on our doors because we won’t be able to stop them from coming home. But we won’t have the capacity to know what they are going to bring with them.”

Haiti and Haitian communities across the globe have been petitioning the government not to reopen for business. They have called on the government to keep the borders and airport closed as long as possible. In the absence of a properly funded healthcare system on Haiti, many on the island are turning to traditional medicines to boost their immune systems. These herbal-based remedies are credited by some to help fight diseases such as Zika virus and Chikungunya fever.

“I am not saying that it is the answer, but I have known a few Haitians in Florida that got great results after they got infected with the coronavirus. Neem leaves and glove tea helps to maintain the immune system and azithromycin have been beneficial for them.  But everyone is different, and it is always safe to see a doctor before taking any medication,” Any points out.

It is little wonder that islanders are turning to traditional medicine for treatment. According to Any, the island is not remotely close to having a proper well-equipped hospital with trained staff.  “Sad to say, but our government officials never focus on this issue because they always think that they could get medical treatment in other developed countries."

COVID-19 is now teaching governments around the world that they have the power to lead and must do so correctly and set in place a decent infrastructure for the people who gave them this power.

Haitians, however, are no strangers to chaos. Or lockdowns. Compared to the four-month lockdown last year, this COVID-19 lockdown is very calm. “Haiti is not new to this procedure, I had seen worse than the COVID-19 lockdown from September to early December in 2019,” explains Any.

“All we had was a phone to ask our friends and family how their neighbourhood was as the flames, and the smell of the tires in the barricades were burning. We couldn’t even go out for groceries without fearing getting attacked by the protestors or getting caught in a crossfire. Since this government took office, it got out of hand a few times in February for ten days,  in July for a month then in September for two solid months of fear and total chaos. So many Haitians had to leave the country, and many families got separated for that reason.”

The result is a people that are exhausted by turmoil and reeling from the economic consequences of a pandemic shut down in a country with no unemployment benefit. COVID-19 appears inevitably set to be their next catastrophe.

So far only a handful of Haitians have died of COVID-19 and 72 cases have been confirmed. However, with only around 500 tests conducted, the real number of infections is undoubtedly higher. This is especially likely after migrant workers flooded across the border from the Dominican Republic, which has reported over 5,000 cases and more than 250 deaths.

Haiti is a sovereign Caribbean island and the population is 11 million. The official languages are Creole and French. Haiti is often described as the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.  Only half the population has access to running water or health care. The per capita income of less than $900 pitches Haiti at the same level as Eritrea and Burkina Faso.

 

 

 

 

A community-run group in South Uist is to receive a slice of National Lottery cash aimed at helping people to look with positivity beyond the Covid-19 crisis together.

The National Lottery Community Fund announced today (Tuesday 28 April) that it is distributing £7 million to 141 groups across the UK, including to deliver emergency care packages, online and telephone support to isolated people and for projects which bring people together and give hope for the future once the lockdown is over.

Cothrom Ltd in Ormiclate, South Uist is to receive £102,987 to expand community activity at their ReStore project, adding more opportunities for volunteers to take part in recycling work.

The activity is being designed to promote community cohesion, reduce loneliness and increase people’s well-being, with 50 people including 25 volunteers expected to participate.

Cothrom’s ReStore project, including the Bùth ReStore, is currently closed in line with Government advice, but the group will use the funding once lockdown is over to expand community activity.

It’s hoped that by doing so they’ll be able to provide more opportunities for volunteers to take part in recycling activities, designed to promote community cohesion, reduce loneliness and increase people's well-being.  The activity will involve 50 people and 25 volunteers.

Meanwhile the first round of funding has also been confirmed from the Scottish Government’s £10 million Survivors of Childhood Abuse Support fund.

£2.5 million is to be divided between 29 organisations nationwide, with Western Isles Rape Crisis Centre among those to receive support.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman urged survivors to continue seeking help from organisations which are still open and working through the pandemic.

Ms Freeman said: “Childhood abuse devastates lives and this fund will help charities and support organisations continue to offer high quality care to those who need it most.

“As we continue to take measures to deal with the spread of COVID-19, it is vital that survivors do not feel they have to struggle on their own.”

Shumela Ahmed, a member of the advisory panel which looked at funding applications, said: “Survivor organisations across Scotland are still operating during the COVID-19 crisis and this fund will allow for provision to be readily available throughout lockdown, so please continue to reach out if you need help.”

 

NHS Western Isles has today (Monday) commenced testing for SARS-CoV-2 virus, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 infection.

Following local validation to national standards, the Western Isles Hospital laboratory is now accepting samples for testing, with an anticipated turnaround time of approximately three hours, compared to one or more days when testing has previously had to be undertaken on the mainland.

During the next couple of days, sampling packs will be distributed to the Uists and to Barra, rolling out access to the Stornoway Laboratory testing service across the islands.

The machine capacity will be a maximum of 64 tests a day.

The following categories of patients will be offered testing as per current national guidance:

Individuals requiring hospital admission with

  • Clinical or radiological evidence of pneumonia or
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome or
  • Influenza like illness (fever ≥37.8°C and at least one of the following respiratory symptoms, which must be of acute onset: persistent cough (with or without sputum), hoarseness, nasal discharge or congestion, shortness of breath, sore throat, wheezing, sneezing).
  1. Any patient in hospital (whether a new admission or existing patient) with new respiratory symptoms, fever or worsening of a pre-existing respiratory condition.
  2. Any symptomatic resident or staff member in a care home for whom, following clinical assessment, testing is considered appropriate.
  3. Symptomatic key health, social care or Category 1 workers, or symptomatic household members of such workers where a negative test would allow an earlier return to work from self-isolation.
  4. People being admitted to care homes from home, hospital or other location.

In addition, following discussion with Health Protection, hospital clinicians will be able to offer testing to patients being admitted to a Western Isles hospital for any reason, and GPs and community physicians will be able to offer testing to people they see in primary care with symptoms of COVID-19 infection so that we can gain a better picture and clearer understanding of the local spread of the virus.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson said: “Being able to test for COVID-19 here in the Western Isles marks a very welcome step forward for us.

"Local testing with a shorter timeframe for the results will allow us to manage patient demand better, and to inform patients and their families of results sooner than before.”

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Site caravan, Eriskay

Mrs Mary Kirkpatrick of Sgath-Na-Creag, Ludag East Kilbride, Isle of South Uist, has applied for planning permission to site a caravan at 1D Haun, Isle of Eriskay. The caravan is already on site. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

Castlebay

Premier Construction Barra has applied for planning permission in principle to use the land at 46A Kentangaval as a caravan site comprising holiday let units to be used in the summer. The holiday let units would be a 6x2 kit and would consist of one bedroom, one bathroom and a kitchen/dining area.  The land is currently unused as it contains a lot of rock and is unsuitable for animals. 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New house with integral garage, Newmarket

Broadband Homes Ltd has applied for planning permission to build a new house with intergral garage at 46D Newmarket. The house is to consist of four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, and open plan family area / kitchen, a utility room, a porch and an integral garage. Work is to include creating a new access, parking suitable for two cars and installing an air source heat pump. 

Redirection of overhead line, Lochs

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks has applied for planning permission to redirect the existing 132 kW overhead line on the Lochs road to facilitate the use of the new transformers at Stornoway substation. 

New garage, Tong

Stuart Macdonald of 10 Tong Road, Tong, has applied for planning permission to erect a new garage within the existing property boundary at 10 Tong Road, Tong. The garage is to be 12 metres long, 7 metres wide and 3.817 metres tall. 

NHS Western Isles is encouraging workplaces and individuals across the Western Isles to observe a nationwide One Minute Silence being held tomorrow at 11am.

The One Minute Silence is in honour and remembrance of all health, care and key workers who stood firm in the fight against COVID-19, but have sadly lost their lives.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive, Gordon Jamieson, said: “We would encourage individuals and workplaces across the Western Isles to please recognise, respect, and reflect on this, the ultimate sacrifice.”

And NHS Western Isles, in partnership with Big Health Ltd,  ispleased to offer access to the clinically tested insomnia App Sleepio for residents of the Outer Hebrides experiencing sleep difficulties or insomnia.

The pilot is supported by Scottish Government Technology Enabled Care programme and begins today (27th April 2020) for a period of nine months initially.  NHS Western Isles appreciate that more people than ever are likely to be facing sleep difficulties at this time as they cope with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.  It is hoped by providing online access to psychological support for sleep this will help while people face social restrictions during the ongoing pandemic.

The Sleepio service adds to range of existing online psychological support tools that may help people to cope with range of psychological stresses they may be having during the current pandemic.  These digital tools include iESO which people may access themselves via website or online CBT which is available via their GP.

Martin Malcolm, NHS Western Isles Head of Public Health Intelligence and Project Lead, said “NHS Western Isles has been working on a project to test access to online CBT for insomnia.  We realised how this could help people increasingly struggling with this problem in the current coronavirus pandemic particularly as they face restricted access to traditional psychological services.  As a result we have been able to quickly make the Sleepio online CBT programme available across the islands supported by our mPower Community Navigator service so avoiding need for people to visit their GP to gain access.”

What is Sleepio?

Sleepio is an online sleep improvement programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Participants learn techniques and strategies to help improve sleeping patterns naturally, that may allow them to avoid the need for sleeping pills (any changes to medication would only be done in discussion with a patient's GP).

Those taking part in Sleepio pilot will have access to the online app 24/7 over an initial period of six weeks while they complete the programme and thereafter for up to a year if they feel it is helpful.  The Sleepio app uses daily sleep diaries and weekly 20-30 minute tailored sleep guide sessions based on personalised sleep scores and CBT techniques.

The aim of the Sleepio pilot is to see whether using the digital ‘Sleepio’ app can provide people with a tool that improves their sleeping patterns naturally while potentially also avoiding the need for sleeping pills.  Further information on the online Sleepio App is available at their website- https://go.bighealth.com/sleepio_nhs

How can people access the Sleepio programme?

To use the Sleepio app you must be over 18 and a resident in the Outer Hebrides.  You will also need a digital device (a tablet/PC or Laptop – a Smartphone is not suitable) with access to the internet. As part of the pilot project there may be support offered to those who do not have access to the required digital equipment.

Those interested in using the Sleepio service can do so by getting in touch with their local mPower team by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephoning (01851) 708022.

The Community Navigator will then contact those who have expressed an interest at a convenient time to provide a code for accessing the online Sleepio service, and check they have the required digital device setup. 

They will also be able to give further information on Sleepio as well as offer wider mental wellbeing support and help participants progress through the online programme with follow-up calls.  The mPower service was set up to assist people with both accessing digital health support and wider support for managing their health conditions. 

For further information on the NHS Western Isles mPower service please visit: https://western-isles.mpowerhealth.eu/

Anyone experiencing sleep difficulties are asked to contact their local mPower Community Navigator if they wish to discuss using the Sleepio app, who will contact them by email or phone. 

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust has given grants of £5,000 each to the community councils in its immediate area, to be used as ‘hardship funds’ to help residents suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.

Point, Sandwick and Stornoway Community Councils received the money which is to be spent at their discretion and was directed to the community councils in recognition of “their vital role as grassroots organisations”, in touch with their communities and able to co-ordinate aid efforts.

It is the second grant to be announced from Point and Sandwick Trust’s pandemic community fund, following a £40,000 donation to NHS Western Isles earlier in April – the biggest one-off donation made in the history of the organisation, which runs the 100 per cent community-owned Beinn Ghrideag wind farm near Stornoway.

The NHS money is to be mainly used to support frontline NHS staff and covid-19 patients, and will also hopefully benefit cancer patients. Decisions are still to be made by the community councils about how best to manage the hardship funds but some applications for help have already been received and been responded to.

Donald John MacSween, general manager of Point and Sandwick Trust, said: “Point and Sandwick Trust were very pleased to make substantial grants to the community councils, recognising their vital role as grassroots organisations who know their communities well and are well placed to co-ordinate efforts to help people cope with the difficult circumstances we are experiencing.

“The special grants we have provided are to be used by the community councils at their discretion. The only caveats Point and Sandwick Trust have stipulated is that the fund has to remain strictly in the control of the councils – they are not to be handed over to a third person, party or organisation, or used to fill funding gaps created by austerity cuts.

“PST will be working closely with local community councils in the months ahead, and we hope to make further announcements on community support in the next few weeks.”

Responding to the grants, Alex John Murray, newly appointed as chair of Point Community Council, warmly welcomed the fund “to meet with the needs that might arise” and stressed the community council would be having discussions, with the guidance of Point and Sandwick Trust, about how to distribute the money.

Joan Muir, chair of Stornoway Community Council, said: “Sincere thanks from Stornoway Community Council to Point and Sandwick Trust for the generous grants provided not only to NHS Western Isles but also to our community council. The financial gift will help us to provide much-needed support direct to those who need it during these unprecedented times.”

Sandy Morrison, deputy chair of Sandwick Community Council, said: “We were very happy to hear that Point and Sandwick Trust offered a £5,000 grant towards our local community use, in light of the current covid-19 crisis. 

“We have not met as a committee to fully discuss a direction for these funds. But having the funding in place would allow the committee to move quickly in any required direction.

“These funds could be used towards some social events to help rebuild our community spirit after the restrictions are eased. But also if the crisis worsens in the coming weeks/months we have a substantial cash pot to direct at any crisis within the community.

“Once again, Point and Sandwick Trust are showing how a well run community organisation, by the community, for the community benefits us all.”

Announcing the creation of the pandemic community fund last month, Calum Macdonald, the former MP for the Western Isles who is also the development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust, said the Point and Sandwick Trust board had decided to devote “all the income that isn’t already committed to key local organisations like Bethesda to support the community effort we are going to need to get through the pandemic.”

He added: “Whatever happens, we will have to pull together to help each other and also to help the fantastic health and care workers we have in these islands to tackle this virus.”

The Facebook page Western Isles Weather has today (Monday 27 April) become the unexpected location for an outpouring of love and appreciation for island life.

The weather page set a challenge for followers after some of those who’d planned a trip to the islands this year expressed their disappointment at the cancellation of holiday plans.

The page co-ordinators said: “A few people are really gutted about not being able to come to the islands this year. They love seeing photos of the islands on this page, as it brings lots of memories and makes them look forward to a time when we are open again. 

“If people would share one photo of the islands, include location and what the picture is of. It doesn’t have to be weather – it can be a building, a place, an event, a moment – something that captures Hebridean life.”

Island-lovers responded with enthusiasm, posting more than 300 pictures within 12 hours. And although many showed the beautiful scenery, wildlife and beaches we’ve come to expect, there were also some more unexpected aspects of island life highlighted.

A spokesman for the page said: “It’s really amazing to see and hopefully has raised a smile for many people seeing familiar places to which they will one day return. We’re chuffed with the huge response, which made us smile and really does show the love people feel for the islands.”

We’ve posted a selection of the pictures here, but you can view the full love letter to the islands at www.facebook.com/WesternIslesWeather/ 

Eoligarry beach, Barra, taken yesterday (Barbara MacNeil-Smyth)

 

On the Boat (Ja Ca)

 

Port of Ness, October – Doggie heaven (Hilary Burns)

 

The phonebox on Scarp, installed in 1946 (Colin Macleod)

 

South Uist otter (Julie Kelty)

 

Temple Sands, Little Bernera at 10pm (Simon Butler)

 

Despite reports of fly-tipping, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has confirmed, in line with Scottish Government guidance, that Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in the Western Isles will remain closed.

There are five HWRCs in the Western Isles which are located in Habost, Ness; Creed Park Waste Management Facility, Lochs Road; Urgha, Harris, Market Stance, Benbecula and Garrygall, Barra. The Comhairle accepts this will be inconvenient to many householders but is asking island residents to be patient.

A Comhairle spokesperson said: “The position is the same across the whole of Scotland as all Local Authority HWRCs in Scotland are currently closed. Although we accept that this will be a cause of inconvenience to many householders, we would ask everyone to be patient. All of the Covid-19 related restrictions placed on our communities are designed to protect – especially the more vulnerable members of our community.” 

The current guidance position is that HWRCs should remain closed whilst CnES awaits further guidance from Scottish Government on whether and when travelling to an HWRC is considered an essential journey and if the operation of a Household Waste Recycling Centre is deemed as a critical service.

The Scottish Government is currently looking at the full impacts of HWRC’s re-opening and how this will be managed.  As soon as the situation changes to allow HWRC’s to re-open, we will inform members of when and how this will be implemented in a way that protects staff and the public.”

CnES acknolwedged there have been some reports of waste being fly tipped as a result of the closure of HWRC facilities.  The spokesperson continued: “Fly tipping is a criminal activity which can result in a large financial penalty or even a custodial sentence and should not be acceptable in any community.

“Please ask any resident who witnesses the illegal dumping of waste to report it.  This can be reported to SEPA, Police Scotland, Environmental Health or by using the Dumb Dumpers hotline 0845 2 30 40 90 or website https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/DumbDumpers.’

Donations to the Bethesda on-line appeal by Sandwick Bay Candles carried on rising at more than £1000 an hour yesterday evening (Tuesday April 28) and through this morning, rising to £100 a minute over lunchtime.

The draw closes at 4pm today (Wednesday April 29).

The draw is forecast to take place at 8pm which is set to be a bonanza evening for many, as islanders settle down for the live-stream draw in the islands’ first virtual raffle.

So far, more than 3270 individual donations have been made.

But what will the total have reached by tonight?

UPDATE: 15.42 29.04.2020 – total reached…£66,623

UPDATE: 14.11 29.04.2020 – total reached…£61,659

UPDATE: 12.32 29.04.2020 – total reached…£56,527

UPDATE: 09.23 29.04.2020 – total reached…£50,152

UPDATE: 08.52 29.04.2020 – total reached…£49,282

UPDATE: 06.12 29.04.2020 – total reached…£47,931

UPDATE: 22.08 28.04.2020 – total reached…£44,603

UPDATE: 21.09 28.04.2020 – total reached…£43,221

UPDATE: 19.44 28.04.2020 – total reached…£40,857

UPDATE: 18.40 28.04.2020 – total reached…£39,250

UPDATE: 14.10 28.04.2020 – total reached…£35,778

UPDATE: 05.52 28.04.2020 – total reached…£33,276

UPDATE: 20.05 27.04.2020 – total reached…£30,113

UPDATE: 18.53 27.04.2020 – total reached…£29,257

UPDATE: 14.45 27.04.2020 – total reached…£27,847

A flood of small donations and an anonymous £100 took the total past an amazing £30,000 around 8pm on Monday!

More businesses join in!

Additional business supporting the event include:

  • Boots Pharmacy - £50 gift card
  • SparKlean - £25 voucher
  • Buttercup and Wren - £40 voucher
  • Sweenyness - lambskin rug
  • Donald Smith Graphic Design - set of 3 Scottish posters
  • The Barbers - 3 free men's haircuts
  • Sixan7 Self Catering, New Holdings - 2 night stay for up to 6 adults (low season) 
  • Ralia Hair extensions & Makeup - 1-1 make up training day £199
  • 3 Sail Loft - weekend stay (Fri-Sun) when restrictions lifted  https://www.3sailloft.co.uk/

Additional prizes by 2pm on Tuesday April 28 included:

  • Back and Sides - men's hamper
  • M Mac Photography - photoshoot valued at £60 
  • Anderson & Macarthur / Hebridean Estate Agency - 12 bottles of wine
  • Carpet World - £50 voucher
  • Hebridean Copper Kettle Fudge - hamper of fudge
  • Loom Graphics - King and Queen T-shirt  https://www.loomgraphics.com/
  • Cross Stores Ness - £50
  • Eilidh's Wedding and Events company - £100 voucher
  • Scalpay Shellfish hamper
  • Scalpay Harris Tweed - £50 voucher
  • Rangers Club - bottle of Whisky and club merchandise 
  • Eagleton Bed and Breakfast - 1 night stay
  • David Speer - Pet Portrait valued at £100
  • N°11 Hair By Lynette - Cut and Blowdry
  • Tangles Hair Design - £50 voucher with Emma
  • Artizan - piece of jewellery worth £100

Earlier additions were…

  • Buildbase - x2 Bulk Bags of Concrete Mix, x10 Rugby Cement 25kg bags. Delivered to site in Lewis or Harris.
  • HebrideanGems - 30cm by 30cm piece of abstract fluid art
  • Makeup by Al - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/muamaca/
  • Floor to Floor - 80 x 150cm rug
  • M Mac Photography - photoshoot
  • Tesco - giftcards
  • Sea PINK aroma - £50 voucher
  • Hebridean Bothy Pods - x1 night stay www.hebrideanbothypods.com
  • Island Dark Room - 25 x 25cm print www.islanddarkroom.com

Earlier still………

The Sandwick Bay Candles on-line fundraising campaign for Bethesda hospice shot past £26,000 overnight (Sunday April 26th).

In total, the venture now has more than 1380 supporters who will be holding tickets for Wednesday's draw as long as they confirm their participation by email.

But the Justgiving page will remain open even after the raffle to enable continued donations.

Sandwick Bay Candles' Megan Macdonald originally launched the virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda hospice with a hamper worth £100 and the modest aim of raising £2,000 for the vital local service.

The raffle now has around 120 prizes donated by local businesses to be won when you purchase a 'ticket' by donating online here.

The draw will close at 4pm on Wednesday April 29 and the draw will take place at 8pm which is set to be a bonanza evening for many, as islanders settle down for the live-stream draw in the islands’ first virtual raffle.

With more local businesses joining in all the time, here's the most recent additions to list of the prizes on offer…

  • Shiantview Cottage, Orinsay, Isle of Lewis - 4 night stay (mid October - end of March) www.hebrideanselfcateringholidays.com 
  • Islewear Jewellery - £100 voucher
  • Margarita Williams, Holmasaig Gallery - £100 voucher 
  • Brue House - £100 to spend on Harris Tweed products www.bruehouse.co.uk 
  • The Lighthouse Gift Shop - Harris Gin bottle lamp with Harris Tweed shade

And here's the earlier list of the prizes on offer…

  • Salka Jewellery - £100 of sea glass jewellery  www.salkajewellery.com/ 
  • The Crown Inn Hotel Stornoway - Takeaway pizza and sides for 4  AND if we reach £20000 in donations they are offering FREE food for LIFE for ONE person. T&C's apply
  • Body and Sole - skin care pack http://www.bodyandsolestornoway.co.uk/
  • Cards and gift wrap - craft kit   www.cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/
  • The Blue Lobster - voucher for 2 hot drinks, 2 bakes and a mini goodybag from their fabulous lifestyle shop
  • Bronwen Roberts Hair - cut blowdry and Olaplex (Inverness) treatment www.facebook.com/bronwenrobertshairx/
  • Immerse Hebrides - £30 voucher   www.immersehebrides.com/
  • Stramash Ness Hamper of goodies  www.etsy.com/uk/shop/StramashNess
  • Camerons Chip Shop - £20 voucher
  • The Crafty Weaver - Harris Tweed items www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheCraftyWeaverStore
  • Maybury Gardens - filled pot  www.bespoke-blooms.co.uk/
  • Rosemarie's Pantry - cake and cookies  www.rosemariespantry.co.uk/
  • Gill Thompson Harbour Print - pack of cards  www.facebook.com/gillthompsonartistprintmaker/
  • Halo Bags - Mixed Family bag of goodies  www.facebook.com/halobagsstornoway/
  • Tropic Skincare with Sharon - £50 voucher  www.tropicskincare.com/sharonmacdonald 
  • Stag Bakeries - 3 delicious cakes www.stagbakeries.co.uk/
  • Hebrides Dance Studio - £25 voucher http://www.hebridesdance.co.uk/
  • BE Designed by K £20 voucher  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BEDesignedbyK
  • Callanish Digital Design - print or chopping board https://www.callanishdigitaldesign.com/
  • Eleven Restaurant - £50 voucher  https://www.caladhinn.co.uk/stornoway-restaurants-2/
  • Delights - £75 voucher http://www.delights-hebridean.com/
  • Pickleberry Studios - handcrafted goodies  https://www.instagram.com/pickleberrystudios/
  • The Lash and Brow Room - £30 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/the_lashandbrow_room/
  • Sugar Sweet Treats - treat box  https://www.instagram.com/sugarsweettreatssty/
  • Fitness Studio Stornoway - £50 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/fitnessstudiosy/
  • Co-op Macaulay Road - Fabulous Hamper
  • Body Shop - Louise Morrison £50 of products
  • Sea in Design - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/seaanddesign/
  • Eilean Siar Hampers - small gift box  https://www.facebook.com/eileansiarhampers/
  • Aperture Lane Photography - £70 digital gift voucher https://www.aperturelanephotography.com/
  • Gneiss Things - pair of handcarved stone keyrings  https://www.gneiss-things.com/
  • Island Whisky Shop - bottle of Jura Whisky
  • Pixie Bheag - https://www.facebook.com/PixieBheag
  • Ishga - men's and women's gift set  https://uk.ishga.com/
  • Blue Reef Cottages - 2 night stay. To be taken during low season November to March excluding Christmas/New Year and if / when restrictions are lifted. Max occupancy 2 adults.          https://www.stay-hebrides.com/
  • Coralbox Gift Shop - otter teatowel  https://www.ecwid.com/store/coralbox/
  • Hebrides Alpha - Harris Tweed Clock  http://www.harristweedclock.co.uk/
  • Influence - https://www.facebook.com/Influencestornoway/
  • ENJO with Debbie Lamb - £30 voucher  https://www.facebook.com/enjoukwithdebbielamb/
  • Dancing Flower Crafts - 2 prizes Harris Tweed washbag £25 and cushion £55  https://m.facebook.com/dancingflowercrafts
  • Moorfield Cottage - Isle of Harris. Any winter week Saturday to Saturday between the end of September and end of March either this year 2020/21 or 2021/22. Ideal for a couple  https://www.facebook.com/moorfieldharris/
  • Traigh Mhor Pony Trekking - x3 riding lessons for 2 people valued at £90  https://www.tolsta41.com/
  • Comunn Eachdraidh Nis - afternoon tea for 3 people
  • Donnie's Wee Tablet Shed - 1kg of tablet www.lochleventabletcompany.co.uk
  • Home and Floors - £50 voucher
  • Lewisian Nice - harris tweed heart garland and lucky dip bag
  • Corncrake Holiday cottage - weekend getaway
  • Edith & Finlay's Habost Hens - Hamper including eggs, candle, prosecco, bottle of gin, mug, chocolate, biscuits etc
  • £25 xbox voucher - from Aidan (gifting from his birthday presents!)
  • Adventure Island Stornoway - family visit includes two kids entry, food and drink for two adults/two children
  • Isle of Harris Distillers - A martini serve gift set (shipping only within the UK)
  • Sundown Cottages - 2 night stay  https://sundown-cottages.com/
  • Kenny Macarthur and Bruce Mackenzie - 2 tradesmen/joiners for the day
  • The Sports Emporium - TSE Wheely Holdall Luggage Bag - 90L Capacity (Norrie Petrie) Free UK Shipping
  • Derek Mackinnon Photography - £150 framed photo https://www.derekmackinnonphotography.co.uk/
  • Rarebird - £50 voucher 
  • Uig Candles - £50 voucher
  • Decor8 - £100 voucher
  • Surf Lewis - £40 voucher
  • Coaching with Alanah - 12 week nutrition coaching program
  • Stornoway Painters and Decorators - £50 paint voucher
  • Hebrides Bothy - 1 night stay https://hebridesbothy.com/
  • Moran Gaol - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/morangaol
  • Alice Mac Prints - A fabulous skylarks print  https://www.alicemacprints.co.uk/
  • EJayDesign - Gold hanging frame of Scotland  https://www.facebook.com/EJaydesign/
  • County Hotel Stornoway - £50 voucher
  • Tiger Textiles - framed print www.tigertextiles.moonfruit.com/ 
  • Heb Fizzies - £25 goodie bag www.facebook.com/Hebfizzies
  • Island Bites, Isle of Harris - £20 voucher
  • Harris & Lewis Smokehouse - £50 voucher
  • Laxdale Holiday Park - 2 nights in a Wigwam for 2 people  http://www.laxdaleholidaypark.com/
  • Lewis Macleod Driving School - 5 driving lessons and a guaranteed slot in the driving school
  • The Kitchen Centre - £250 to be used against a fitted kitchen or fitted bathroom
  • Heatherlea Cottage, Skigersta Isle of Lewis - 4 night stay  https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/31138149 

Pitcairn is one of 26 countries and territories in the world that has thus far escaped the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Taylor Edgar.

And Pitcairn, the speck in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean made famous by the Bounty mutineers, would rather keep it that way.

For, with 44 inhabitants and located thousands of miles from any major landmass, Pitcairn islanders are incredibly vulnerable if the coronavirus was ever to make landfall.

Simon Young, the editor of Pitcairn’s Miscellany newsletter, with typical islander equanimity, admits the island is not going to be “well situated” if coronavirus arrives.

He told welovestornoway.com: “We have no ICU.  It is possible to medivac but realistically extremely difficult as the nearest hospital is 1,500 miles away in Papeëte, Tahiti. This journey alone translates as two days by boat to the nearest island in French Polynesia, which has an airport, and then a flight, which only goes to Papeëte once a week. Plus, you have the problem of getting a boat. The only vessel capable is the supply ship which visits once every three months and is not permanently anchored at Pitcairn on standby.  So limited health care options here are the price of paradise.”

A Yorkshireman by birth, Simon has lived on Pitcairn - an island group that makes St Kilda appear positively suburban - for the past 20 years with his American wife, Shirley. They are part of the 38 permanent resident community, the island’s population being swollen to 44 by temporary workers including the doctor and a police officer.

Simon and Shirley are well used to the realities of the daily life of Pitcairn, one of two British territories, the other being St Helena, that are uninfected. But Pitcairn is far from blasé about the possible existential threat posed by COVID-19. Subject to a game-changing vaccine, Simon finds it difficult to imagine an exit strategy that does not involve opening Pitcairn’s borders and having the virus go through the community.

Ironically, for now, it is Pitcairn’s sheer remoteness that maybe its saving grace. Pitcairn has pulled up the drawbridge, sealing its borders and denying entry to all visitors.

There is only one harbour, and that’s used exclusively by locals.  The harbour’s draft is not deep enough to accommodate large vessels, including the island’s lifeline supply ship. Outside vessels anchor offshore and rely on islanders to ferry visitors and supplies on to the island. But due to Covid-19, this is no longer the case.

“All contact with the vessels is now prohibited except for the supply ship.  Currently, yachts, container ships, cruise ships are welcome to circumnavigate the island, but that is all,” explains Simon.

“The only outside vessel permitted now is our supply ship, which comes with supplies approximately every three months.  Any locals who are currently off are returning on this vessel.  It comes from New Zealand and takes 14 days to arrive, which is a reasonable incubation period.  We also have had them restrict their movements for the 14 days before embarkation in New Zealand.  So probably our regulations are extremely tight in comparison to others.”

Pitcairn is now holding its breath and feeling fortunate that COVID-19 has not reached them so far.

“Many are fearful it could get here, and with the limited health care then a higher than average death rate will likely be experienced.  In a community of 38 locals, any loss is deeply felt,” says Simon.

In the meantime, life goes on, albeit under challenging circumstances. The local economy, which depends on tourism,  is being hit by the lack of visitors. Likewise, the island’s sole government-operated shop is limiting sales to customers. As the shop is worried they may struggle to restock from their usual suppliers in New Zealand due to global restrictions.

But it is not all bad news. As Simon points out: “We live on a lush island surrounded by enormous fish stocks. The Pitcairn Islands are a No-Take Marine Protected Area of 830,000 sq/km, except for local fishing for consumption.  The soil is fertile, and we can grow all fruits and vegetables imaginable except for plants requiring vernalization.”

One thing that he is sure won’t change is the community spirit. With one doctor in the local health centre, there is an inherent desire to pull together as a community. This even extends to mounting night shifts to care for anyone that has become sick and requires care.  And COVID-19 is unlikely to change this, Simon feels.

With their isolation and robust measures in place, it seems unlikely that COVID-19 will get a foothold in Pitcairn until the islanders themselves decide to lift their restrictions. As a result, limiting movements has not been felt necessary.

Laughs Simon: “We are not limited to movement of any kind. Though you could argue we are limited by the two square miles of land, that is not seen as a limitation here.  So in that sense, we carry on as normal, public dinners, public gatherings, fishing, gardening, maintenance of homes, government jobs, all proceed normally.”

Only time and the eventual lifting of visitor restrictions will tell whether Pitcairn sees off Covid-19 with the same survival instincts as their Bounty mutineer forebears.

 About Pitcairn and Simon and Shirley Young

  • Pitcairn, made famous as the refuge of The Bounty Mutineers, is the sole inhabited island of a group of four volcanic islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is a British Overseas Territory, and home to 39 permanent residents descended mainly from the nine Bounty mutineers and a handful of Tahitians that accompanied them.
  • Pitcairn lies approximately halfway between New Zealand (3,400 miles away) and South America; Peru lies 3,500 miles distant.
  • The total landmass of Pitcairn is 4.6 square kilometres. To put this in perspective, the town of Stornoway covers some 3.16 square kilometres.
  • Simon Young shares a surname with one of the Bounty mutineers, Ned Young, but is not related. Though he may not be a mutineer descendant, Simon and his wife, Shirley do have a claim to fame.  They are the first couple, with no connection to Pitcairn, to become permanent residents on the island in its 231-year history. They are British Overseas Territories Citizens and residents of Pitcairn with Naturalisation certificates serial numbers 001 and 002. Shirley is the only American-born resident.

 

 

Recorded crime has fallen by around a quarter since Coronavirus measures to support physical distancing came into effect, early indications from Police Scotland suggest.

Serious assaults have been reduced by around 40% while common assault has fallen by just over 25% between Tuesday, 24 March, and Sunday, 19 April, 2020, when compared to the same time last year. Housebreakings are down around 30%.

Meanwhile 'public nuisance' type incidents, generally relating to people reporting those they believe are failing to adhere to physical distancing guidance, have more than doubled and now account for around a fifth of all incidents.

Noise incidents have also increased significantly, anecdotally related to the increased time which people are believed to be spending in their home addresses. 

The provisional management information, which may be subject to adjustment, suggests that breach of the peace has fallen by over 50% while possession of drugs is down by around a fifth.

Fraud, however, has increased by over 10% and there is some evidence that criminals are specifically exploiting the coronavirus public health emergency to commit offences.

Deputy Chief Constable Fiona Taylor said: “While decreases in assaults and housebreaking are to be welcomed, this information covers a relatively short period of time and care must be taken to avoid assumptions about trends.

“We are seeing, for example, a slight decrease in domestic abuse incidents but are acutely aware this may not reflect what is happening behind closed doors and we know that people don’t always report abuse immediately.

“For some, this period of physical distancing and isolation may expose them to a greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect.

“We have been using our social media channels to highlight our concern and raise awareness in communities. We want people to feel safe and we want to prevent harm by identifying people who may be at risk, and putting in place measures that will help keep them safe.

“There will be no change to how we respond to child protection issues. Protecting children and reducing harm remains a priority for Police Scotland.”

DCC Taylor said: “These early indications suggest that there are fewer crimes committed on the streets and in our town and city centres because the overwhelming majority of people are stepping forward to do their part to protect the NHS and save lives.

“I would like to thank people for their continued co-operation and support as Police Scotland carries out our role in supporting the national effort to make the changes needed to combat the spread of coronavirus.”

Police Scotland routinely publishes detailed management information on a quarterly basis here.

Visit nhsinform.scot/coronavirus and gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/ for the latest guidance on COVID-19

Daft dancing at 111 beats per minute is needed to help launch the new album by Isle of Lewis electro-trad band Face The West.

The island favourites had been off the live scene for some years until a series of gigs in 2019 showed they were still kicking and still drawing in the crowds.

But plans for launch of a much-expected new album have been thrown out of the window by the Covid-19 pandemic, leading keyboard player Keith Morrison of Wee Studio to issue the video dance appeal to fans.

The new plan is for an inclusive, fan dancing video to give everyone something fun to be a part of.

Keith said: "We are looking for people of all ages to record themselves doing silly (or serious) dancing to a track at 111 beats per minute.  We recommend dancing to 'Daft Punk - Da Funk' which has the correct timing and feel. 

“We've had loads of amazing entries so far of everything from trampoline stunts to rocking air guitar in the kitchen with wigs.  Looking forward to seeing everyone else's ideas!  We only need around 30 seconds of dancing from each person and please try to record your film in landscape format (sideways)."

You can send your videos to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or Face The West on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/facethewestband/ 

Picture shows one of Face The West’s 2019 performances, at the Dileab concert in Lewis Sports Centre.

The launch of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s e-Cèilidh on Saturday night (25 April) has been declared a hit, with nearly 6,000 people tuned in to watch a live-streamed hour of local music introduced by Tolsta-based singer and songwriter Willie Campbell.

The opening night programme featured performances from this year’s Celtic Connections Dileab concert in Glasgow, as well as living room contributions from Willie himself, Iain ‘Costello’ Maciver, Neil and Rhona Johnstone

Rhona is also the project co-ordinator and she said: “There is normally so much musical activity which takes place on a daily basis here in the Western Isles, such as music lessons, concerts, sessions, various group rehearsals and choir practices, but sadly that has come to a halt due to the current period of lockdown created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We wanted to find a way to share the musical talent of our islanders, keep the music flowing, use it in a positive way to engage and unite our communities and lift our spirits during these difficult times. I hope that the e-Cèilidh project will do just that and contain something for everyone of all ages regardless of their musical tastes."

Saturday night’s show was launched alongside the Comhairle’s new website at http://www.eileansiareceilidh.com where the broadcasts can also be watched. Between that site and the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/eileansiar.eceilidh 5,800 people tuned in during the performances, which are still available to watch at both locations.

The night was rounded off with a live acoustic set from Charlie Clark, Willie Campbell’s friend and bandmate in the band Astrid.

The next e-Cèilidh is to be presented by Iain Costello Maciver on Saturday 9 May and musicians from all over the islands are being encouraged to submit films of their own performances, in any genre, to contribute to the ceilidh. Details of how to submit are also on the website.

The cèilidhs are a joint production by the Comhairle’s education department and multimedia unit.

Hi Everyone!
 
What a fabulous week it's been.
 
Ruaraidh would like to apologise for the mistakes he has made this week, I had to issue him his first written warning.
 
Thank you for all the lovely messages you have sent, it looks like we will be continuing like this for next couple of weeks.
 
I would like to apologise for selling-out of Raspberry jam last week.  We were quiet taken back by the demand. but we do have a 12 jars this week and 14 jars of Rhubarb jam and there is also a limited supply of fruit cake made by Margaret at Laxay. She also supplied the Good Food Boutique with her cakes, jams and tablet.
 
We are 99% confident that we will have the full complement of Jersey Royals and Cyprus potatoes this week.
 
As previously, if we can have your order in for 12.30 on Monday 27th April please – and if you don't receive a reply with a ref number by Tuesday lunchtime, please get back in touch.
 
The list for this week…
 

UK Asparagus

 

£4.35 bunch

 

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.55

 

Green Cabbage

 

£2.30

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.40

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.35

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Kale 250g

 

£2.35

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£5.40

 

 Carrots

 

£1.90

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.10

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.25

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.30

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.45

 

Jersey Royals

 

£5.45

 

Roosters

 

£1.25

 

Shallots

 

£4.50

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.70

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.60

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.10

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£4.25

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.50

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Washington Red Delicious

 

4 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.65

 

Clementine’s

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Oranges Large 

 

3 for £2.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.80

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.95

 

Rhubarb

 

£4.35

 

Local Marmalade. 340grm

Three Fruit marmalade,

Hint of Ginger,

hint of Whiskey,

Rhubarb jam

Raspberry Jam

 

£3.99

 

 

 

£3.99

£4.25

 

 

Homemade Fruit Cake

 

 

£4.50

 

Western Isles police have issued an appeal for information after a window at the former TalkTalk building in Stornoway was smashed at the weekend.

The damage happened sometime between 9.35pm on Friday (24 April) and 9.15pm on Saturday at the former call centre premises at Glean Seilleach business park on Willowglen Road.

Anybody who may have seen the damage being done, or any evidence of suspicious activity around the area, is asked to call police on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH465/20.

'Peter' finds himself in an unenviable dilemma in COVID-19 stricken Indonesia.

A consultant for a non-profit organization, Peter (not his real name) is stranded in a provincial city 26 miles south of the capital, Jakarta.

“Our situation right now is that we don’t want to leave at this very moment, but we also can’t leave when things escalate. My wife is from Thailand, and I am from the Netherlands. Both countries have barred entry for people that do not have long-term residency permits. So I can’t join my wife on a tourist visa to Thailand, and my wife can’t join me in the Netherlands. Hence, if we want to stay together, we will have to stay in Indonesia.”

But Indonesia is far from well-placed to handle a pandemic. Especially so when coinciding with an outbreak of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne tropical disease common in Asia and South America. According to Peter, Indonesia’s failure to act sooner was because there was a reluctance to take drastic action. However, he has doubts about the effectiveness of the lockdown introduced two weeks ago.

“A full lockdown won’t work here, anyway. People do need to eat, and usually, people here don’t follow any rules. So, whatever the government wants to do, nobody will listen, and it will be all in vain.

“The rainy season is now starting in Indonesia, so we are now seeing an increase in Dengue fever as well. This is a very bad combination and will put a lot of extra pressure on the health system again,” Peter says.

“What worries me the most is not so much the virus but the sentiment of some Indonesians. Especially on Java, there is this angry mob culture. Where a group of people can, all of a sudden, go mental and become violent. The other day there was a small group of students that tried to instigate unrest on Java. They were writing texts like ‘Kill the rich!’ on walls. This kind of sentiment is what worries me more than the actual virus,” comments Peter.

What has not helped matters was the initial wall of secrecy and denial around coronavirus in Indonesia. The real picture of coronavirus in Indonesia, though, is going to be awkward to ascertain as the country is in the bottom four countries for testing per capita. Worryingly, it is feared that only 3% of COVID-19 cases may have been discovered so far.

“According to the WHO, Indonesia has 1.3 physicians per 10,000 people. In the Netherlands, we have 39. That is 30-fold more doctors. That is a very sad number. Even worse is of all the people dying of COVID in Indonesia, around 10% is either a nurse or doctor.

“So the combination of poor diet and lifestyle, lacking a robust health care system, and disregard of government regulations, make for a huge disaster to come by the end of May.”

Officially, the COVID-19 death toll as of April 23 is 600, with around 7000 people infected. But with no routine testing of those who have died in a hospital or at home, the actual number may be far higher. If the 3% detection rate is correct, then there could already be more than 200,000 people infected, making a spike in COVID-19 cases almost inevitable. One potential driver of this spike, the annual ‘mudik’ or exodus to home villages at the end of Ramadan, may have been headed off. The government has just announced that anyone leaving their usual address for the mudik will face a year in jail and/or a 100 million IDR fine ( equivalent to £5226).

Unable to flee to Thailand, the Netherlands or a third country together, all Peter can do is throw a protective shield around his family and hope for the best.

The city in which they live has been in lockdown for a little over a week now. But Peter and his family have holed up at home for almost a month.

“We don’t go out that much anyway, so it doesn’t bother us. Traffic in Java is horrible with traffic jams, so the best thing to do to avoid wasting time is to order online. That is what we used to do before coronavirus, we just took it a step further, and now we order everything,” he explains.

“Most Indonesians, however, don’t have the luxury to be able to stay at home. They do need to eat and often don’t have savings, so they have no choice but to go to work. But a lot of people also don’t seem to care that much, especially men. Women seem to take the situation more seriously. Many people still go to their jobs, train stations are still loaded with people, and a lot of people still go to the mosque contrary to advice.”

Staying at home, then, is insulating Peter’s family from the virus to a large extent. But the poor healthcare available locally remains a worry.

Of more immediate concern, perhaps, is restricting screen time for the children and ensuring his 7-year-old son keeps on top of his schooling.

Says Peter: “I am now working from home. Luckily my work is mostly computer-based anyway so I can continue most of my tasks. So at 8 am I start my computer and set my son up for his morning school meeting. We sit together and work together until lunchtime. I am helping him with schooling more than I am doing my actual job. In the afternoon I help him for another hour until he is finished and then I start to become productive. On Fridays, I focus on his schooling only and don’t work at all which I swap for Saturday. So on Saturday, I can do a lot of the work for which I really need to concentrate.”

To ensure screen time does not become excessive under lockdown, Peter has introduced a badge system, for which he ordered in badges online. For each day they keep their screen time below one hour, excluding educational apps, they earn a badge. When they have amassed seven pins, they get a reward. In his son’s case, this was a piano learning app that he uses when he wakes up in the morning and when he goes to bed.

Despite their current predicament, Peter still hopes to stay on in Indonesia for a few more years once the pandemic has passed. “We enjoy living here. We are very happy with our children’s school. Indonesian people are extremely friendly, and working with them is quite a pleasure,” Peter beams.

A new resource aimed at teaching Gaelic to learners in the early-years environment has been launched early in order to help fill the gap caused by the closure of Gaelic nurseries and Pre-school education settings amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Gàidhlig nan Òg, previewed at last year’s An t-Alltan conference for Gaelic Medium Education (GME) practitioners, was due to have been launched in August 2020 but has been brought forward to help the home-learning community.

The website has been created by Gaelic educational resources agency Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhlig. The new Gàidhlig nan Òg resource can be found online at: www.gaidhlig-nan-og.scot

Maree Todd, Minister for Children and Young People, said: “I would like to warmly commend and thank all at Stòrlann for developing this fabulous resource and launching it at this time. This website for young Gaelic learners is packed with songs, rhymes and activities and will provide vital support for Gaelic learning in early years. It will provide hours of fun and learning and will give young people an excellent start on the road to fluency in the Gaelic language.”

The resource aims to provide parents/carers and early years practitioners with an abundance of themed resources to help the acquisition of Gaelic in pre-school children.

Gàidhlig nan Òg features a series of presentations to teach words and phrases plus supporting soundfiles, illustrations, songs, stories and activities, matched to three stages of language progression. A guidance document with suggestions on how best to use the resource is included.

Shona MacLennan, Ceannard Bòrd na Gàidhlig, said: “Encouraging and enabling young people to develop Gaelic skills is core to our work. We recognise the crucial role of families in bringing up new Gaelic speakers, and we are delighted that this fantastic resource will support them to do that at home, particularly during this time. Credit too must be given to the early years workers who provide support through creative ways of engaging youngsters at home.”

Although aimed at early years practitioners for their day-to-day interactions with children aged 0-5, Gàidhlig nan Òg will also support adult learners, including those who are completely new to Gaelic, and parents wanting to support their children on their Gaelic journey in the home, regardless of whether the parent is a beginner learner, more advanced or fluent.

The resource is presented in themes, including the face and body, numbers, colours, daily routines, the weather, animals and pets, outdoor learning, topical themes such as Halloween and Christmas, and nursery rhymes and traditional songs.

It also contains an optional tracking document, which early years practitioners can use to record a child’s progress and pass on to colleagues and parents.

Donald W Morrison, Chief Executive of Stòrlann Nàiseanta na Gàidhig, said: “Gàidhlig nan Òg will serve as a highly valuable addition to the range of resources available for the acquisition and usage of Gaelic in nursery, pre-school and home settings.

"In this, the most challenging of times, I wish to thank Jackie Mullen for her wonderful work, the Stòrlann team for their efforts in bringing the release date forward and making Gàidhlig nan Òg available for immediate use and Bòrd na Gàidhlig and the Scottish Government for their generous support. Go explore and have fun with Scottish Gaelic!

Onwards and upwards…the Sandwick Bay Candles fundraising campaign for Bethesda hospice shot past £23,000 last night (Saturday April 25th) having exceeded £20,000 just before 3.30pm yesterday. 

Around £11,000 in donations from as far away as New Zealand had poured in over the previous 60 hours.

In total, the venture now has more than 1215 supporters who will be holding tickets for Wednesday's draw as long as they confirm their participation by email.

But the Justgiving page will remain open even after the raffle to enable continued donations.

Sandwick Bay Candles' Megan Macdonald had earlier launched the virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda hospice with a hamper worth £100 and the modest aim of raising £2,000 for the vital local service.

The raffle now has around 80 prizes donated by local businesses to be won when you purchase a 'ticket' by donating online here.

The draw will close at 4pm on Wednesday April 29 and the draw will take place at 8pm which is set to be a bonanza evening for many, as islanders settle down for the live-stream draw in the islands’ first virtual raffle.

With more local businesses joining in all the time, here's the most recent additions to list of the prizes on offer…

  • Island Bites, Isle of Harris - £20 voucher
  • Harris & Lewis Smokehouse - £50 voucher
  • Laxdale Holiday Park - 2 nights in a Wigwam for 2 people  http://www.laxdaleholidaypark.com/
  • Lewis Macleod Driving School - 5 driving lessons and a guaranteed slot in the driving school
  • The Kitchen Centre - £250 to be used against a fitted kitchen or fitted bathroom
  • Heatherlea Cottage, Skigersta Isle of Lewis - 4 night stay  https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/31138149 

And here's the earlier list of the prizes on offer…

  • Salka Jewellery - £100 of sea glass jewellery  www.salkajewellery.com/ 
  • The Crown Inn Hotel Stornoway - Takeaway pizza and sides for 4  AND if we reach £20000 in donations they are offering FREE food for LIFE for ONE person. T&C's apply
  • Body and Sole - skin care pack http://www.bodyandsolestornoway.co.uk/
  • Cards and gift wrap - craft kit   www.cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/
  • The Blue Lobster - voucher for 2 hot drinks, 2 bakes and a mini goodybag from their fabulous lifestyle shop
  • Bronwen Roberts Hair - cut blowdry and Olaplex (Inverness) treatment www.facebook.com/bronwenrobertshairx/
  • Immerse Hebrides - £30 voucher   www.immersehebrides.com/
  • Stramash Ness Hamper of goodies  www.etsy.com/uk/shop/StramashNess
  • Camerons Chip Shop - £20 voucher
  • The Crafty Weaver - Harris Tweed items www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheCraftyWeaverStore
  • Maybury Gardens - filled pot  www.bespoke-blooms.co.uk/
  • Rosemarie's Pantry - cake and cookies  www.rosemariespantry.co.uk/
  • Gill Thompson Harbour Print - pack of cards  www.facebook.com/gillthompsonartistprintmaker/
  • Halo Bags - Mixed Family bag of goodies  www.facebook.com/halobagsstornoway/
  • Tropic Skincare with Sharon - £50 voucher  www.tropicskincare.com/sharonmacdonald 
  • Stag Bakeries - 3 delicious cakes www.stagbakeries.co.uk/
  • Hebrides Dance Studio - £25 voucher http://www.hebridesdance.co.uk/
  • BE Designed by K £20 voucher  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BEDesignedbyK
  • Callanish Digital Design - print or chopping board https://www.callanishdigitaldesign.com/
  • Eleven Restaurant - £50 voucher  https://www.caladhinn.co.uk/stornoway-restaurants-2/
  • Delights - £75 voucher http://www.delights-hebridean.com/
  • Pickleberry Studios - handcrafted goodies  https://www.instagram.com/pickleberrystudios/
  • The Lash and Brow Room - £30 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/the_lashandbrow_room/
  • Sugar Sweet Treats - treat box  https://www.instagram.com/sugarsweettreatssty/
  • Fitness Studio Stornoway - £50 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/fitnessstudiosy/
  • Co-op Macaulay Road - Fabulous Hamper
  • Body Shop - Louise Morrison £50 of products
  • Sea in Design - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/seaanddesign/
  • Eilean Siar Hampers - small gift box  https://www.facebook.com/eileansiarhampers/
  • Aperture Lane Photography - £70 digital gift voucher https://www.aperturelanephotography.com/
  • Gneiss Things - pair of handcarved stone keyrings  https://www.gneiss-things.com/
  • Island Whisky Shop - bottle of Jura Whisky
  • Pixie Bheag - https://www.facebook.com/PixieBheag
  • Ishga - men's and women's gift set  https://uk.ishga.com/
  • Blue Reef Cottages - 2 night stay. To be taken during low season November to March excluding Christmas/New Year and if / when restrictions are lifted. Max occupancy 2 adults.          https://www.stay-hebrides.com/
  • Coralbox Gift Shop - otter teatowel  https://www.ecwid.com/store/coralbox/
  • Hebrides Alpha - Harris Tweed Clock  http://www.harristweedclock.co.uk/
  • Influence - https://www.facebook.com/Influencestornoway/
  • ENJO with Debbie Lamb - £30 voucher  https://www.facebook.com/enjoukwithdebbielamb/
  • Dancing Flower Crafts - 2 prizes Harris Tweed washbag £25 and cushion £55  https://m.facebook.com/dancingflowercrafts
  • Moorfield Cottage - Isle of Harris. Any winter week Saturday to Saturday between the end of September and end of March either this year 2020/21 or 2021/22. Ideal for a couple  https://www.facebook.com/moorfieldharris/
  • Traigh Mhor Pony Trekking - x3 riding lessons for 2 people valued at £90  https://www.tolsta41.com/
  • Comunn Eachdraidh Nis - afternoon tea for 3 people
  • Donnie's Wee Tablet Shed - 1kg of tablet www.lochleventabletcompany.co.uk
  • Home and Floors - £50 voucher
  • Lewisian Nice - harris tweed heart garland and lucky dip bag
  • Corncrake Holiday cottage - weekend getaway
  • Edith & Finlay's Habost Hens - Hamper including eggs, candle, prosecco, bottle of gin, mug, chocolate, biscuits etc
  • £25 xbox voucher - from Aidan (gifting from his birthday presents!)
  • Adventure Island Stornoway - family visit includes two kids entry, food and drink for two adults/two children
  • Isle of Harris Distillers - A martini serve gift set (shipping only within the UK)
  • Sundown Cottages - 2 night stay  https://sundown-cottages.com/
  • Kenny Macarthur and Bruce Mackenzie - 2 tradesmen/joiners for the day
  • The Sports Emporium - TSE Wheely Holdall Luggage Bag - 90L Capacity (Norrie Petrie) Free UK Shipping
  • Derek Mackinnon Photography - £150 framed photo https://www.derekmackinnonphotography.co.uk/
  • Rarebird - £50 voucher 
  • Uig Candles - £50 voucher
  • Decor8 - £100 voucher
  • Surf Lewis - £40 voucher
  • Coaching with Alanah - 12 week nutrition coaching program
  • Stornoway Painters and Decorators - £50 paint voucher
  • Hebrides Bothy - 1 night stay https://hebridesbothy.com/
  • Moran Gaol - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/morangaol
  • Alice Mac Prints - A fabulous skylarks print  https://www.alicemacprints.co.uk/
  • EJayDesign - Gold hanging frame of Scotland  https://www.facebook.com/EJaydesign/
  • County Hotel Stornoway - £50 voucher
  • Tiger Textiles - framed print www.tigertextiles.moonfruit.com/ 
  • Heb Fizzies - £25 goodie bag www.facebook.com/Hebfizzies

The Sandwick Bay Candles fundraising campaign for Bethesda passed £20,000 just before 3.30pm today (Saturday April 25th)!

On Thursday April 23, The Crown Inn in Stornoway upped the ante in the Sandwick Bay Candles' virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda Hospice, when it offered free food for life as a prize for one person if the donations reached £20,000. 

And another £8,000 in donations has poured in over the last 48 hours to make that offer come true, subject to terms and conditions.

Sandwick Bay Candles' Megan Macdonald had earlier launched the virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda Hospice with a hamper worth £100 and the aim of raising £2,000 for the vital local service.

The raffle now has around 70 prizes donated by local businesses to be won when you purchase a 'ticket' by donating online here.

The draw will close at 4pm on Wednesday April 29 and the draw will take place at 8pm which is set to be a bonanza evening for many, as islanders settle down for the live-stream draw in the islands’ first virtual raffle.

So there's still time for the total to soar still further!

Here's a recent list of the prizes on offer…

Salka Jewellery - £100 of sea glass jewellery  www.salkajewellery.com/ 

The Crown Inn Hotel Stornoway - Takeaway pizza and sides for 4  AND if we reach £20000 in donations they are offering FREE food for LIFE for ONE person. T&C's apply

Body and Sole - skin care pack http://www.bodyandsolestornoway.co.uk/

Cards and gift wrap - craft kit                    www.cardsandgiftwrap.co.uk/

The Blue Lobster - voucher for 2 hot drinks, 2 bakes and a mini goodybag from their fabulous lifestyle shop

Bronwen Roberts Hair - cut blowdry and Olaplex (Inverness) treatment www.facebook.com/bronwenrobertshairx/

Immerse Hebrides - £30 voucher   www.immersehebrides.com/

Stramash Ness Hamper of goodies  www.etsy.com/uk/shop/StramashNess

Camerons Chip Shop - £20 voucher

The Crafty Weaver - Harris Tweed items www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TheCraftyWeaverStore

Maybury Gardens - filled pot  www.bespoke-blooms.co.uk/

Rosemarie's Pantry - cake and cookies  www.rosemariespantry.co.uk/

Gill Thompson Harbour Print - pack of cards  www.facebook.com/gillthompsonartistprintmaker/

Halo Bags - Mixed Family bag of goodies  www.facebook.com/halobagsstornoway/

Tropic Skincare with Sharon - £50 voucher  www.tropicskincare.com/sharonmacdonald 

Stag Bakeries - 3 delicious cakes www.stagbakeries.co.uk/

Hebrides Dance Studio - £25 voucher http://www.hebridesdance.co.uk/

BE Designed by K £20 voucher  https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/BEDesignedbyK

Callanish Digital Design - print or chopping board https://www.callanishdigitaldesign.com/

Eleven Restaurant - £50 voucher  https://www.caladhinn.co.uk/stornoway-restaurants-2/

Delights - £75 voucher http://www.delights-hebridean.com/

Pickleberry Studios - handcrafted goodies  https://www.instagram.com/pickleberrystudios/

The Lash and Brow Room - £30 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/the_lashandbrow_room/

Sugar Sweet Treats - treat box  https://www.instagram.com/sugarsweettreatssty/

Fitness Studio Stornoway - £50 voucher  https://www.instagram.com/fitnessstudiosy/

Co-op Macaulay Road - Fabulous Hamper

Body Shop - Louise Morrison £50 of products

Sea in Design - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/seaanddesign/

Eilean Siar Hampers - small gift box  https://www.facebook.com/eileansiarhampers/

Aperture Lane Photography - £70 digital gift voucher https://www.aperturelanephotography.com/

Gneiss Things - pair of handcarved stone keyrings  https://www.gneiss-things.com/

Island Whisky Shop - bottle of Jura Whisky

Pixie Bheag - https://www.facebook.com/PixieBheag

Ishga - men's and women's gift set  https://uk.ishga.com/

Blue Reef Cottages - 2 night stay. To be taken during low season November to March excluding Christmas/New Year and if / when restrictions are lifted. Max occupancy 2 adults.          https://www.stay-hebrides.com/

Coralbox Gift Shop - otter teatowel  https://www.ecwid.com/store/coralbox/

Hebrides Alpha - Harris Tweed Clock  http://www.harristweedclock.co.uk/

Influence - https://www.facebook.com/Influencestornoway/

ENJO with Debbie Lamb - £30 voucher  https://www.facebook.com/enjoukwithdebbielamb/

Dancing Flower Crafts - 2 prizes Harris Tweed washbag £25 and cushion £55  https://m.facebook.com/dancingflowercrafts

Moorfield Cottage - Isle of Harris. Any winter week Saturday to Saturday between the end of September and end of March either this year 2020/21 or 2021/22. Ideal for a couple  https://www.facebook.com/moorfieldharris/

Traigh Mhor Pony Trekking - x3 riding lessons for 2 people valued at £90  https://www.tolsta41.com/

Comunn Eachdraidh Nis - afternoon tea for 3 people

Donnie's Wee Tablet Shed - 1kg of tablet www.lochleventabletcompany.co.uk

Home and Floors - £50 voucher

Lewisian Nice - harris tweed heart garland and lucky dip bag

Corncrake Holiday cottage - weekend getaway

Edith & Finlay's Habost Hens - Hamper including eggs, candle, prosecco, bottle of gin, mug, chocolate, biscuits etc

£25 xbox voucher - from Aidan (gifting from his birthday presents!)

Adventure Island Stornoway - family visit includes two kids entry, food and drink for two adults/two children

Isle of Harris Distillers - A martini serve gift set (shipping only within the UK)

Sundown Cottages - 2 night stay  https://sundown-cottages.com/

Kenny Macarthur and Bruce Mackenzie - 2 tradesmen/joiners for the day

The Sports Emporium - TSE Wheely Holdall Luggage Bag - 90L Capacity (Norrie Petrie) Free UK Shipping

Derek Mackinnon Photography - £150 framed photo https://www.derekmackinnonphotography.co.uk/

Rarebird - £50 voucher 

Uig Candles - £50 voucher

Decor8 - £100 voucher

Surf Lewis - £40 voucher

Coaching with Alanah - 12 week nutrition coaching program

Stornoway Painters and Decorators - £50 paint voucher

Hebrides Bothy - 1 night stay https://hebridesbothy.com/

Moran Gaol - £30 voucher https://www.facebook.com/morangaol

Alice Mac Prints - A fabulous skylarks print  https://www.alicemacprints.co.uk/

EJayDesign - Gold hanging frame of Scotland  https://www.facebook.com/EJaydesign/

County Hotel Stornoway - £50 voucher

Tiger Textiles - framed print www.tigertextiles.moonfruit.com/ 

Heb Fizzies - £25 goodie bag www.facebook.com/Hebfizzies

Clocking in for some timely Swiss information on Covid-19, Taylor Edgar talks with Dorian Griffiths, the youngest son of former Stornoway Coastguard district controller, John Griffiths

In a land noted for its precision and fastidiousness, it is perhaps unsurprising that the citizens of Switzerland are paying heed to social distancing and other measures designed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the hills may no longer be alive with the sound of music thanks to stay at home orders, one Stornoway cove living near Geneva is taking the quarantine in his stride.

For Dorian Griffiths, the isolation is just another day for him as a stay-at-home dad caring for his two children, six-year-old Leo and eight-year-old Sophie.

Dorian, the youngest son of former Stornoway Coastguard district controller, John Griffiths and younger brother of Byron, Master of Cal Mac ferry, Lord of the Isles, has had less adjustment to make than many others.

Speaking to welovestornoway.com, Dorian said: "For the last six weeks our children have had to stay home from their French language school and all other activities. The first four weeks we were, like all the other parents, doing our best to homeschool them. The teachers sent through work via WhatsApp and email, and occasionally our youngest had a video conference with all his class."

Fortunately, there was good weather for the two-week Easter break, and so the children were able to play outside most days with the other kids in their apartment block. Interacting with their school friends has been a bit more problematic, but their solution has been to go 'old school' and write them letters which are posted through their friends' letterboxes when they and Dorian venture out for their daily walk.

Dorian's wife, Lesley, an accountant, is working from home too in a spare room they have converted into a temporary office.

Outside their domestic bubble, the situation on the ground is quite different. At the time of writing, there have been almost 28,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of this number, an encouraging 19,400 have recovered. Sadly, some 1,491 Swiss have died.

To combat the pandemic, Switzerland has effectively put up the barricades at the border.  Says Dorian: "The border is apparently a lot harder to cross. We used to be able to cross into France freely and easily, apparently there are major checks in place now. We have not tried to cross so we are not fully sure what restrictions are in place. Only French residents with work permits are allowed to enter Switzerland."

Domestically, all shops have been closed, apart from essential services such as foods shops, pharmacies, doctors' surgeries, etc. Like the UK, the Swiss government has ordered people to stay at home, except for daily exercise, food shopping and helping vulnerable people to cope. Gatherings of more than five people have been banned, all parks and lakeside beaches have been closed too.

There has been a high level of compliance with the rules, comments Dorian, adding: "Switzerland is overall a very healthy and law-abiding country, so as far as we can see everyone is doing what they are meant to do. When we go for walks people, cross the street to leave distance. The queues to go into shops, and at the checkouts are always well-spaced and with no problems.

"The hospital in Geneva has not been at capacity and has been taking patients in from France. We have had no problems getting food or supplies."

Switzerland, though, is hoping to see a slow return to normalcy in May. Schools are currently scheduled to return on May 11, but what other restrictions may be lifted by then is still unknown.

Also unknowable at the moment is how things will work out for Switzerland post-pandemic. The full effect on the country's internationally important banking and finance sector will only emerge in the coming months and years.

For a country known for its stability and order, no one is putting money on there being any drastic changes to Swiss society when COVID-19 eventually abates.

Predicts Dorian: "I feel that things will go back to the way they were here in Switzerland. I can't see the Swiss changing their ways dramatically. We will have to wait and see."

Certainly, Dorian is in a position to guess at the future mores of the Swiss, he and Lesley moved to Switzerland initially for two years, but have now been there for 12.

What he is confident about is the family continuing to avoid major supermarkets as they have been doing for the past number of weeks. Remarks Dorian: "We started grocery shopping at our local farm shops, this we will definitely continue to do. The quality of the produce is excellent, and it is always good to help your local farmers."

Internationally-renowned jazz singer and former Grammy voting member, Kathryn Farmer and her fellow New Yorkers are not feeling any safer...even though the COVID-19 death toll in the city is beginning to decrease.

From a high of 800 deaths per day in early April, during the peak, the daily death rate is now around 550. Still tragic and still shocking for the eight million people that call New York home.

Recently returned from an overseas engagement in SE Asia that was cut short, Kathryn has been back in the Big Apple for a month.  But she is expressing alarm at the lack of testing and contact tracing, the norm in the part of the world she had just left.

Recalling her return to New York, Kathryn told welovestornoway.com: “New York City and all the states were way behind in testing, and so far there is no contact tracing as in Asia.

“It’s hard to know the real number of infections and deaths that are Covid19-related without the test. The Center for Disease Control issued faulty tests and wasted nearly around six weeks trying to release a multi SARS1, MERS and SARS-COV2 test all in one that didn’t work correctly.

“It was a huge waste of time. The WHO did have a test to use back then but the CDC refused it, as I understand, and all this tinkering around with different tests wasted so much time. With this virus, you cannot waste one day; each day you lose is days of momentum gained by this virus that’s more like a fierce predator than a virus.”

Despite these frustrations, Kathryn, like many around the globe who watch his compelling press briefings, applauds the efforts of New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.

“Andrew Cuomo is to me the best ever!” says Kathryn. “He may have stepped up a little late, but now that he has, he’s taking full control of the situation! Trump has issues with him lately, but what else is new? Trump is too much about the politics and not enough about USA citizens safety.

“Governor Andrew Cuomo has shown real leadership qualities. He is doing the best to let New Yorkers know he’s trying to balance our health and our dwindling economy. But, first and foremost, he makes sure safety is at the top of the list.”

Kathyrn, too, shares his worries about the economy. As a recording artist and international performer, she has taken a huge hit financially. Like other performing artist professionals in this cosmopolitan city, Kathryn is deeply affected, economically and emotionally, by the shock wave. This shock wave has all the city’s clubs, all Broadway shows, restaurants, and the venues Kathryn performed at weekly between international gigs.

Only musicians and singers associated with a university or conservatory are currently working. And they are doing so online from home with students they already in place with their school. Music teachers who are privately tutoring their students have felt losses as people have substantially less disposable income.  Inevitably it’s the singing, piano or saxophone lessons that get trimmed first.

Reveals Kathryn: “I am taking a huge, huge hit. I had just come off two months, last December 2019 and January 2020, on the Symphony Of The Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise which is the largest cruise ship in the world!

“I took my next gig back at the Sofitel Metropole in Vietnam, which I worked previously three times before I planned to return to the Caribbean ship itinerary.  I wanted to go back to Asia. I knew it would be fragile this time because of the virus, but I accepted the residency because I really wanted to return and see my old friends, sing with my old bandmates, and meet new people there again.

“Afterwards, I was booked to rejoin the Royal Caribbean Cruise on the Oasis of the Seas, the second-largest ship in the fleet. I was due to rejoin on May 24 for the summer season, but of course, all ships are now brought in to dock. It’s tragic; I am not sure when any cruise ships can start sailing again. I mean, it’s not realistic to think they could return this year.”

In the meantime, she is keeping a close and hopeful eye on whether work will reopen in the late fall in Asia.

Trying to remain upbeat, Kathryn comments: “I would like to start back, of course, and present my shows again. I’m trying to be optimistic, but in reality, I am not sure when performing artists can safely return to work. Our work requires being in close contact with the public; in other words, being in people clusters, our audience, it’s the nature of our business, our performance.”

New York, the city that never sleeps, is eerily quiet, the now deserted city streets unnerving for New Yorkers accustomed to 24-hour hustle and bustle. Kathryn’s neighbourhood, the commercial Times Square district, is one of the safer areas of the city.

It’s a neighbourhood she’s resided in since 1985 and is where Kathryn always felt comfortable using the subways in the wee small hours after work to return home.

That secure feeling has vanished Kathryn fears: “Now it’s gotten quite unsafe after dark. The once most crowded streets in midtown, portrayed in so many silver screen movies, are now desolate which is so weird. Times Square, which is why NYC is nicknamed ‘the city that never sleeps’, is now the quietest corner of the world. There are no tourists, no Broadway, no restaurants no people, no nothing, It feels like a bad science fiction movie I want to turn off. But it’s definitely not safe anymore after dark.”

If she goes out, it must be before evening. Her kid heard gunshots two nights ago, and she woke her up as she was so scared.

Reinforcing this sense of otherworldliness has been the strict rules applied within Kathryn’s apartment complex.

“We now must wear masks in our shared spaces like the laundry room or even taking out the garbage,” says Kathryn. “If you are caught in the laundry room, taking out the garbage, or taking the elevator without a mask, you will be fined. We also now have a guard at the elevator letting no more than three in the elevator and we have red tapes six feet apart for people to stand at. It’s gotten very strict,”

It seems paradoxical, perhaps, that the more security measures there are, the less safe New Yorkers seem to feel.

About Kathryn Farmer

Kathryn is an acclaimed jazz and R&B vocalist who has enjoyed a stellar reputation on the world jazz scene. Her gifted four-octave range vocals have captivated audiences in over 16 countries, from Tokyo to Berlin, Casablanca, Italy, Moscow, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Thanks to her father’s love of jazz and blues, Kathryn was introduced to the legendary recording artist Laverne Baker. Kathryn then became a fixture backstage during the singer’s various stints at the famed Apollo Theatre.

Kathryn remarks: “I saw so many shows there from James Brown, The O’Jays, The Temptations, The Supremes, The Jackson Five, and the list goes on. Jazz was ‘smacking me in the face’ since I was a kid. It was my backyard music. It was in my bones; I didn’t have to find it.”

After graduating from New England Conservatory of Music (Boston), the New York City jazz scene was beckoning her return to her roots. The jazz community quickly embraced Kathryn who soon found herself sharing the stage with a roll call of illustrious jazz greats.

Kathryn then embarked on an extensive global touring career that saw her performing with a legion of jazz luminaries.

The mid-2000s was a real turning point for Kathryn when she was invited to record with the Grammy award-winning group, The Klezmatics in Berlin at the World Music Festival. The CD entitled “Brother Moses Smote The Water’ featured Kathryn on vocals and Hammond B3 organ.

Since mid-2009 to the present Kathryn has been the resident diva for five and six-star deluxe hotel properties across the globe, as well as major cruise ship lines. Her debut CD, Moondance was released to critical acclaim in 2013.

Tell us what it's really like in coronavirus UK! That's the plea to small and medium sized businesses throughout the Western Isles from a national small business group.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which says it is the UK’s largest and most respected business organisation, is conducting a major survey of SMEs and the self-employed to ensure that its continued championing of smaller businesses is supported by the most robust, up-to-date evidence.

The survey is open to all SME’s and is being promoted as widely as possible to ensure the largest possible participation, for the more responses received, the more accurate the data, both overall and by sector and geography.

The survey closes next Thursday – the 30th of April. Link = https://www.fsbbigvoice.co.uk/ImpactOfCovid19

Recent successes for the FSB include persuading the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce support for the self-employed, and the Scottish Government to introduce additional support to help businesses falling through the cracks in earlier relief projects.

As Lockdown continues, so the importance of the FSB’s championing of smaller businesses remains as strong as ever, but this must be based on the latest evidence to ensure that the business organisation continues to call for the right things, at the right time and in the right way.

David Richardson, the FSB’s Highlands & islands Development Manager, said: “Now, more than ever, smaller businesses need a strong voice in the corridors of power, and the FSB is fulfilling that role to the letter.

“Our size, our independence, and the fact that everything we say is evidence-based, combine to make our arguments both powerful and compelling. But we don’t just ask for help; we also recommend workable, affordable and effective ways of delivering it, and the results are there for all to see in the business support packages being delivered by the UK and Scottish Governments and local authorities.

“At this unimaginably dangerous time for Western Isles businesses, and for the Highlands & Islands economy and community as a whole, I encourage all business owners and the self-employed to take part.

"It is important that the realities of life in the Highlands & Islands are revealed through this UK-wide survey.”

 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has secured funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA), to deliver the £320,000 Local Electric Vehicle Energy Loop (LEVEL) project.

LEVEL will scope out the design and capabilities of portable electric vehicle (EV) charging devices to provide power to EV drivers when, and where they need it.

Scotland is seeking to phase out the purchase of petrol and diesel-powered vehicles by 2032 and SSEN is working to ensure the network and charging infrastructure is in place to support drivers that make the switch.

SSEN is part of the Scottish Government’s Strategic EV Partnership, which is working to decarbonise all forms of transport in Scotland and identify and address potential issues in the transition.

Charging infrastructure needs to be responsive to short term impacts, such as road works or traffic accidents which close certain sections of the road network and may harm drivers’ ability to reach their next charge point. Charging demand will also fluctuate with the seasons, as local drivers and tourists move around more during the warmer months and travel to holiday destinations.

LEVEL is an 18-month project that begins this month, which will identify ways to improve network and charging resilience to meet short term demand. The project will develop the standard and specification of temporary, portable EV charging devices, including a demonstration of a device in the SSEN licence area in the north of Scotland.

Future charging devices could be deployed in advance of bad weather, such as to remote locations across Scotland which experience adverse weather that can cause power cuts, which would affect EV drivers’ mobility. LEVEL will investigate the feasibility of positioning charging devices in public car parks during the summer months, to boost capacity in the local area.

LEVEL will consider:

  • the customer interface, such as development of an app which will display the locations of mobile devices;
  • the best ownership model for these devices, which may be best placed with public bodies;
  • the role of these devices with vulnerable communities; and
  • the implications for metering and settlement from temporary connections.

Kate Jones, Project Manager for LEVEL for SSEN said: “The electrification of transport is critical in realising Scotland’s decarbonisation ambitions, bringing exciting opportunities to be seized and challenges to be mitigated. Through the LEVEL project we will be working collaboratively to identify potential issues, to give customers the confidence to make the EV transition.

“LEVEL is an exciting addition to our portfolio of projects that are preparing the electricity network for EVs. A portable charging device could be a valuable tool to help us manage short-term and short-notice surges in demand, whilst avoiding costly network reinforcement.”

SSEN has committed to invest in network infrastructure and flexibility to support 10 million EVs on GB roads by 2030 and is seeking views on its EV Strategy, which can be read here: ssen.co.uk/SmarterElectricity.

 

Political life is reviving as the initial unity caused by the impact of the Coronavirus crisis starts to wear thin.

So politicians across the spectrum are beginning to advocate divergent approaches.

Yesterday, Friday April 25, SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil called for the Faroes to be involved in coronavirus testing.

“It has been obvious for a while that testing has been required, testing at the point of admission to hospital is not what successful countries have been doing in stopping the spread of this virus.

“We already have a professor of Global Public Health at Edinburgh University backing Hebridean testing.  We now have this offer from the Faroe Islands to do the testing and I think it is up to NHS Western Isles now to take a step forward and not just take orders from Edinburgh but to decide what we need in the islands and what is good for us. 

“It was interesting to hear the First Minister last night say that they decided to close down and stop testing when the infection rate was at three times, that wasn’t the case in the islands and it probably isn’t the case in the islands even now, so therefore the case for testing is unanswerable and it should get under way.

“The fact that the Faroese are offering some of their capacity to help us should be grabbed with both hands by the Scottish Government and NHS Western Isles should be lobbying the Scottish Government to make sure that happens.”

He did not explain how this would work, given the lack of direct links between the Hebrides and the Faroes.

Local Conservative MSP and Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Donald Cameron spoke out after a spa business owner attacked the SNP over a lack of support for small firms during the coronavirus pandemic. Michael Lumsden, who runs a spa business across the country, said there was growing disparity between what the SNP was providing to retailers and what was happening elsewhere in the UK.

The PURE Spa and Beauty director said he’d spoken to numerous businesses in England which had already received their full £25,000 grant to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.  In a letter to MSPs, he said: “Unfortunately the changes to the retail, leisure and hospitality grants implemented by the Scottish Government have made the administering of the £25K grants by councils unnecessarily slow. Our businesses cannot afford such unnecessary delays caused by bureaucracy.”

Mr  Cameron said: “It is now beyond doubt that the SNP’s package of support for small businesses falls well short for far too many.

“This is another hardworking business owner whose properties would fare far better if they were based south of the border. That’s not an acceptable situation for the Scottish Government to create and is affecting firms here in the Highlands and Islands where we have many more small and medium sized businesses."

And Angus Brendan MacNeil also attacked the Westminster Government over its immigration policies. He met virtually with Minister Douglas Ross at the Scotland Office on Friday April 24 along with other cross-party colleagues to discuss a range of issues.  Mr MacNeil said the UK Home Office should now allow non-EEA fishermen to come and work in the west coast of Scotland. Mr MacNeil pointed out that this could be one of the few things the government could do quickly, easily and cheaply. "It wouldn't cost a penny, in fact, it would raise tax revenues as well as helping the Scottish fishing industry get going as quickly as possible.

"I hope the Home office drop their stubborn nonsense which they have maintained over the last few years.  Their arrogance cannot continue and surely this time we will see that the Scottish Office can manage to make them listen to some sense and enable non-EEA fishermen to work in the west coast of Scotland, helping the much needed recovery in one of the most economically disadvantaged areas. All they need to do is lift a pen and the problem is sorted."

Meanwhile, there's growing divergence over how to curtail the severe lockdown measures.  Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan says the public must prepare for restrictions on normal life to continue for some time.

The comments come as the Scottish Government published a new document outlining how decisions will be taken to control coronavirus (COVID-19) while restoring a degree of normality to everyday life. The paper - COVID-19: A Framework for Decision-Making - sets out the position during this ongoing period of lockdown and outlines the factors that must be considered as we move gradually to ease restrictions. It also recognises that new ways of living – effectively a “new normal” – may have to be in place for some time to come.

Travel to and from the Western Isles is currently restricted to islanders and essential workers only, with CalMac now taking less than 1% of the passengers they were taking at this time last year. The islands MSP has written to the Scottish Government to ask that decisions on lifting travel restrictions to and from the islands should potentially be taken separately to when lockdown ends nationally, to make sure that any changes come at a time that is informed by local factors.

“I know that the lockdown restrictions have been difficult for us all to deal with – not least for many tourism businesses - but they are helping to save lives and protect the NHS.

“There has been a lot of talk nationally and locally about how and when the lockdown restrictions will be eased. The publication of this document is very timely, and I urge everyone to take the time to read it.

“It is vital that any decision to ease restrictions is based on the best scientific advice possible. However, this is a constantly-changing situation and there may be a need to reapply restrictions after they are lifted. It is only when we are sure the virus is under control that we can even start to ease any of the restrictions because the virus will not have gone away.

“The virus is progressing at different rates around different parts of the country. We have thankfully not had any fatalities in the Western Isles and it has been some time since new cases of infection have been reported. I am really grateful that so many islanders have been earnestly sticking to the social distancing guidance: this has undoubtedly kept infection rates down and helped ease the burden on the NHS.

“I know that the talk of lifting lockdown has a lot of people concerned about the prospect of an influx of people from areas of the country heavily affected by Coronavirus. I certainly don’t want to see this, and I think we should all be prepared for the travel restrictions to the islands to be in place for the foreseeable future – even if that means restrictions staying in place after lockdown across the rest of the country has been lifted.

“In the coming days and weeks members of the public will be invited to contribute their thoughts and views on the next steps we must make together. There are no easy answers – but it is right for the Scottish Government to be clear about the factors that will inform decision making.

“Unfortunately, returning to what we regard as a normal life will not be possible in the near future so we need to prepare for a new normal until treatments and a vaccine offer different solutions.”

 

 

 

Dramatic drops in the numbers of referrals to doctors and hospitals for a whole range of serious medical conditions is causing growing concern for health professionals.

National figures show drops of between 50% and 75% in referrals for dangerous conditions like stroke and heart failure as well as cancer and other progressive conditions over the past several weeks.

This is in addition to the official cancellations of non-urgent surgery, some of which is life-preserving for the patients affected.  There is now concern that as many people will die from the impact of staying-at-home and avoiding hospitals as will from coronavirus itself.

In Scotland has been a 72 per cent drop in urgent suspected cancer referrals; there's been a reduction in families bringing children in for immunisations, meaning an increased of epidemics of those diseases; and attendance at Accident and Emergency units and paediatric units has halved.

NHS Western Isles says: "During these extremely challenging times, we would like to remind members of the Western Isles community that your Health Service remains available to you when you need us!

"We are acutely aware of the national and local position, with reduced attendances at Emergency Departments, GP Practices and people not wanting to bother health service staff with issues that they would, under normal circumstances, seek help for.

"Whilst NHS Western Isles staff are working hard to prepare and plan for potential pressure on our services as a result of COVID-19 over the coming weeks and months, we would urge the local community to continue to access services as and when they need to. We are still open; we are still here for you.

"Nobody should suffer in silence and nobody should try and cope alone if they are in need of health service support."

NHS Western Isles Medical Director, Dr Frank McAulay, said: “For the past number of weeks, we have all been constantly overwhelmed on a daily basis with information on COVID-19 and we are all aware of the impact it has had on how we all live our lives and on the NHS. Normality for us all has become something very different in a rapid space of time, which causes alarm and confusion.

“What has not changed, however, is the issues that members of our community still continue to experience. Whilst so much has stopped as a result of COVID-19; issues with our physical, non physical and social wellbeing do not just stop. Coping or simply accepting health issues at this time is not necessary and not something we would advise.”

"Whilst non-urgent procedures have regrettably been cancelled across the country, health services are still available for communities to access; whether it be cancer services, mental health, emergency care or chronic disease management. These services remain available and, whilst we appreciate all people are doing to help the NHS during this time, it is vital those with non-coronavirus health concerns still seek help as they would have before the outbreak.

"Some services may be provided differently – for example some services are being delivered virtually by a video link system called ‘Near Me’ – but the normal routes to access the services themselves has not changed."

Dr McAulay continued: “The NHS is here for you, so don’t ignore the warning signs.  You are not being a burden, you are looking after yourself and our NHS by seeking help. Please don’t put your health at risk. Your community pharmacy and your GP are open, please contact them for advice or with concerns that are not COVID-19 related. If you notice a deterioration in your health or the health of someone in your household, call your GP in normal hours, 111 out of hours, or in an emergency dial 999.

“Please do not be frightened to attend healthcare premises. Whilst physical distancing continues and we are all very aware of the advice to stay at home, there are very legitimate and important reasons that people have to leave the house – one of those being for issues relating to your health.

"We would also reassure you that those displaying COVID-19 symptoms are being treated separately to patients attending for other reasons.”

  • NHS screening services for breast, bowel and cervical cancer have been paused during COVID-19 but if you’ve noticed symptoms and are concerned, your GP practice is open and ready to help.  Getting checked early is one of the main reasons why more people are surviving cancer. For further information visit www.getcheckedearly.org
  • If you are experiencing mental health issues, please do not delay in accessing your local mental health service by contacting your CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) or your local GP Practice.
  • If you or your child has an immunisation appointment, make sure you attend, or reschedule if you’re showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If you have a regular appointment for a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes you should contact your GP and they will advise you. If your hospital appointment has not be cancelled you should still attend.

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron is backing the appeal, part of the Scottish Government’s “NHS is Open” campaign,  and urging anyone with urgent health worries not to ignore the problem and to contact their GP or local hospital.

Mr Cameron said: “It is concerning that there has been 72 per cent drop in urgent suspected cancer referrals.  Please don’t think twice and contact your local health centre if you have a health concern, or any other condition that you feel would benefit from a consultation. m Many GPs are now conducting consultations either virtually or over the phone and the last thing our doctors would wish for is for people to take risks with their health and ignore obvious symptoms.”

The NHS is Open campaign, launched yesterday (Friday April 24) urges people to contact their local GP or hospital if they have health concerns. The campaign encourages people to call their GP surgery, or 111 out of hours, if they have urgent health concerns. In emergencies, they should still dial 999.

 

The debut broadcast of e-Cèilidh is tomorrow (Saturday 25th April).

At 7:30pm, host Willie Campbell will be joined by local musicians in a production by the Comhairle na Eilean Siar’s Education department and Multimedia Unit.

Livestreamed fortnightly, e-Cèilidh will be available to watch  online through the new dedicated e-Cèilidh website www.eileansiareceilidh.com.

Every fortnight the cèilidh will feature an MC or host performing a few items as well as introducing pre-recorded video contributions from other musicians and members of the local community including school pupils.

Contributions are invited from members of the local community of any age, to give the events a true community involvement feel. These contributions should be a maximum of 5 minutes in length and can be in any musical genre. Full details are on the website.

Each e-Cèilidh will include items from a mix of musical genres with scope to have genre specific nights as the bank of musical contributions grows.

Rhona Johnstone, project co-ordinator said, "The Western Isles has a rich cultural heritage and a wealth of musical talent exists amongst those living in our communities, from the Butt of Lewis right down to Barra, as well as many musicians from the islands now living on the mainland and further afield. “

“There is normally so much musical activity which takes place on a daily basis here in the Western Isles such as music lessons,  concerts, sessions, various group rehearsals, choir practices but sadly that has come to a halt due to the current period of lockdown created by the coronavirus pandemic.”

“We wanted to find a way to share the musical talent of our islanders, keep the music flowing, use it in a positive way to engage and unite our communities and lift our spirits during these difficult times. I hope that the e-Ceilidh project will do just that and contain something for everyone of all ages regardless of their musical tastes. "

As well as being the platform for the broadcast of each e-Cèilidh and providing general information on the project, the e-Cèilidh website will also contain full information for the public about how to take part, including  guidance on the technical requirements for contributed items.

Eilean Siar e-Ceilidh contributors form 

Each broadcast will include links to information on the host musician and links to their websites/social media/You Tube channels/Bandcamp etc. to help promote their work. 

CalMac has teamed up with family-owned ARRAN Sense of Scotland to keep West Coast communities safe. 

The ferry operator has signed a deal that will see the home and body care brand switch production from its usual soaps, shower gel and home fragrance collections to manufacturing 50ml bottles of antibacterial Hand Cleansing Gel.

CalMac is initially purchasing 10,000 bottles, two-thirds of which will be supplied to its front-line staff on vessels and in ports. The remaining bottles will be given out free of charge to the NHS, Police Scotland and the RNLI for use in their premises up and down the West Coast. 

Currently operating an essential lifeline service until 7th May, CalMac is ensuring travel between the islands and the mainland is available for essential shopping, to provide care for vulnerable people and to allow residents to travel to work where absolutely necessary.

CalMac Managing Director, Robbie Drummond said: ‘These are difficult times for everyone, but our island communities are particularly isolated trying to balance a fine line between keeping communities safe and maintaining island economies and essential needs.

‘We identified a need to provide additional hand sanitiser products for our frontline staff and working with a local island-based business provided the right solution to help us all – fulfilling our needs and boosting the local economy. Further to this and recognising that we will have some surplus product, we are very keen to support our local NHS and Police Scotland teams by gifting hand sanitisers to them.’

Andrew Russell, Sales & Marketing Director at ARRAN Sense of Scotland, said: ‘In today’s current and unpredictable situation, it’s vital that we pull together to help support our local communities in any we can. Now more than ever, we wanted to give something back and help to protect those around the country putting themselves on the front line to help others.’ 

Although CalMac is currently operating to a 95% reduced capacity due to the Covid-19 crisis, it still needs to maintain reliable lifeline services across 26 routes to island destinations.

ARRAN Sense of Scotland creates bath, body and home fragrance collections on the Isle of Arran.  For three decades, the family-run company has been creating vibrant, evocative scents from their Home Farm factory - an old dairy farm for the historic Brodick Castle. The company has grown significantly since it began as a small, family soap business.

CalMac is winning praise from NHS Western Isles for maintaining the lifeline ferry service timings that allow patients to reach hospital in Inverness despite the closure of the air links on which they used to depend.

"NHS Western Isles would like to record its sincere thanks and appreciation to Caledonian MacBrayne for their help and support in establishing a timetable that ensures our patients who require lifesaving treatment on the mainland can continue to do so safely and efficiently," the health authority said this morning (Friday April 24).

NHSWI explained that the current timing of the Stornoway to Ullapool service which has been established (with the ferry leaving Stornoway at 7am and returning from Ullapool at 6.30pm) enables patients to travel on the morning ferry, despite the early start from home, reach Raigmore at a time when the services they need are open, receive their treatment and travel back over to Ullapool just in time to return on the afternoon ferry.

"Patients had been concerned that the loss of the Inverness flight could place their treatments, and therefore their health, at risk but the timings of the CalMac ferry are just right."

It is understood that the chosen timings are less than ideal for the haulage and supply industry which would prefer an earlier service.

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We would like to pay sincere thanks to CalMac who are literally providing a lifeline and health critical service to the local population.

"More than 50 patients have travelled on the ferry for life-saving treatment in the past four weeks, and the scheduling of the timetable is critical, allowing patients to attend for treatment and return home on the same day. Services on the mainland have been scheduled to suit the current timetable.

“We are aware there has been an approach to CalMac to change the timetable. We would stress that many patients live in the remote parts of the island and to have the ferry depart earlier would make it even more stressful both physically and mentally for them at a time that is already physically and emotionally very challenging.

“A ferry timetable change could also result in some patients having to stay overnight on the mainland if appointments could not be brought forward and, for some of these patients, this may not be possible without being admitted into hospital because of their fragile state of health.”

He added: “I would urge CalMac to retain the current arrangements.”

 

The Western Isles were in a perfect position to resist the possible onslaught of Coronavirus, according to an article in today’s Guardian newspaper (Friday 24 April).

Experts in living with extreme weather, ferry cancellations and isolated living, it seems we were always likely to do better with the social and behavioural changes needed to resist the spread of the illness.

Scotland editor Severin Carroll also enumerated early suspension of all but essential ferry services and a high degree of local compliance with lockdown regulations as factors which could have led to the low number of positive tests for Covid-19 in the Western Isles.

Last night NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson listed three items of good news – 13 days without a new confirmed case of the virus, the likely arrival of ‘consumables’ needed for local testing to begin on Monday next week (27 April) and extra medical evacuation capacity.

On the third point, he gave confirmation that a Twin Otter and a Saab aircraft are now ready to enter service as medical evacuation aircraft, with space and fittings to carry epipods, which allow patients to be transferred to the mainland in isolation.

All island emergency planning services are, however, urging caution. It’s possible that the Western Isles could, as Mr Jamieson put it, be a few weeks behind the rest of Scotland, with a peak of cases still to come.

And Police Scotland are continuing to maintain high visibility patrols in the area, reminding islanders that unnecessary journeys and social gatherings still carry the risk of spreading infection and ruining our current good record in protecting the health of the island community.

The Guardian’s full story is at www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/apr/24/how-outer-hebrides-scotland-perfectly-primed-tackle-coronavirus

 

Life in Vietnam…with Covid-19 being tracked and traced, and lock-downs imposed and lifted to cope with one-off outbreaks.  Taylor Edgar reports.

A walk around my local neighbourhood earlier today ( Friday April 24) confirmed that life is slowly returning to normal after the COVID-19 lockdown was lifted in Hanoi yesterday.

Buses are running again, workplaces are welcoming back employees from weeks of home working and almost all the shops, including restaurants, are open.

All but two of the city’s 30 districts have been downgraded from high-risk to at-risk allowing much of ordinary life to be resumed. Only places of entertainment such as cinemas remain closed. Masks are still mandatory and large gatherings such as at pagodas etc. are banned meantime. Otherwise, there is little to tell that the capital is still on guard against coronavirus. Limited relaxation of the COVID-19 countermeasures is underway in the second city, Ho Chi Minh City. High-risk restrictions are continuing in Da Nang for the time being.

As of this morning (Friday), the country saw zero new cases for the eighth day in succession. At the time of writing, of the 268 infections recorded, 224 people had recovered, and 44 people are still in hospital receiving treatment. Zero deaths from COVID-19 have been recorded.

Schools are expected to reopen in May.

The Vietnamese government’s early and decisive action has been widely praised as world-class by experts around the world, including the World Health Organisation and World Economic Forum.  

Vietnam also emerged as having the highest number of citizens trusting their government’s response to the pandemic. The finding was made by the Dalia Research investigation centre in Berlin in a survey conducted from 24 to 26 March in 45 countries and territories.

Vietnam’s political will to protect its people, its aggressive testing and contact tracing and centralised quarantine facilities are believed to be behind this SE Asian country’s success in keeping a lid on COVID-19.

Even with the limited resources of a developing country, Vietnam has been able to perfect a COVID-19 test and optimise treatment of the disease.

Only overcast skies and the occasional rain shower today are putting a dampener on the new normal in Hanoi.

This is not the time to relax in the battle to curb spread of coronavirus, says top policeman.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham has asked people to stick with physical distancing to protect the NHS and save lives as Police Scotland released further information on use of emergency powers.

DCC Graham, strategic lead for Police Scotland’s coronavirus response, said: “The people of Scotland have stepped forward during this public health emergency to do their part to protect the NHS and save lives.

“Community policing has a vital role to play in supporting the physical distancing legal requirement to stay at home, which remains the key intervention that can be made during this period.

“In Scotland, we have been able to maintain a highly visible presence in our communities as our officers and staff work round the clock to engage with our fellow citizens, explain these requirements and encourage people to co-operate with them.

“The message is clear - you should only leave the house for very limited purposes, for example for basic necessities, such as food and medicine, for daily exercise, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done at home.

“Avoid driving as much as possible. Use spaces close to home for exercise and do not drive for leisure.

“Do not hold house parties with people from outwith your household.

“As these restrictions persist and the warm weather sustains, people must not be tempted to ignore that message.”

Between Friday, 27 March, and 7am on Thursday, 23 April, Police Scotland issued just 1,637 fixed penalty notices and made 78 arrests across the whole of Scotland.

Police Scotland’s structure has allowed the service to take quick action during this period, including cancelling non-essential training and redeploying officers from back office functions or areas which have seen a decrease in demand to maximise resources for local policing divisions and other critical areas of frontline policing to keep people safe.

DCC Graham said: “In Scotland, we have been able to deploy a large number of officers into community policing and increased focused patrols in areas such as parks, beauty spots and town and city centres during this health emergency.

“This means Police Scotland is likely to be engaging with a large proportion of people who do not stay at home. The Chief Constable and I have been clear that everyone - including police officers - must take a common sense approach.

“If you are out and about, officers may ask you why. Please, explain your individual circumstances, listen to their instructions and obey the law. We will, as we have been required to do on a very infrequent basis, take enforcement action where necessary.

“On the small number of occasions where officers have taken enforcement action, this has largely been in response to house parties or public gatherings, while a small minority of irresponsible and selfish people who repeatedly and wilfully break the law, have now received multiple fixed penalty notices."

DCC Graham added: “The legislation and guidance was introduced quickly and everyone has had to make changes to their daily habits and significant sacrifices in their lifestyles.

"For generations, successful policing in Scotland has relied on the consent of the communities we serve, and I am grateful for the very high levels of support and co-operation we have seen thus far.

“These are however extraordinary emergency powers which were introduced quickly and the Chief Constable has commissioned John Scott QC to lead an independent, external, review our use of them.

“Mr Scott and his group can provide significant value to our thinking and operational practice. We will engage with them on an ongoing basis as we keep our values of integrity, fairness, respect and the upholding of human rights at the centre of all we do.”

Highlands & Islands Divisional Commander Chief Superintendent George Macdonald would like to thank the vast majority of the public for their ongoing support and cooperation. 
 
While Police Scotland issued just 1,637 fixed penalty notices and made 78 arrests across the whole of Scotland between Friday, 27 March, and 7am on Thursday, 23 April, 90 of these penalty notices were issued in the Highlands & Islands, with four arrests made. 
 
He said: “It has been one month since the Scottish Government’s coronavirus emergency powers were introduced, and I would like to express my sincere thanks to the vast majority of people living in the Highlands & Islands for your support during this extraordinary time. The public’s response has been extremely positive and only on very rare occasions have officers had to issue warnings or take enforcement action where individuals have flouted regulations and failed to comply repeatedly with police direction. 
 
“I appreciate that as the restrictions persist and the weather continues to be so good, it may feel tempting to spend time more outdoors and to visit the countless remote and rural beauty spots we are fortunate to have across the Highlands & Islands. However we need everybody, collectively to play their part, and the message is clear - you should only leave the house for very limited purposes including buying basic necessities such as food and medicine, for daily exercise, for medical needs or travelling for work which cannot be done at home. Do not travel to take exercise, do not hold gatherings with people from outwith your household and do not hold house parties. 
 
“In line with the rest of the country, our patrols will continue at key locations including beaches, dog walking areas, parks and other green spaces - if you are out and about, Officers may engage with you, please explain your individual circumstances to them and if appropriate listen to their advice and encouragement to stay at home.   
 
"We are well aware of the sacrifices people are making to play their part in preventing the spread, protecting the NHS and ultimately save lives.  On a personal level, we all know someone who works in the NHS or a Care Environment, and we all have family or friends who through age or health conditions are being required to be shielded for their own protection. I would ask everyone to continue to stay at home, please travel only if absolutely necessary, adhere to the physical distancing guidance and keep yourself, your family and your community safe."
 
Convener of The Highland Council, Councillor Bill Lobban added: “We all have an important role to play in slowing the spread of coronavirus and it is good to see that the vast majority of people are taking this very seriously and adhering to the national guidance. 
 
"We are very fortunate in the Highlands to have wide open spaces and natural beauty, and while it is important to get time outdoors and maintain our physical and mental health, we must ensure we follow the physical distancing guidelines and do not put any additional pressure on the NHS at this time.” 
 
Dr Ken Oates, NHS Highland’s Director of Public Health, said: “We are benefiting greatly from the physical distancing measures and self-isolation because those measures were started here when we were earlier in the curve, but it is clear that the epidemic won’t go away, the virus won’t disappear. 
 
“It’s vital that we continue to adhere to the physical distancing guidance and don’t become complacent and assume that because we are a rural area it will be fine – because it will still challenge us severely, probably the most significant challenge we have ever had to our local health and social care services

Use of emergency coronavirus powers by area from Friday, 27 March, to Thursday, 23 April

Division

Dispersal after being informed

Dispersal after being instructed

Fixed penalty notice issued

People returned home using reasonable force

Arrest

A - North East

245

39

95

17

1

C - Forth Valley

279

41

116

3

6

D – Tayside

208

40

69

16

8

E – Edinburgh

370

46

118

3

8

G - Greater Glasgow

1732

596

311

12

15

J - The Lothians & Scottish Borders

159

32

97

5

2

K - Renfrewshire & Inverclyde

250

238

165

3

5

L - Argyll & West Dunbartonshire

542

48

152

19

8

N - Highland & Islands

226

25

90

3

4

P – Fife

167

68

64

1

4

Q – Lanarkshire

149

31

179

3

6

U – Ayrshire

243

116

152

22

7

V - Dumfries & Galloway

70

28

29

4

4

All of Scotland

4640

1348

1637

111

78

An on-line education system developed and pioneered by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is coming to the rescue of educators nationwide as the coronavirus crisis impacts education on a massive scale. 

Using the tried and tested e-Sgoil platform and delivered by experienced teachers and educators, a timetabled set of classes will be available from Monday 4 May, gradually increasing over the weeks ahead.

The lessons will be provided by Keep Scotland Beautiful, the national environmental agency, SCILT, the National Languages Centre, and e-Sgoil.

Angus Maclennan headteacher of e-Sgoil, said:  "e-Sgoil is a national resource based in the Western Isles which, for the last four years, has delivered education across Scotland and beyond.

"The partnership in this project includes teachers locally as well as from schools in The Northern Alliance who'll add to the opportunities during the weeks ahead."

This development came after the three national education providers joined together to provide a varied and fast developing education offerr, recognising that parents, carers, learners and, of course, their teachers and educators, are in need of support, practical ideas and opportunities in these challenging times.

There will be live interactive teaching for learners as well as professional development opportunities for teachers.  All of the lessons have been adapted over the last few weeks for a learning at home basis; some are existing and well known areas of the curriculum, and others are launching for the first time.

The offer will be gradually built up from Monday 4 May onwards and expanded over the weeks ahead.

Details of how the classes can be accessed are available here

Fhiona Mackay of SCILT, said: "As life for our youngsters has narrowed to the confines of their own homes, let's bring the world to them through an innovative and exciting programme of language learning. Whether developing their existing language skills or exploring a new language and culture that they haven't encountered in school, this partnership will support children young people and their families with rich, meaningful learning that will complement what is being offered by their schools and class teachers."

Daniel Barrie of KSB, said: “Keep Scotland Beautiful is pleased to be working with e-Sgoil and the other national partners during the global pandemic. We will be bringing environmental education into the home and offering a range of activities based on existing school based programmes especially adapted for home learning.

"The activities will be fun, practical, and suitable for families to do together. From growing a pop up pocket garden to developing an eco plan for your home, to taking part in our accredited climate ready classroom programme, or becoming a budding young reporter on a key issue, our activity-based programme will help all youngsters become involved in positive actions on climate change and other environmental matters.”

 

 

 

There have been 13 days without any new confirmed cases of coronavirus on the Outer Hebrides, the chief executive of NHS Western Isles, Mr Gordon Jamieson, said in a new broadcast on Twitter this evening (Thursday April 23). https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1253415662585692161?s=12

"I think that is a very good sign," he said.

He thanked everyone for their hard work in conforming to social distancing and staying-at-home which had undoubtedly contributed to the limits on the spread of the disease.

He also announced that local testing for the Covid-19 virus had come a major step closer with the anticipated arrival of a final crucial part of the equipment, probably tomorrow. This should provide a testing capacity on the Islands from Monday of next week, rather than having to send samples to the mainland. The local testing at this stage will be for the active presence of the virus, not for whether people have had it in the past.

In addition, there were major improvements to the air ambulance links to the mainland.  Twin Otter and Saab 340 aircraft were now both now in service and available to transfer patients in intensive care to the mainland using the Epishuttle.  These had been added to the "military assets" which were already available for transfers.

Earlier, Mr Ian Burgess, chair of NHS Western Isles, said: "It is with the deepest gratitude that I send this message to all the frontline and key staff working in the NHS, Care Homes, Third Sector, volunteers, our partner Emergency Services and all who continue to support our Island infrastructure at this time of COVID-19.

"This is a fast and ever changing challenge as we learn more about the virus. Therefore I and my fellow Chairs are duty bound to assure the Minister and Cabinet Secretary that we as a Board are maintaining good governance throughout this extended period.

"As Chairman of the Integrated Joint Board (IJB) I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Ron Culley who, until the beginning of this month, was the Chief Operating Officer for our IJB. We wish him all the best with his move back to Glasgow and his new role.<

"I would like to pay tribute to our social care staff, community and volunteer organisations who are contributing in keeping us all safe from the virus. I thank the staff of our Care Homes who are keeping our residents safe from harm.

"We have always been a community that has risen to a challenge, ensuring our way of life and unique communities will come through this together.

The Scottish Government has launched a campaign letting those that are experiencing domestic abuse know that they should not delay in seeking help during the Coronavirus epidemic.

Police Scotland Western Isles Area Commander, Chief Inspector Ian Graham, said: "We are aware that there is an increased risk of domestic abuse as people observe isolation and social distancing guidance. We will continue to respond to all calls of domestic incidents. 

“During this time of uncertainty, as we manage the challenges and dynamic circumstances presented by COVID‐19, our response to domestic abuse remains unchanged.  Our officers will continue to respond to reports with sensitivity and understanding and will endeavour to prevent harm by identifying people who may be at risk.

“If you are experiencing domestic abuse, help is available. You are not alone. Don't delay in seeking help during the current coronavirus situation.

“Do not be frightened to leave your home if you are suffering, or at risk of, abusive physical, verbal, sexual, psychological or financial harm perpetrated toward you by your partner.  Domestic Abuse is a crime, call 101 to report it or 999 in an emergency."

Personal safety advice, including planning suggestions, can be found at: https://www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/domestic-abuse/ and https://safelives.org.uk/news-views/domestic-abuse-and-covid-19. You can also watch the Scottish Government campaign video at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rGwjLG-5eA&feature=youtu.be.

Help is available from the 24-hour domestic abuse helpline on 0800 027 1234 and Western Isles Womens Aid on 01851 704750.

Scotland’s countryside continues to be used as a dumping ground as reports of fly-tipping continue to grow.

The irresponsible actions of a minority have targeted fields, laybys, and country roads to dispose of household waste, unwanted furniture and appliances and DIY remnants.

Increasingly, garden waste has been getting dumped and that poses a huge risk to the health of livestock.

Reports this week have included the death of a young calf on farm that choked on a crisp bag; domestic and garden waste appearing in the countryside across the nation and ground care workers dumping cuttings and clippings from a local cemetery straight into a farmer’s field next door.

Five of Scotland’s leading rural and environmental organisations – NFU Scotland, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Partnership Against Rural Crime, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Zero Waste Scotland - issued a joint statement recently in relation to the rise in fly-tipping during the Covid-19 pandemic but the situation is deteriorating.

NFU Scotland Animal Health and Welfare Policy Manager, Penny Middleton, said: “It is so disappointing to see people continuing to use our beautiful countryside as a giant tip but, with the upturn in the weather and people working in their gardens, the surge in garden waste being dumped will result in animals dying.

“Litter and waste of any kind can cause hazards for livestock and wildlife, so dumping it in the countryside or on farmland is extremely dangerous.  The distressing report of a young calf choking on a crisp bag is dreadful but highlights just what impact such reckless behaviour can have.

“Animals are naturally curious and will investigate foreign objects left in their environment.  Hazards can include injury from sharp edges and protruding objects or the risk of becoming caught up or entangled in waste materials.

“Finally, waste may contain substances that are toxic to animals or the environment.  Lead poisoning can be quite common where car batteries or other waste materials are dumped and substances like antifreeze are attractive to animals but extremely toxic.

“Of immediate concern is the amount of garden waste now being dumped. If that waste contains plants like yew or rhododendron it will quickly cause death in cattle and sheep if eaten. Similarly, grass cuttings pose a significant danger to horses.

“The plea to the public, for the health of livestock and wildlife, is please store your waste until lockdown is over then dispose of it responsibly.”

Angus MacNeil MP has expressed delight that Professor Devi Sridhar, Chair of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, is backing the idea for an Isles Covid-19 test plan pilot.

Mr MacNeil who has been pushing the case for greater testing in the islands for over a month, to give a better picture of the spread of Covid-19 in the islands, has welcomed the comments by Prof Devi Sridhar.

Backing the idea of a Hebridean test-and-trace pilot the well respected expert during this pandemic, Professor Devi Sridhar, said: "It’s clearly incredibly important to increase testing as we need to move from a situation of quarantining everyone, to quarantining just those who are carrying, or who have been exposed to the virus.

“Testing is essential as well to identifying carriers of the virus- and we should be testing everyone who is symptomatic, and even going further to testing large numbers of health workers and front-line essential workers to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus."

Angus MacNeil MP said: “Clearly the policy has to change when experts are telling us what they are telling us. We know full well if we leave lockdown and don’t know where the virus is that the virus will get the chance to escape and spread around, causing a further lockdown.

“Testing helps us leave lockdown in an informed way. In a way which minimises economic damage. Our first responsibility is to health but we can’t be ignoring the economy while safeguarding health when it is possible to do both at the same time.

“As Prof Sridhar is advocating, the testing to identify the carriers is a vital thing that must happen.”

The Crown Inn in Stornoway today (Thursday April 23) upped the ante in the Sandwick Bay Candles' virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda Hospice, when it offered free food for life as a prize for one person if the donations reach £20,000. 

Sandwick Bay Candles' Megan Macdonald recently launched the virtual raffle in aid of Bethesda Hospice with the aim of raising £2,000 for the vital local service.

At time of writing, the amount raised was at £12,229.

The raffle now has around 50 possible prizes donated by local business to be won when you purchase a 'ticket' by donating online here

The Crown Inn in Stornoway says they will offer one person free food for life if the total raised reaches £20,000.  That's in addition to their earlier prize of a pizza takeaway for four,

Does Megan think they can make that total? “Oh yes, we can get to £20,000, we can definitely get there,” she says.

The draw will take place on April 29 2020 at 8pm which is set to be a bonanza evening for many, as islanders settle down for the live-stream draw in the islands’ first virtual raffle.

On the receiving end of a huge wave of generosity is Bethesda Hospice, and business-owner Megan Macdonald of Sandwick Bay Candles earlier today said she was ‘blown away’ by the response of people to a fundraising idea which started with the raffle of a single hamper from her own stock, pictured above.

Megan said: “I’m on a bit of a high, to be honest. This was just going to be a raffle of a candle hamper, then a couple of people started to offer prizes and since then it’s just grown arms and legs.”

So much so that the original single prize has been eclipsed by a list featuring dozens of island businesses, all giving something to make the prize list longer, bigger and more enticing.

Megan said: “I have not had to approach a single business, they have all come to me, and when you think how people are struggling in these times it really is amazing.”

Megan’s JustGiving donation page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sandwickbaycandles has bust through its initial target six times over, with purchases of virtual ‘tickets’ at £2 each now exceeding £12,000.

And that has given a huge boost to Bethesda Hospice, who are suffering during the Coronavirus lockdown, with no fundraising events and the shop closed to donations and to purchases.

Megan said: “Carol at Bethesda has rung me to say that they are really grateful because they have no funds coming in. Fundraising is really tough – I have been exhausted and I have only been doing it for a week!

“But I am definitely going to give it all I have got. You only get one chance at this so you have to do as much as you can and people have been amazing. I have had people coming to my house and leaving envelopes with cash in them, because they don’t know how to do online donations.

“I am planning to live-stream the draw on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sandwickbaycandles/) next Wednesday evening at 8pm and I’ve had people telling me they’re going to sit down and watch with a glass of wine and make an evening of it.”

Among the other prizes now available in the virtual raffle are hampers, vouchers and accommodation breaks – including a week at Moorfield Cottage in Harris or two nights in the luxury Blue Reef Cottages.

Of special value is a donation from veteran fundraiser Aidan Mackenzie, aged 11, of Lochs, pictured above, who has given a £25 Xbox voucher which he had among his birthday presents.

 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New access track, Eriskay

Janet and Andy Laverty of 4 Pathfoot Drive, Bridge of Allan, have applied for planning permission to create an access track at 2A Coilleag, Isle of Eriskay.

 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New house, Luskentyre

Andrew Bartlett of 5 Maraig has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 1C Luskentyre. Work is to include creating a new access to the public road. 

Three people in the Uists have been reported to the Procurator Fiscal after incidents of muirburn out of the licensed season.

Police investigated reports of burning in Benbecula and South Uist on three occasions in the past week, on 18, 21 and 22 April. In all three cases the person responsible for setting the fire is being reported.

The hill farming act 1946 covers the burning of heather, grass and gorse during a designated season, which usually closes on 15 April. This year the season was suspended with immediate effect on 1 April following a decision in the Scottish Parliament to limit the possibility of emergency services being called if muirburn got out of control.

This week’s dry, breezy weather significantly increases the chance of any fire sparking a wildfire and the possibility of emergency services being required to protect property and public safety.

On Monday (20 April) the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service warned: “With rising temperatures and high volumes of dry vegetation in our countryside, an extreme risk of wildfire warning remains in place for large parts of Scotland throughout this week.”

 

The following planning applications are pending consideration by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. 

All information and accompanying documents are publicly available on the CnES website

New house and garage, Barvas

Joanne MacIver of 6 Pier Road, Aultbea, has applied for planning permission to erect a house at 28 Upper Barvas. The house is to have three bedrooms, a kitchen/dining room, a lounge, a study and three bathrooms. Work is to include creating a new access, parking suitable for four cars and building a detached garage.  

New agricultural building, Point

John Macleod of 68 Lighthill, Back, has applied for planning permission to build an agricultural building at 22 Melbost, Point.  The building is to be 13 metres long, 4 metres wide and 3 metres tall and is to have walls clad in horizontal shiplap timber cladding and a roof made of translucent polycarbonate. 

New agricultural building, Uig

Alistair McVean of 20A Valtos has applied for planning permission to erect an agricultural building at 20A Valtos. The barn is to be a steel framed building that is 6 metres long, 4.5 metres wide and 2.897 metres tall. The walls and roof are to be green metal. 

New conservatory, Arnol

Dudley Conway of Park Cottage, 21 Arnol, has applied for planning permission to erect a conservatory at Park Cottage, 21 Arnol. 

Comhairle leader Roddie Mackay has today (Thursday 23 April) provided this week’s Coronavirus update, with thanks to all island residents.

He said: “I want to thank you - the residents of the Western Isles - for your continued support and resolve in tackling this pandemic.

“At times like this we really appreciate what we have and where we live and the Western Isles are, of course, blessed with beautiful scenery, fantastic walks, world-class heritage sites, beaches and, most importantly, great communities.

“We can explore the wonderful parts of our islands later. Now is the time to support each other, support those who are less fortunate and support those who need help.

“If you know someone who needs help, please inform our customer services team in the usual manner on 01851 600 501. Do not assume someone else may be doing it, please support your community and especially those in need.

“To date we have had over 180 requests for help and an incredible 250 volunteers. Should you wish to volunteer, please contact 01851 822899 (9am-5pm Mon-Fri) as we continue to collect details of individuals and community groups throughout the Western Isles looking to provide volunteering support during COVID-19. This enables the Comhairle to match volunteers against the needs of individuals and families in our communities.

“My thanks to everyone who have left notes to say thank you to our waste and recycling crews. I am also very aware that they appreciate the support.

“Many individuals out there are doing sterling work, whether they be a critical worker or key worker, volunteer, kind neighbour or simply a good friend to talk to.

“Please keep going everyone. It is good to see the way we are all tackling this together. I do hope that each day you find time to reflect and appreciate how everyone is pulling together. Acts of kindness are all around us which is extremely humbling.

“Please support each other where you can, stay in touch with family and friends and look out for one another. Remember: stay positive, stay at home and stay safe. Thank you.”

Useful Links:

NHS Inform

Scottish Government Website

NHS Western Isles - Coronavirus

 

Homes across the Western Isles have become filled with rainbows, as children find their own creative ways to say thank you to the keyworkers and NHS staff who are working so hard during Coronavirus lockdown.

Children from Vatersay to Ness have been sharing their home images of rainbow-filled paintings, window art, chalk drawings and beach sculpture.

Ahead of tonight’s regular #clapfortheNHS session at 8pm (Thursday 23 April) we thought we’d share some of the colourful creations from around the islands.

Some have already appeared on the NHS Western Isles Facebook page and shops and businesses around the islands are welcoming the cheerful additions to their displays.

If you have a rainbow picture you’d like us to share, just get in touch via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll make sure your picture gets shown off too!

Pictured here: Murray and Cara produced this sunny chalk art – although it seems Murray did most of the work, while Cara tried to eat the chalk!

 

Youngsters from Action for Children in Stornoway brightened up the window of their own residential unit, Hillcrest, with the promise ‘Better days are coming’.

 

Katie and Thomas Macleod of Vatersay put their heart on the sand to say thanks to NHS workers – of whom their mum is one.

 

Sam and James Campbell put their rainbows in their window in Portvoller. Their granny is a key worker in a care home and they miss her terribly.

 

Sadie Hall made her rainbow pebble to say thanks to the NHS – her mum also works for NHS Western Isles.

 

Aidan Mackenzie (10) of Lochs brightens everyone’s day with his rainbow window.

 

Grace Nicolson is staying with her auntie in Newmarket, while her mum carries on working as an ambulance technician.

 

Gemma and Michelle spent a sunny day creating this tribute to all the keyworkers keeping things going.

 

And this sheep found that anything that stands still for too long is likely to get a rainbow painted on it!

Goathill Road, Stornoway, was closed for more than hour this morning (Thursday April 23) after a fire in a home on the road between the junctions with Jamieson Drive and Smith Avenue.

The closure began following a call-out about 7.30am

Three fire engines and crews were called out with two appliances from Stornoway and one from Shawbost.

An ambulance was also called to the scene.

A total of 15-20 fire service personnel were involved in dealing with the incident.

Appliances and crew in action at the scene this morning

The incident involved a blaze in a bedroom. Two occupants of the house were able to leave but were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation first by the fire service personnel and then in the ambulance, before being taken to hospital as a precaution.

Witnesses described smoke coming for a house before the fire brigade arrived.

A fire appliance approaching the scene this morning

Gavin Hammond, the group commander for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in Stornoway, said the occupants of the house had called the fire service. On arrival, the fire service found that both the occupants had managed to find their way safely out of the premises.  There was a "rapidly developing fire situation" in one of the bedrooms.  Swift action by the crews using thermal imaging cameras, breathing apparatus, covering jets and other equipment brought the fire under control after 40 minutes.

"There was really good intense hard work by the crews in attendance," he said.

He emphasised how the crews had taken care in relation to Covid-19 and social isolation for the people involved.

The cause of the fire is believed to be possibly an electric blanket.  Gavin Hammond emphasised the need for such equipment to be regularly checked.  He also pointed to the spread of smoke damage throughout the property and reminded people of the benefits of closing all the doors in a house during the night to prevent the spread of fire and smoke. 

The road was partially reopened by around 9am although one appliance remained at the scene.

 

People in the Western Isles - as elsewhere – must be aware of new scams and fake news relating to coronavirus and lockdown following an increase in reports across Scotland about scam emails, text messages, and calls.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said that across the UK there is evidence fraudsters are increasingly targeting members of the public, as well as organisations of all sizes, with emails, texts, telephone calls, social media messages and online shopping scams relating to the outbreak.

Police Scotland have now launched a new Shut Out Scammers resource to protect the public and businesses from COVID-19 related scams.

The UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has also launched an email reporting service, which the public can use to report any suspicious activity.

Alasdair Allan commented:“It’s sad to see that, at such a time of national crisis, scammers are continuing to try and take advantage of the situation with unsolicited emails, phone calls and text messages.

“During this coronavirus crisis, everyone should take extra care to ensure that they only share information from trusted sources, ask for identification from all doorstep callers, and never hand over any personal information.

"It’s vital that islanders remain vigilant against scams during this challenging time and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities."

https://www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/personal-safety/shut-out-scammers

https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/information/report-suspicious-emails

The NHS on the Western Isles is facing a new challenge…finding the homes of clients in the communities across the Outer Hebrides.

The NHS say: "Over the coming weeks and months, a proportion of NHS staff who do not normally visit patients in their own homes to provide care or treatment, may require to be deployed into the community setting.

"We are aware in certain areas that addresses/croft numbers are not clearly visible from the road, and often cannot be accessed on satellite navigation systems.

"NHS Western Isles is therefore asking members of the public to ensure that their addresses (numbers/names, etc) are made as clear as possible on properties, gates, or walls, so that healthcare staff are able to find properties as quickly and easily as possible.

"This will help us to ensure that care and treatment can continue to be delivered in as quick a timescale as possible."

Another option is to use the address finder available from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/site-pages/address-search/?fbclid=IwAR0pDIheqXHik3Ukwpl5iGZ3Jrbt-YQ00LsJtBvrePRqF1POwQVUlW6a7pI

Making it obvious…numbers provided by Stornoway Media Centre

Campaigners against plans to radically change air traffic control structures are warning that the issue will not go away, even though current circumstances may have placed the debate at the bottom of the political agenda.

A petition to the Scottish Parliament submitted on behalf of Benbecula Community Council opened for signatures just as the Coronavirus lockdown began in late March, with a deadline for signatories of 6 May.

Petitioners Alasdair MacEachen, John Doig and Peter Henderson described current plans by Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), to centralise aspects of island air traffic control to Inverness and introduce an aerodrome flight information service (AFIS) in Benbecula instead of the current air traffic control (ATC) as ‘the costliest and riskiest’ option of all those considered, even according to the airport company’s own consultancy report.

The aim of the petition is to get an independent review of HIAL’s air traffic management strategy, after fears were raised over safety issues and loss of jobs from small island economies. The petition urges that plans are suspended until the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have published their guidance.

But petitioner Alasdair MacEachen admitted today (Wednesday 22 April) that other events have overtaken them, with the Coronavirus crisis likely to slow everything down – from implementation of HIAL’s plans to the process of representation in Parliament.

Alasdair said: “This whole situation was unexpected, so I can’t say where priorities will lie after the crisis is over. However, from a local point of view it is obvious that the Highlands and Islands are going to take a real hit from Coronavirus.

“HIAL’s plans are just going to add even more damage, with the loss of good jobs and the removal of young families from our communities. They haven’t fully assessed or demonstrated the impact their plans will have on the islands.

“As to what will happen once our petition deadline has passed, we will have to wait and see. I was expecting that we would have a date to appear at Edinburgh but, as with everything else, that now seems to be up in the air.

“But it doesn’t mean that this issue has gone away. When life returns to normal we are going to want to see these issues seriously and properly considered.” 

The petitioners also say air traffic control officers should be called on to give evidence about the proposed changes: “as the only experts in air traffic control at HIAL airports.”

Signatories to the petition agree that the whole plan should be reconsidered, for economic, social and safety reasons. One said: “Seriously flawed idea in my opinion and the timing of it is all wrong. Island economies are fragile at the best of times and employment sits at the core of this. Proposals like this do nothing to mitigate that fragility and should be resisted robustly.”

And a former air traffic controller said: “I'll be the first to agree that technological advancements are allowing some great new innovations in aviation. However, I also believe that moving too quickly on remote tower automation could be very damaging to the industry. Once you remove the on-field human intervention, you reduce your capacity to react to unplanned events and operational irregularities. Not to mention the decrease in pilot confidence in and around your airport. Too much too fast HIAL, take this back to the drafting table, for everyone's peace of mind.”

Almost 600 people have so far signed the online petition at www.parliament.scot/GettingInvolved/Petitions/airservices.

Unfortunate misinformation is currently being reported with claims of a death related to COVID-19 in the Western Isles, says NHS Western Isles.

This information was not clarified with NHS Western Isles prior to publication, said an NHS Western Isles statement at 1609, today (Wednesday April 22) .

Earlier a COVID-19 related death was reported for the Western Isles by National Records of Scotland.  

"NHS Western Isles can confirm that this relates to an individual who was admitted to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. The individual was tested for COVID-19 whilst in hospital, but tragically passed away before the test result was received back. Prior to receiving the results of the test, COVID-19 was recorded on the death certificate. The test result has, however, has since come back negative."

The NHS Western Isles statement concludes: "To clarify, there have been no COVID-19 related deaths in the Western Isles."

The death was one of 128 which took place across the Western Isles in the week to 19 April. Of these 52 of these were in hospital, including the person originally thought to have had Covid-19.

Figures provided by the NRS differ from the daily totals given by the Scottish Government, because they include all deaths where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate by a doctor as a suspected or probable cause as well as those where Coronavirus had been positively tested.

Today’s report details 1,616 deaths across Scotland where Covid-19 was a factor. The highest number of these (910) took place in hospitals, but deaths in care homes (537) and at home or in a non-institutional setting (168) are also mentioned, as is one death in another form of institution.

By far the highest percentage (74%) of those who have died nationally is in the 75+ age group, with 37.3% being above the age of 85.

The first mention of Covid-19 on a Scottish death certificate was in the week beginning 16 March. 

In Shetland, the Shetland News website reported today that the total of Covid-19 deaths in Shetland now stands at six.  They quoted Royal College of Nursing, Scotland director Theresa Fyffe, as saying: “Today’s figures again show the devastating impact this virus is having on the most vulnerable in our communities, with a third of all deaths involving COVID-19 occurring in care homes."

 

 

Isles MSP Alasdair Allan has hit back at critics of the Scottish Government’s support for businesses during the coronavirus emergency.

He said: “The package of support for business in Scotland now exceeds the £2.2 billion of consequentials received from the UK Government.

“The Scottish Government has allocated an additional £120 million to the grant scheme for businesses to ensure that small business rate payers would be eligible to a 75% grant on all subsequent properties, in addition to a 100% grant on their first property.

“A further £100m fund will target people who might not currently be eligible for other forms of support. 

“The system in Scotland is also reaching many sectors that have no equivalent support in England. For example, there is around £23 million worth of support for the seafood, fishing and aquaculture sectors. This is absolutely vital for seafood businesses in my constituency, given the virtual collapse of their markets. There is also 100% relief for the aviation sector, helping companies like Loganair through the current crisis.

“The small business grants also reach many thousands more businesses than they would have under the English scheme, as the Small Business Bonus Scheme is more generous than its equivalent in England.

“If, like some are suggesting, the Scottish Government moved closer to the UK Government scheme, thousands of businesses would lose support, support would be cut-off to sectors vital to islands’ economy like fishing, and there would be nothing for the newly self-employed who currently fall through the cracks.

“This is a serious and difficult times for businesses and for the economy in general; it’s not a time for petty party politics.”

This followed a series from claims from Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Donald Cameron, who is that party’s Shadow Finance Secretary.

He warned that continued differences in providing financial support between Scotland and the rest of the UK were putting Scottish businesses at a disadvantage.

“We have received feedback from worried business representatives that the Scottish government is providing significantly less support for the retail, hospitality and leisure industry than other parts of the UK.

“This is of very great concern, not least because those sectors are particularly important to the economy of the Highlands and Islands.

“Our businesses want a level playing field across the UK and we cannot give the impression that Scotland is a less attractive place to set up and run a business.

“The SNP Government needs to resist its instinct to do things differently when there is no need, especially when we are responding to a national emergency.”

At the same time, the news broke that Scotland has recorded its lowest total sales figures since records began.

 Mr Cameron said: “Sadly, these retail results come as little surprise but, nevertheless, they are a very worrying indicator of the damage this crisis has wrought on the Scottish economy.

 “I am particularly concerned on behalf of my own Highlands and Islands region as we are so dependent on a healthy retail sector.

 “The Scottish Government needs to crack on and draft an economic recovery plan which puts business at its heart.

“Ministers have lacked a sureness of touch with regard to the private sector and need to evidence by their actions that Scottish businesses will not be placed at even more of a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts south of the border.”

And Mr Cameron is also supporting calls for sporting businesses to receive government assistance during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mr Cameron is giving strong backing to a motion that has been submitted to the Scottish Parliament by fellow Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser which emphasises the importance of the industry to rural Scotland.

Mr Cameron said: “No-one can doubt the contribution that gamekeepers, ghillies and estate staff make to rural communities across the Highlands and Islands.

“Like other sectors, country sport businesses and the people who rely on them for employment, are facing unprecedented challenges which threaten their jobs and way of life.

“The Scottish Government should extend the same support to them that it does to other business sectors which require help to see them through this crisis. They must not be overlooked.”

New Zealand senior Jill Nicholls counts herself luckier than many of her peers. She is mostly self-sufficient on her 3.5-acre small-holding on North Island.

Living close to the township of Kaiwaka, which aptly means food canoe in Te reo Māori, Jill says her daily life has not changed too much.

Apart, that is, from being unable to nip to the shops, visit family and friends, or volunteer at the small local library.

“Perhaps I am luckier than most older people in that I am mostly self-sufficient and the things I need help with are seldom urgent. Also, I had a hunch when I first heard about the Wuhan outbreak, and over the weeks I bought extra staples,” Jill comments.

“One thing that has changed is that I have run out of meat and do not enjoy supermarket offerings. So I have become semi-vegetarian, slaughtering an occasional rooster, of which there are plenty, when I feel up to it.”

Apart from her family, the people she misses most are her ‘regulars’ at the library, which, due to social distancing, leaves a significant gap in her life.

“I guess just knowing that I cannot take the dogs to the beach or the park bothers me,” Jill reflects. “I have a great-grandson almost one-year-old, and I miss being with him as, of course, those delightful developmental stages will never be repeated!”

Though she generally dismisses worrying as a waste of energy, Jill admits to being concerned for one of her sons who lives in Cambodia and cannot return home because of international travel restrictions.

“I gather the political situation there is not ideal. However, there is nothing I can do apart from supporting him remotely through this time,” Jill adds pragmatically.

Despite all the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, Jill believes she is coping well under the circumstances. Her youngest son lives over 50 miles away in Auckland, and they talk daily, supporting each other with “frank and honest assessments” of how they are coping.

With no end in sight for COVID-19 quarantine being lifted, the plucky pensioner does foresee some challenges soon with obtaining poultry food for her ducks and hens. With seniors being told not to leave home, she will in a week or two have to ask a neighbour to make the 37 mile round trip to the nearest town of Wellsford.

But that won’t be a problem in the small, close-knit community in which she lives. This rural part in the middle of North Island is pulling together. Local shops are doing home deliveries via email; and will even go to other shops to fulfil orders if there are items they do not have in stock. Her next-door neighbours, too, have been keen to help.

“My young neighbours have also shopped for me for things like replenishing the gas for water heating and cooking. We have had shouted conversations through the covenanted forest, keeping our distance! Friends keep in touch via phone, video calls and email. My youngest son lives in a high rise in the Auckland CBD and has no idea who his neighbours are and is more isolated than I,” laughs Jill.

Quarantine, then, has not been as significant a burden as it could have been. With two re-homed Swedish Vallhund dogs, varying numbers of bantams, hens, ducks and muscovies plus a barn cat to look after, Jill is never at a loose end. She devotes some free time to an online Permaculture Design Course she recently enrolled in and for which she has a final design project plan to write.

With apparent limitless supplies of energy and curiosity, this senior citizen is pondering what type of future lies ahead post-COVID-19.

“My hopes for the future are that enough ordinary people will see that the way we are using capitalism and our natural resources is wrong, we have to recognise that huge changes are necessary now  otherwise humankind is doomed. I have to agree with Greta Thunberg. If your house is on fire you don’t sit down and talk about it, you get going and put out the fire!” says Jill.

She continues: “The fact that the COVID-19 virus has spread so rapidly and widely should speak volumes to us. I believe we are acting in an unrealistically entitled way toward the planet. We should be nurturing it, not plundering it.”

Sadly, the opportunity for change may dissolve into business as usual, Jill fears: “There are some comments from thinkers saying that the evidence of lowered pollution, fewer car accidents, lower insurance claims and fewer doctors visits should be a wake-up call for us, but I think that people don’t know what to DO to make the change.”

Certainly, if the COVID-19 behaviour of some Kiwis is any measure, Jill may well prove correct. Like the Highlands and Islands repelling would-be holiday-makers, precisely the same scenario is being played out in New Zealand.

“There has been some ill-feeling in coastal villages when city dwellers who own holiday homes, caravans or such moved north to spend lockdown having another holiday. It’s not so much their presence which caused problems, but the logistics of keeping our stores and petrol stations stocked and also the risk of introducing the virus locally,” she remarks.

“I believe there have been several arrests, and there will be court cases for persistent offenders. One offender has been sentenced to one month in prison.”

Even though a minority of thoughtless people are compromising the COVID-19 strategy, Jill is convinced that the close contacts of New Zealand’s 4.8 million population are a big help in fighting the pandemic. So, too, is New Zealand Prime Minister, who has been a substantial boost to national pride in Jill’s opinion.

“The Prime Minister’s daily ‘chat to the nation’ along with the General Director of Health, resonates with the vast majority of people. Her Facebook page has many requests from Australians and Americans for her to be their leader!” Jill notes.

Continuing her examination of the Kiwi psyche, Jill theorises that with New Zealand being so recently ‘a settler colony’, the heritage has been a ‘them and us’ mentality. The mindset being New Zealand versus the rest of the world, where New Zealand ultimately emerges in good shape.

“I can remember wartime rationing from the 1940s, and there is a similar feeling here now, I think. While we continue to pull together against a common enemy, we will be glad when it’s over,” says Jill.

At the time of writing, New Zealand had recorded 11 COVID-19 deaths. Almost all being over 65, with the majority of fatalities being in the dementia unit of a care facility for the elderly. At least three were in their nineties. Testing has uncovered about 1200 positive cases, all but one of these cases have been traced to returning overseas citizens or from an infected cruise ship. Eleven people are in hospital, with three in intensive care.
 

 

A long period of settled weather has helped salvage operators make good progress with the work of unloading cargo from the grounded cargo ship MV Kaami, according to the team overseeing the operation.

The Norwegian-owned cargo carrier went aground last month, during stormy weather and high seas, on rocks between the Isle of Lewis and Skye.

Salvage company Resolve and contractors have this week maintained continual traffic of small cargo vessels between the casualty vessel and Kishorn on the mainland, carrying her salvaged cargo of biodegradable fuel pellets.

Work to move the cargo is being directed from the deck of the landing craft Forth Guardsman, which has a deck-mounted long-reach crane and is ferrying the cargo between the cargo and the smaller carrier vessels.

On Monday (20 April) a further 22 skips of cargo were removed, bringing the total now taken off the grounded vessel to 160 skip-loads.

Yesterday (Tuesday 21 April) work continued to move cargo from the submerged inner holds to another area of the ship, allowing them to dry out before removal. Work to remove that part of the cargo will continue for several more days.

Divers are aboard the ship today (Wednesday) and have been able to access the hold of the Kaami to begin assessing internal damage.

Stephan Hennig, the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) said: “The weather forecast continues to look favourable until at least the weekend and good progress is being made.

“The next stage of the salvage will focus on continuing to assess the internal damage and attempting to temporarily repair damaged sections of the ship.”

Pictures show the cargo moved for drying to one end of the Kaami’s upper hold, salvage vessels alongside the Kaami during the removal of the cargo and the scene on the deck of the Forth Guardsman as unloading continues (MCA).

North Lewis enjoyed the spectacular sight of a tall ship under full sail yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 21 April) as the Polish brig Fryderyk Chopin sailed around the west side and the butt of Lewis, heading for anchor in Stornoway.

The two-masted brig was built and has her home port in Poland – she’s currently heading for home in Szczecin.

Built in 1992 in Gdansk, she started her career in tall ship racing with a spectacular performance in the transatlantic Columbus regatta, finishing third in her class.

She’s now a sail training ship and is usually home to the Blue School, an educational training programme for young people specialising in long European and Transatlantic voyages.

The ship is heading home for Poland from the Caribbean island of St Martin, having interrupted her sail schedule due to the effects of Coronavirus.

She’s unable to land any passengers in Stornoway with the current restrictions on visiting vessels, which limit any activity to the taking on of fuel, water and limited stores, using contactless methods.

The picture of Fryderyk Chopin at anchor in Stornoway bay is by Gayle Taylor. The ship is also pictured in St Martin in the Caribbean (Guillaume Marie Galante).

Tall ship with Arnish in the background, by Fred Silver 

Students and staff from across the University of the Highlands and Islands have been lending their skills and resources to support the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over 120 nursing and midwifery students have started their final placements early to help bolster the NHS workforce. They are being employed as healthcare workers by NHS Highland and NHS Western Isles to contribute to the COVID-19 response. The university has also set up secondment arrangements with the NHS so that nursing and midwifery staff can work in clinical posts too.

Gillian Macsween, a student nurse at the department of nursing’s Western Isles campus, said: “While this has been a very overwhelming and trying time for all of those working on the frontline, as a student nurse, I consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to apply my learning and contribute my practical skills towards supporting the COVID-19 effort.  Student nurse employment has successfully alleviated staffing pressures and workload demands; it is wonderful to be of aid to fellow NHS colleagues. This exposure to the very real-life challenges of healthcare, I believe, will stand me in good stead for my forthcoming transition from senior student nurse to newly graduated staff nurse and beyond.”

Perth College UHI, Argyll College UHI, North Highland College UHI, Lews Castle College UHI in Stornoway, SAMS UHI in Oban and the NAFC Marine Centre UHI in Shetland have donated equipment including gloves, hand sanitiser and aprons to healthcare providers across the region.

Chemicals from the university’s School of Health, Social Care and Life Science have been gifted to the NHS to help with coronavirus testing.

Several university partners have been supporting the production of visors. Perth College UHI’s creative industries department created a design for 3D printers and West Highland College UHI and Argyll College UHI have donated acetate sheets which are used to create visors. Colleagues at Lews Castle College UHI, Inverness College UHI, Moray College UHI and the NAFC Marine Centre UHI have being helping to produce visors using 3D printers.

Staff from the Highland Health Sciences Library at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness, meanwhile, have been contributing to efforts to gather and present the latest coronavirus information to assist NHS Highland’s public health department to plan and deal with the pandemic. The library has also been supporting pandemic work nationally and globally, including working with the World Health Organisation.

The university partnership has also offered vehicles, buildings, services and accommodation to support key workers across the Highlands and Islands. This includes facilities and equipment at the Centre for Health Science, vehicles from Argyll College UHI and residences at Moray College UHI in Elgin. As well as offering vehicles, North Highland College UHI has pledged drivers and logistics support for the NHS and government. Inverness College UHI is in discussions with Highland Council about opening up its Early Learning and Childcare Centre to provide childcare for essential workers.

Inverness College UHI has opened up one of its car parks at Inverness Campus to support the UK Government in its efforts to increase testing for NHS and other key workers. A drive through coronavirus testing facility will open in the college’s car park three on Inverness Campus on Sunday 26 April, operating on an appointment only basis. It will be piloted for its first few days of operation.

Professor Crichton Lang, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “In addition to supporting our students and staff across the university partnership to continue their studies and day to day work, we are of course keen to do all that we can to help with the management of the wider impact of the current COVID-19 epidemic on people’s lives. I have huge appreciation for the efforts of all who are contributing, but especially to those students and staff who are engaging at the frontline of health and social care.”

Heidi May, NHS Highland’s Board Nurse Director, said: “We are extraordinarily grateful to the students coming to work alongside their NHS colleagues in caring for patients as part of the COVID19 effort. Their skills and their knowledge will help us make the difference for patients and their loved ones during this unprecedented time.

Isles MP, Angus MacNeil has written to both the First Minister and the Health Secretary to suggest piloting a World Health Organisation policy approach, like that being used in Iceland and on the Faroe Islands, of widespread informed Covid-19 testing in the Hebrides.

This could mean testing a couple of thousand people - maybe 5-10% of the population – as these other places have done.  Mr MacNeil has also contacted NHS Western Isles to enquire about assisting in contact tracing and Police Scotland, who showed willingness to assist the health authorities here, if such a policy change were piloted on the islands.

On Monday, NHS Western Isles said it hoped to have good news later in the week about the availability of Covid-19 testing facilities in the Islands

Mr MacNeil said:"On 18th March I said that, ‘The Government should be testing more, if the UK was testing to the level of Iceland or the Faroe Islands, we would have a better picture of what is going on and we would probably be more aware of where the clusters of coronavirus are now.  Unfortunately, the UK is doing a lot of this blindfolded, against World Health Organisation advice and Scotland is caught in that web too.’

Over a month later we are in much the same situation. My opinion on testing remains the same, we need to test more. It is quite amazing, if not shocking, that we have people in the islands who tested positive for Covid-19 yet their spouses and other members of their household have not been tested.

"Thankfully in the islands we have few Covid-19 cases, although it is hard to be certain that we have such few cases given the lack of testing.

“Surely, it is time to drop the fatal two-step which Scotland has been engaged in with Whitehall, and start our own policy, trialled here in the islands, for increased testing. We have got spare testing capacity in Scotland, 40% of the testing capacity is unused, therefore it would seem wise that while island numbers are low we should keep them low by the contact tracing, testing and tracking, so well employed in some other countries.

"I hope the First Minister and the Health Secretary will respond to this favourably. Time is always of the essence, testing capacity in the islands should be increasing although it is already 2 weeks delayed.

“We could then change policy and not wait for the virus to turn up but we seek out the virus as in other countries. Such a policy change could start now in the islands. Then we might be able to move on and do what the Faroese did yesterday (Monday 20th April) which was to remove their internal lockdown while still keeping the islands externally locked down.

“For now, we remain in lockdown and it is difficult to change that until we have increased testing, to give us a better picture of Covid-19 in the Hebrides.”

Meanwhile, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has urged the Scottish Government to ensure that it is ready to allow construction projects to restart when conditions allow.

Mr Cameron made his plea to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affair, Fiona Hyslop, yesterday (Tuesday 21st April) during Topical Questions at the Scottish Parliament.

In his question Mr Cameron made special reference to the Highlands and Islands where projects tend to be smaller and social distancing easier to maintain.

He said: “The restrictions on construction are stricter in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, and that makes it all the more important that when conditions allow we are ready to go.

“Having discussed this issue with a local Chamber of Commerce only this morning, I was pleased that the Cabinet Secretary responded positively to my question and indicated that the construction sector would be considered very seriously when the Scottish Government is looking to ease restrictions on commercial activity.

“The Highlands and Islands is taking an economic pounding from the pandemic and it would be highly beneficial if there was the prospect of construction work being one of the first sectors to resume operations.”

 

 

 

The responses from a survey put out to crofters by the Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF) reveal access to cash-flow, labour, contractors, supplies and veterinary care as the main problems faced due to Covid-19.

“We have had a very good response to our survey“, said Yvonne White, chair of the crofters’ representative body. “The statistics are stark with over a third of the respondents citing cash-flow as a major worry. Many crofters supply food and accommodation to the local market. Abattoirs have not been taking private kills, hotels and restaurants are closed and on-croft accommodation bookings are cancelled. This would normally be the time of year to start seeing money coming back in after the long winter, but it is not materialising.”

One respondent said, “The closure of some abattoirs to private kills is a death knell to us small producers. If abattoirs stay open, they cannot exclude private kills as cumulatively the resulting produce will be a substantial contribution to food supplies in rural areas.”

Another, who supplied hotels and restaurants, said, “I am giving away all egg production free as there is such a reduced market for the eggs here; 250 hens, the alternative is to throw them away when they go out of date.”

Asked what would help, they said financial support is lacking, is confusing, or crofts fall between the cracks. For example, the loss of holiday-let income is a devastating interruption to cash-flow but as this is not the main occupation there is no help. “There needs to be a greater understanding by the government of the variety of crofting enterprises, as well as seasonality - we need to make enough money during the summer to last through the winter.”

Additionally, the shortage of help on the croft from contractors, volunteers, students and family was cited by well over a third of respondents. As one crofter put it, “It is difficult to get contractors and materials to complete work. Urgent fencing work can't be done.” It is apparent that contractors are heeding the government directive – ‘stay at home’ – despite food production being part of our critical national infrastructure. Many respondents said they feel the government advice is not clear enough – many people could be carrying on with croft work without posing any threat but feel they cannot due to the message going out that any movement is restricted.

“The survey is still live” said Ms White, “and is open to all crofters, whether SCF members or not. We need the information to feed into Scottish Government policy as we attempt to keep up Scottish food production in this very difficult time. It is obvious that crofters are suffering financial hardship due to the situation; as a gesture SCF will not be applying the annual inflationary subscription increase next week, but crofters still need concessions and targeted help from government if we are to survive this.”

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s programme of online activities has proved a hit that reaches way beyond the shores of the Western Isles.

Reactions and viewer numbers for the programme of yoga classes, quizzes and cèilidhs has encouraged the Comhairle to expand its programme of live cèilidhs from this Friday (24 April).

The Friday night programme kicked off over the past two weeks with live-streamed performances from Iain Spanish Mackay and Iain Tosh Macintosh.

Tosh’s performance last Friday (17 April) was watched across the islands, Scotland and all five continents of the world, with requests and plaudits coming in from as far afield as Australia and Dallas USA.

But it was the home impact of the performance which meant the most to both performers and the Comhairle’s communications team, who are masterminding the technology and the programme.

Local comments included: “Just what we need for a Friday night in” and “Awesome, Tosh, takes me back to carefree days and busy SY weekends.”

There was plenty of shared emotion around the world, as people who were meant to be celebrating life events listened in to the tunes. Stuart Watson requested a tune for fiancée Nicola Gouldstone – the couple’s wedding was postponed from Saturday (18 April) and Tosh was to be playing at their celebration.

And one family due to be celebrating their Mum’s 70th birthday instead all sat down at their own homes and watched Tosh.

The success of the cèilidhs so far means the Comhairle will now be hosting live Facebook cèilidhs with local artists every Friday and Saturday evening from 9pm.

This Friday Elsa Jean MacTaggart and husband Gary Lister will be performing a lively set meant for dancing. You can have a look at their Facebook page for an idea of what to expect - www.facebook.com/elsajeanmctaggartmusic/.

At 9pm on Saturday, Charlie Clark from local band Astrid will be live on the Comhairle page and in addition to the Facebook cèilidhs, on Saturday 25 April, host Willie Campbell will be joined by local musicians for the debut broadcast of e-cèilidh – a pre-recorded production by the Comhairle's education department.

E-Cèilidh will be available to watch live online through the new dedicated e-cèilidh website which will be launched on Thursday this week. Every fortnight, the cèilidh will feature one host performing live items as well as introducing pre-recorded pieces from other musicians and local contributors.

Contributions are invited from members of the local community of any age, a maximum of five minutes in length and in any musical genre. Each e-cèilidh will include a mix of items with scope to have genre-specific nights as the bank of musical contributions grows.

The programme for this weekend is:

Friday 24 April at 9pm - Elsa Jean MacTaggart and Gary Lister live

Saturday 25 April at 7:30pm – e-cèilidh hosted by Willie Campbell

Saturday 25th April at 9pm – Charlie Clark live.

You can find all the Comhairle’s online activities, events and cèilidhs via their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/comhairlenaneileansiar/

 

Staying at home is the new going out and people in the Western Isles have received thanks and congratulations from health and emergency services for following the rules during lockdown.

But for some it’s proved a challenge to keep going on their preferred form of exercise, with outdoor swimming one of the recreations that’s on hold during the Coronavirus crisis.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued a safety guidance warning on Friday (17 April) calling for regular swimmers and surfers to stay out of the sea.

Minch swimmer Colin Macleod has immediately spotted a new fundraising opportunity – he’s inviting open water swimmers to stay at home over the May bank holiday weekend, planning an online outdoor bathing party in aid of the RNLI on Saturday 2 May.

Colin launched his campaign yesterday (Monday 20 April) with the call to “Bathe at home for the RNLI.”

He said: “Hebridean Sea Swimmers Group is inviting you all to an online stay at home outdoor bath/bin/pool party to raise funds for the RNLI.

“This is open to everyone around the world, so please feel free to share the love, as we could all do with a bit of cheer in our lives just now.

“There’s a Facebook group set up for folk to share photos and videos at www.facebook.com/groups/705457036857908/

“As a charity, the RNLI depends on our donations so it can go on saving lives and keeping us and our loved ones safe. RNLI lifesavers are our lifeline – the lifeboat crews who provide 24-hour search and rescue, the lifeguards keeping watch on 240 of the busiest beaches and the RNLI safety teams and educators working tirelessly to stop people getting into trouble in the first place.”

Open water swimmers have been asked by the MCA to give the sea a miss and take their exercise in some other way.

In last week’s warning they said: “We appreciate that for some people their exercise, be it surfing or swimming might ordinarily involve using the coast and its resources. 

“But we would ask people to think seriously about the unintended consequences of what could happen if something went wrong while they were in the sea or at the coast.

“As we know, all too well, the sea can be a dangerous place for even the most experienced swimmer or surfer.

“We will continue to urge people to give the coast a miss because we want to prevent our emergency responders and their families being put at risk of coronavirus and also to reduce avoidable pressure on the NHS.”

Colin’s alternative plan for outdoor swimming without getting in the sea has been enthusiastically received by the swimmers of the Hebrides, with 110 people already signed up as members of the Facebook group and a JustGiving account now open at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/batheathomeforthernli

 Picture shows Colin’s outdoor bathing arrangements, complete with ‘Duckman’ and his family

Immunisation appointments for children and pregnant women are continuing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, says NHS Western Isles.

Scheduled immunisations are an important and legitimate medical reason to leave your house, and people who have an immunisation appointment should attend as planned.f an individual with an upcoming immunisation appointment - or a member of their household – is showing symptoms of COVID-19, then they must not attend, but should call the number on their invitation to rearrange the appointment.

Dr Gregor Smith, Interim Chief Medical Officer, said “We’re grateful to everyone for heeding our Stay Home Save Lives message during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the NHS is still open, and the routine vaccination programme is an important way to protect you and your family’s health.

“It is important we continue to protect children and other vulnerable groups against serious vaccine-preventable diseases. Routine immunisations for children and pregnant women are a crucial way we can help keep people safe and healthy at this time.

“We know members of the public will have protecting their family’s health from coronavirus, by following guidance on social distancing and not travelling unnecessarily, at the forefront of their minds. But receiving an immunisation is one of the important medical reasons for which you should leave your house, and it will help protect you or your child from other serious diseases.”

Dr Maggie Watts, Director of Public Health for NHS Western Isles,​ said “We are encouraging all parents and guardians of children, and all pregnant women to attend their scheduled immunisation appointments at their GP practice. If you cannot attend because you or your family are showing symptoms of coronavirus, please call your GP practice to rearrange this appointment.

”All scheduled immunisation appointments in the Outer Hebrides are continuing and we would encourage all children and pregnant women to attend. If you cannot attend because you or your family are showing symptoms of coronavirus, please call your GP practice to rearrange.

"Members of the public can keep up-to-date about immunisations on NHS Inform here and follow the @NHSImmuniseScot Twitter account for the latest advice on immunisations."

Children should attend for a range of vaccinations at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, 16 weeks, 12-13 months and 3 years and 4 months old.

Pregnant women are invited to the Whooping Cough vaccine from 16 weeks of their pregnancy.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Instrumental Music Service provides music tuition, in a range of instruments, for pupils in every primary and secondary school throughout the island chain, from Lionel in the north right down to Castlebay in the south. 

A blog has been created for the Instrumental Music Service and this contains full information and instructions on how to access and set up Glow, Teams and Vscene, contact details for all Instrumental Music service staff, and in time the blog will also contain other information & news from the music service.

Every primary school has tuition in Gaelic Singing and Piping, and other instruments are taught in primary and secondary schools - dependent on the resources available in each local area. In addition to this, tuition is delivered through the Youth Music Initiative (YMI) to enable the Comhairle to meet the Scottish Government commitment that every child in school will have received one year of music tuition by the time they leave primary school.

During the present school closures, the CnES Instrumental Music Service will continue to provide instrumental music tuition via video lessons using Vscene.

Instrumental Music Teachers have set up class teams for their pupils in each school using Microsoft Teams, which is available through Glow. This will be the method of communication between staff & pupils and resources & lesson timetables will be posted on those platforms for the pupils to access. All pupils in our schools have a Glow username, email address and password and will be able to access Teams once logged into Glow. If your child is unsure of their Glow details they should contact their school in the first instance for help.

Rhona Johnstone, Musical Development Officer, said: “The Western Isles has a rich cultural heritage and a wealth of musical talent exists amongst those in our schools and living in our communities. Over the years the islands have produced a host of great musicians, many of whom have gone on to become well known household names.

“During the current period of lockdown, we are keen to continue the work that normally takes place with the pupils in our schools. We hope that our pupils will progress with their music lessons during this time and continue to develop their musicals skills and experiences.

“With the creation of the blog we look forward to providing you with all the information you need to know about the service and share some of the fantastic work that our pupils achieve with the support of our Instrumental Music Teachers.”

Parents and pupils can find out more about the Instrumental Music Service and online music tuition by visiting:

https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/es/ceoleileansiar/

In new message on Twitter last night (Monday April 20th), NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson pointed out that ten days have now passed since the last officially confirmed case of Covid-19 was reported to have occurred on the Western Isles.

The full statement can be seen at https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1252322891884040194?s=21

He said it was difficult to draw conclusions from this as the behaviour of the virus was not fully understood but it was “really difficult not to draw the conclusion that that is linked to the social distancing measures which everybody is practising.”

So “let’s keep it like that,” and use our new website at https://www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot/

Mr Jamieson said he hoped to be able to make a positive statement about local testing for Covid-19 in the next two or three days.

Earlier NHS Western Isles said it had been been inundated with incredibly kind donations from across our communities of various items, including monetary donations, hand sanitizers and creams, personal protective equipment, offers of accommodation, vehicles, snacks, and offers of assistance.

“We are incredibly grateful for all these donations and are thankful to our local communities for their kindness and thoughtfulness at this difficult time. Each donation means a lot to our staff, who remain at work so you can stay at home. 

“Our intention as an organisation is to ensure that your kind donations reach the right individuals within NHS Western Isles, including our community staff and support staff such as domestics, porters, catering staff and pharmacy.

“For this reason, we would ask that any future donations are made through a central point by emailing Colin Gilmour who is coordinating donations This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will ensure they are fairly distributed.

“Should you wish to specify where you would like your donation to go within the organisation, we will of course ensure that your wish is honoured.

“Whilst donations are hugely appreciated at this time, NHS Western Isles would also remind members of our community that the main thing our frontline staff need above all else from you is for you to stay at home and follow social distancing rules. This is the one thing you can do to help that will help keep our frontline staff safe and will ultimately protect the local NHS and will save lives.

Mr Jamieson said: “I am lost for words in terms of how generous individuals, businesses and groups have been. Our community has pulled together in an incredible way and has helped demonstrate to our key workers that we are all in this together and that we are here for one another.

“I would thank each and every organisation and individual who has offered help, assistance and goods to our staff.”

He added: “Clearly, the greatest gift you can give our frontline workers at this time is the gift of health, and we continue to ask you to do this by following government rules, in particular staying at home. By staying at home, you are helping to reduce and slow down the spread of this awful virus and you are protecting our NHS staff and our local healthcare services and without a doubt saving lives. On behalf of our staff, I continue to ask you to stay at home. The safest place for you to be is in your own home. To keep our staff safe, please stay at home. To protect our local community, please stay at home. Thank you.”

 

 

 

Birthdays celebrated in lockdown are turning out to be low-key affairs, with children disappointed if there can’t be a party and big landmark birthdays being celebrated in small ways.

But Stornoway company Stag Bakeries is making sure there’s one essential that won’t get missed from the special day – the birthday cake.

Among the specials they have made over the past couple of weeks there have been 30th, 60th and 90th birthdays as well as cakes for three and four-year-olds and lockdown 18th and 21st birthdays.

Stag’s general manager Kathryn Graham said: “Despite the difficult circumstances at present we are still taking orders for birthday cakes as normal, after all your birthday is always your birthday! You may not be able to have a party, but you can still have a cake.”

Production is still going full pelt at the Stornoway bakers, who even stepped in to help out home bakers with supplies of flour while supermarket shelves are empty.

And all that effort isn’t going to waste – as the pictures show, not only is Stag adding a special touch to birthdays at home, but they’re getting messages from customers like Liam and Euan, who made this Thank You card for the good bakers at Stag.

 

 

Coastguard officers were out and about around the Western Isles throughout the past sunny weekend, supporting Highlands and Islands Police as they kept up patrols to reinforce the Covid-19 ‘Stay at Home’ message.

And according to their message yesterday (Sunday 19 April) the Western Isles community is getting a pat on the back for their self-restraint, enjoying their own gardens but not making unnecessary journeys to island beauty spots.

The statement from HM Coastguard Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber said: “Our patrols this weekend revealed the communities of Western Isles and Skye are largely following public health advice to stay home during the covid-19 crisis.

“Thank you all for the waves and well-wishes. Together we’ll protect the NHS, saves lives and beat covid-19. Enjoy the video of some stunning west coast scenery amidst glorious weather.

You can see the whole video here: www.facebook.com/hmcoastguardwesternislesskyeandlochaber/videos/220651642703406

Pictures show some of our local teams out and about in Harris and Ness.

 

Police are appealing for public help in finding out who committed an unsolved theft in Bragar.

The theft from a front porch at a domestic address in Bragar is known to have taken place between Saturday 11 April and the morning of Monday 13 April – over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Western Isles police said anyone who had seen any suspicious activity in the area should contact them using the non-emergency number 101 and quoting incident number NH403/20.

The stranded cargo ship which remains rock-bound in the middle of the Minch is being steadily emptied of cargo, with plans advancing for lifting and towing her when possible.

Salvors today (Monday 20 April) reached the half-way point in removing MV Kaami’s 1,927 metric tonnes of cargo, using a waterborne chain of smaller vessels to shuttle between the ship and Kishorn, where the salvaged cargo is being landed.

Salvors have positioned the Forth Guardsman, with a long-reach crane, alongside the Kaami in her position on rocks known as the Eugenie Rocks, south-east of Lewis.

A fleet of small cargo vessels and landing craft including C Odyssey, Jenna, Carly and Leslie Anne are being filled with large skip-loads of the pelletised wood and paper which forms the cargo and rotating between the Kaami and the landing point at Kishorn.

The Dutch vessel Multratug 3 has been maintaining guard over the wreck throughout the operation, ensuring that the 500 metre exclusion zone around the ship remains intact.

Also operating around the ship today are Lewis and Harris-based dive support vessels the Venturer and Hirta. Divers are continuing to survey the vessel and surrounding area.

A statement this morning from the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said: “Good weather has made it possible for the salvors to remove 44 skips worth of cargo from the MV Kaami over the weekend.

“The ship remains aground in the Minch between Skye and Lewis. So far 138 skips worth of cargo have been taken ashore and cargo offloading will continue on Monday and Tuesday.”

Stephan Hennig, the Secretary of State’s Representative Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SoSRep), said: “Greatly improved weather and sea conditions have made all the difference in this operation as we had hoped they would.

“The removal of so much cargo now means we’re getting closer to the next phase of the salvage, which will focus on assessing the internal damage and attempting to temporarily repair damaged sections of the ship.”

One option for moving the ship would be to pump compressed air into the empty cargo holds, allowing the vessel to regain buoyancy and be refloated off the rocks. She could then be towed to a safe haven for repairs.

A similar process was used to move the Transocean Winner drilling rig when she grounded at Dalmore in Lewis, in 2016.

 

The mythologised Australian cultural concept of ‘mateship’ is under threat due to the COVD-19 pandemic, university student, Serena Ford fears.

Hunkering down in her apartment in Canberra where she studies at the Australian National University, Serena laments that the pandemic is revealing an uglier side to life Down Under.

She told Taylor Edgar of welovestornoway.com: “Of course, looking after one-another is not unique to Australia, but it is an underpinning philosophy in people’s interactions with society or way of thinking about the country as a whole.

“ ‘Mateship’ was referred to often in the media during the bushfire crisis as Australians from all walks of life were active in looking after one another and particularly vulnerable people. Unfortunately, I think the narrative has shifted. People are feeling disappointed by the loss of ‘mateship’ in Australia and are sensing that society is becoming more selfish as a whole in light of this pandemic.

“I think that the Australian 'laid-back' way of life and love for leisure can have an ugly underbelly of disregard for vulnerable members of society. One such example is the hundreds of people gathering at Bondi Beach despite explicit public warnings against large crowds.”

So far, compared to Europe and the US, Australia has escaped relatively lightly, recording only 6,586 cases and 69 deaths at this stage.  In the Australian Capital Territory, including Canberra, Serena’s hometown, there have only been 103 cases confirmed to date, and they are all traceable.

Despite the stay-at-home order and social distancing imposed by the government, Serena is considering herself particularly fortunate. She lives in a little ‘granny flat’ at her Canberra home but hasn’t seen her family in days having taken the decision not to do so as some family members are high-risk.

She has also been able to keep her part-time job as a music teacher as she has been able to continue tutoring via FaceTime. Her university course in Asian Studies has been unaffected too as it was already online.

“It has been more a matter of adapting to working in a home environment when you have to strike a balance between relaxation and work since the two spaces invade one another. This tension between the two has been difficult to get around, but it’s a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. I just wear work clothes and shoes inside now when I need to start my day,” says Serena.

While she is counting her blessings, Serena is swift to point out that other students have not been so lucky.  Being a Canberra native has meant Serena hasn’t had the dilemma of staying in the capital or beating a hasty retreat back home.

Apart from the natural desire to head for home in times of trouble, there are also financial implications for students who are not ‘townies’.

Explains Serena: “Being university students, many of us have casual jobs to pay for the rent of living out of home. Before the financial help from the government was announced for those people, there was a mass exodus out of Canberra as people returned to their family homes. For many people, this has been a big shock, since they are used to living as financially independent young adults and being thrust back home has been demoralising for many.”

However, there are wider long-term consequences for Australian education, Serena believes. If the infrastructure from this rushed online conversion is consolidated, there could potentially be a silver lining for regional and remote students to study at home with top universities.

This potential reward, though, must be offset by the enormous financial hit Australian education will take in the wake of the pandemic. International education is Australia’s third-largest export, and universities rely heavily on international student enrolments for their financial security.

“Australia banned non-citizens travelling from China to Australia on February 1, and students hailing from China make up around 30% of international student enrolments, which was not just a very distressing situation for those students but also led to a number unenrolling,” points out Serena.

“The whole situation revealed that universities are under pressure if COVID-19 ultimately slows down international student enrolments, and it might mean fees for both domestic and international students being raised, likely making it an unaffordable endeavour for many Australians and overseas students.”

Someone who is gaining from the pandemic, Serena argues, is Australia’s embattled Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.  “During the recent Bushfire crisis in Australia, it was blunder after blunder, including the PM holidaying in Hawaii during the crisis and forcing a pregnant and bushfire affected woman to shake his hand. Public opinion of him was very low, and he definitely wasn’t expected to win in the next election,” Serena opines.

“But his measures during this coronavirus crisis have shifted the sentiments, with lead journalists describing the management of COVID-19 as an atonement for the summer.”

This turnaround in public opinion has been down to the Morrison administration’s pandemic preparations. With several weeks to get ready before the pandemic reached Australian shores, COVID-19’s spread in the community has been much less widespread than it could have been.

A national health emergency was declared early, and Australia has taken the same tack as New Zealand by trying to “flatten the curve” rather than eliminate the virus.

The official advice to the public has been clear and straight-forward; the standard hand-washing, social distancing, limits on public gatherings, and a ban on non-essential domestic and foreign travel. And COVID-19 testing is carried out by GP referral.

The one place where Australia diverges is with their approach to schools. Despite appearing counter-intuitive to many, schools have been deemed safe and are operating normally.

“To end on a lighter note to all this, I’d like to tell the readers in Scotland that while we are likely all in the same boat in terms of adjusting to working from home, I wonder if Australians (especially Canberrans) have it worse due to the sheer cacophony of cockatoos screeching every day in autumn!” jokes Serena.

“They are lovely, cheeky birds, but throughout writing my answers to these questions, I had to contend with some very vocal neighbours!”

Hear for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u45U7i1QQcY

 

The UK Government’s Coronavirus job retention scheme has opened for applications this morning (Monday 20 April) and Isles MP Angus B MacNeil is sharing the step-by-step guide employers need to make their claim to HMRC.

The seven-page guide can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-job-retention-scheme-step-by-step-guide-for-employers 

The guide for employers is intended to streamline the application process, so that the huge weight of applications expected today can be processed as swiftly and efficiently as possible. 

Under the Coronavirus job retention scheme, businesses can claim up to 80% of an employee’s salary, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, allowing the employee to be furloughed and to return to work once the crisis is over.

Mr MacNeil said: “There is no doubt that businesses are under pressure during this pandemic and, with April’s payday fast approaching, it is good to see that the Coronavirus job retention scheme is now open for applications.

“It is essential that the application process runs smoothly to avoid adding further pressure to businesses.”

The guide answers questions that employers may have and lays out the information needed before an application is made. Also available is a general guidance note at www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme and a series of webinars on YouTube.

HMRC also has telephone support, but they have fewer advisors available than usual due to distancing measures at their call centre. They said: “Please support HMRC in keeping our lines open for those who need our help most. Do not call us unless you have an issue that cannot be resolved using our guidance or webchat facility.”

 

Location: Milan, Italy

Stage of Crisis: Day 43 of lockdown, week 8 of school closures

By Lorraine Coleman

It's Milan, but not as we know it. Parks host nothing but still swings, empty benches and whispering grass. Shopfront shutters gather dust and streets usually lined with scooters and triple-parked cars yawn vacant.

Looking back…

On the Sunday evening that we heard schools in Milan were closing the very next day, almost without exception, we thought it was an overreaction. We’d heard of three deaths in the whole country, and few cases, mostly concentrated in Codogno, a sleepy suburb 30 miles from Milan. At that time, despite Wuhan, we had no conception of the virus’ high infectivity, or the devastating strain of pneumonia it could so easily cause.

I admit, I raised my eyebrows and privately chalked it up to an acute example of Italians’ reverent deference to all things medical. My school was on a half-term holiday that week, and I fully expected to return to work as normal on 2 March. 8 weeks on, I hardly believe my naivety.

In the first fortnight, we held nightly reviews. How many today? My flight’s been rescheduled. There’s a new form to carry. Eurovision’s cancelled. And the almost unspeakable How long..?

My husband’s stopped talking about it now.

Initially, Italy tried the soft lockdown of the kind currently in place in the UK, but quickly found that mere suggestion wouldn’t be enough to curb sociable Mediterranean habits. Dogs were walked rigorously and often. “Jogging” became suddenly endemic. Several coffees a day at the crowded bar were robustly claimed as health benefits, and Sunday lunches with family two regions away, deemed essential.

A week in, we decided to chance a walk to the local park: 5 minutes away, Parco Lambro is a 200-acre expanse of untamed grass, soft hills and meandering paths. We wouldn’t meet anyone we knew, our kids would be strapped into the buggy, so there would be no problem adhering to social distancing.

When we arrived, it seemed the whole 'northern quarter' had had the same idea: hordes of cyclists, kids cascading round the skate ramps, dogs who hadn’t seen their pals all week dragging their owners within coughing distance. Lawless!

So further decrees ensured: no exercise except within the immediate vicinity of your home. Private communal gardens are closed. You may only leave your house to go for groceries, to the chemist, for essential work or a medical emergency. Masks and proof of reason for travel are mandatory.

Queueing Covid-19 style for the grocery store

The only places where people gather (at safe distance) are supermarkets: online shopping hasn’t really become the norm here among people over 40, and the perambulatory Milanese are in the habit of buying fresh, little and often. Luckily, our lockdown happened so quickly that no-one had time to panic-buy even if they were inclined, so we didn’t suffer the supermarket shortages reported elsewhere – toilet roll aplenty!

So what are Italians buying instead? Masks and hand sanitizer, like the rest of the world. Hair dye. Tinned tomatoes and vanilla essence – proof, if it were needed, that for Italians the way through all crises is through the stomach.

In the second week of lockdown, we placed a grocery order for delivery (I was still working, we have two children under 3, and no supermarket trolley has two child seats.) Usually, you wait maybe three days. Our order was delivered 22 days later.

*          *          *

Although the lockdown roll-out was fast here, it wasn’t without hitch. Milan was not effectively quarantined until 8 March, 10 days after Codogno and a few other smaller towns. On the eve of the announcement of stricter emergency measures in Milan, an opposition party member leaked the draft. In the following 48 hours, as many as 15,000 people fled south to be with their families, sadly facilitating the spread of the virus across the country. Southern mayors were aghast, and pleaded with travellers to reconsider. Nationwide lockdown was announced the next day.

Since then however, the public response has been overwhelmingly positive. Italians generally treat rules with a good-humoured if not healthy contempt, but the devastating reports from our hospitals were rapidly sobering. The viral messages from Italian mayors berating their wayward constituents via video were overtly snorted at, but privately absorbed.

Our numbers, as everyone calls them, are staggeringly high. As I write, COVID-19 has claimed over 23,000 lives in Italy, yet we know that is a gross underestimation. By the end of March, symptomatic people were choosing to remain at home rather than go to hospitals from which they had scant hope of emerging; their deaths are not included in our statistics; nor are the heartbreaking figures emerging from care homes, a worrying phenomenon that appears to be mirrored in the UK.

Beyond their painfully human stories, the toll of these statistics cannot and should not be underestimated. In Bergamo, at the height of its emergency, ambulances stopped using sirens; the roads lay empty anyway, but it was also felt that the collective psyche needed a reprieve from their portentous wailing.

Even as the immediate terror recedes, new smaller alarms are cast up. Last Friday as I waited at the supermarket, the mercury crept up to 27 degrees, and I was struck by the fragility of our determined calm: how will people stand in queues for an hour in the 30-degree heat that will be upon us by June? As we entered the store, a security guard flashed an infrared thermometer on our necks.

The view from the kitchen window

Mercifully, Italy’s peak is seemingly behind us, and the government prepares for Phase Two: living with the virus. A few small businesses were permitted to open from last Monday, though many elected to remain closed; contagion anxiety persists. Free movement within regions is projected to begin on 4 May, with cafés and restaurants opening two weeks later. Schools, it is whispered, will remain closed until September.

After initial popular support for lockdown measures, agitations emerge for their relaxation. Italy, champion of the small business, now risks an alarming number of commercial failures, and its already stretched government simply cannot afford compensation in the case of large-scale collapse; there is tacit acknowledgement that the mafia waits in the wings, an alternative ready.

That said, our previously ignored Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti has become an unlikely Papà-in-Chief, esteemed for taking unpopular but necessary decisions, calmly reassuring the public, and calling out opportunistic populists. However, this is unlikely to translate to long-term electoral reward: Italian politics is notoriously fractious and fragmented, and the country has seen 61 governments in 75 years.

*          *          *

As the weeks pass, displays of solidary and strength are deeply heartening. In the early days, balconies blossomed with childishly-rendered rainbow banners bearing the legend “Andrà tutto bene (Everything will be all right)”. Every day for the last week, someone in our block has played and sung Italian folk classics from the car park beneath the building, the reverberating melodies drawing us together in appreciation. Going to the shop this morning, a neighbour recorded a karate lesson on her balcony. All this reminds us that we continue to exist and be bound together in a community.

Like everyone, we encounter frequent, relatively minor heartaches: my father-in-law’s 70th birthday passed without kisses from our daughter, his favourite little familiar. Weddings have been postponed, reunions between old friends, cancelled in the shadow of an unknowable future.

My “good” kitchen knife, after growing gradually duller for months, has capitulated in the face of twice-daily meals for four, and now every chopped onion risks being joined by one of my fingertips. Sadly, knife sharpeners are not deemed “essential” (see also Tupperware and baking trays), so I’ll have to take extra care in the next few months.

Lorraine Coleman

I long to feel out of breath outdoors, to walk somewhere just a little too far, to see something beyond the horizon of the supermarket. I am aggrieved by the insensitive but predictable arrival of hayfever, when I can’t get to marvel at the new greenery that provokes it; Milan is at its very best in spring, when the air is clear and still and thrumming, and every growing thing stretches for the sky.

I, like everyone, miss my family. I’ve lived away from Lewis since I was 17, but have returned at least three times every year and the uncertainty about when I’ll be able to hug my mother, sister, aunt again, is wearing. Lockdown hit in February, just as I was beginning to yearn for the aroma of Stag bread, toasted and slathered in butter – first on the menu when we return!

In compensation, new or neglected joys emerge: there are more Skypes, Zooms, FaceTimes, Houseparties than ever before. Last week I spoke to a dear friend in Orkney who wondered when last we’d chatted; we realised it was when she’d Skyped to tell me she was pregnant with her now 6-year-old son. My husband, a nerd of the highest order, is able to have almost nightly virtual games with friends usually too fatigued from work or occupied by the Outside to engage in hours-long strategizing. I finally gutted my kitchen cupboards, culled my music stores, and backed up my hard drive (it’s 2020, I know), then spent two whole evenings grinning like a fool at photos long forgotten.

And in these times of socially-mandated self-improvement, what have I achieved? Well, I’ve learned to make a passable home cappuccino, and invested in an orange squeezer. I’ve hastily skilled up to deliver online lessons and seminars. I made my first ever batch of edible scones, and this week, I’ll attempt chocolate croissants made from Nigella-sanctioned ready-rolled puff pastry and a Lindt bar.

Some life goes on as it would have anyway. Last week, my son took his first steps. My daughter, ever determined, is teaching herself to jump off and over things (with varying success). My students continue to receive offers of university places, striving ahead to normality and their rich futures.

How societies recover from this crisis will prove a real and searching test to our solidarity and commitment behind the sentiment of singing and clapping for health workers.

In Italy, as everywhere, we must try to look out, and up, to count our good fortunes, and to emerge defiant.

A former Newmarket man is one of a team of volunteer engineers who have set up a speedy production line for Personal Protective Equipment in the north-east of Scotland.

Aberdeen-based Duncan Macleod grew up in Newmarket and went to Laxdale Primary School and The Nicolson Institute, before moving to the faculty of computing technologies and science at NESCol in Aberdeen, where 3-D printers are just part of the department’s kit.

The potential of the equipment interested Duncan so much that he saved up to get one at home, where he discovered that, as he said: “There’s so much that can be made from a spool of biodegradable plastic filament.”

Coronavirus lockdown found the 3D printing community looking to help out, so Duncan jumped at the chance to produce a simple face visor, designed in Sweden and easy to make on a small printer.

His efforts coincided with a call for help from Joe Skinner, who had just set up a Facebook page called ‘protecting essential workers in the north-east’. Duncan became his fifth volunteer and, within a few weeks the group were hard at work supplying health and social care workers with face visors to protect themselves while working to hold back the spread of the virus.

Duncan said: “There are now more than 15 people in the group – nine printing and four supporting, plus Joe and his partner Nikki doing both at the hub in Peterhead. We can produce 150 visor frames each day and to date have manufactured and supplied over 2,000 units.

“There’s been weekly collection and Nikki Mandok, Joe’s partner, has been great at co-ordinating supply and demand, and dropping fresh filament spools to people when the donations allow.  They intend to expand the printer farm when donations allow. 

“Until official production and logistics can meet demand, there are many groups across Scotland and the world carrying out similar community projects.”

Peterhead Hospital’s casualty and dialysis units have been among those to benefit from the team of volunteers, as have pharmacies, care homes and other community organisations in the north-east of Scotland.

Joe Skinner said: “We have had tremendous support from my employer JBS Fabrication, also from AM Campbell, CNOOC and had the premises supplied free of charge by Peterhead Area Community Trust (PACT). Aberdeen Marine Surveyors Ltd have volunteered to sterilise all the units and we have had support from the public on the GoFundMe site (https://www.gofundme.com/f/protecting-essential-workers-in-the-north-east ).”

Duncan Macleod’s parents, Duncan and Catherine Macleod and his brothers Grant and Colin Macleod still live in Lewis.

The pictures show 3D printed headbands ready to be sterilised, volunteers packaging up the visors for delivery and grateful recipients at Peterhead Hospital’s casualty department.

 

Barra was treated to the unusual sight of an RAF Puma helicopter on Borve machair on Friday (17 April) as her crew carried out a familiarisation visit as part of emergency response training.

The Puma is one of three stationed at RAF Kinloss as part of the Covid support force working with NHS Scotland.

The helicopter spent an hour at Stornoway airport on Friday morning with emergency crews getting guided introductions to the aircraft and to landing and loading protocols, before overflying the Western Isles to check out landing sites at key locations.

The RAF crew were guided in to land at Borve machair, the established landing site for helicopter evacuations, by members of Barra Coastguard Rescue Team.

They were joined by ambulance crew members and other medical staff for a briefing on the Covid-19 medical evacuation process.

The Puma is the longest-serving helicopter type in operation with the RAF today. Normally stationed at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire, the three Kinloss-based craft have been kitted out with epipods suitable for transport of people with Covid-19 en route to mainland hospitals.

Pictures show the Puma at Borve machair on Friday (John Macdougall).

 

Stornoway has been the sunniest place in the UK for two consecutive days, with a hat trick in the offing as today (Sunday 19 April) also finishes sunny and bright.

And with a forecast of day-long sunshine tomorrow (Monday) and Tuesday, it’s possible that we could be looking at something of a local record – although the UK’s highest temperature will be way out of our reach.

Met Office figures published daily on Twitter showed Stornoway with 13.6 hours of sunshine on Friday and 13.7 hours yesterday.

With daylight hours rapidly lengthening Stornoway could still see a further one or two days at the top of the chart – although competition from more northerly latitudes still has to be considered.

A spokesman for Western Isles Weather said: “This is often the best time of year for us in the islands, with clear sunny days quite usual, but in the current circumstances it’s especially welcome to have the chance to get outside in the garden and in the sunshine.”

The forecast is for unbroken sunshine and temperatures between 13 and 15 degrees for the early part of the week, although with winds freshening tomorrow afternoon.

Pictures show the Met Office tweeted statistics for Friday and Saturday and a view from NASA worldview of the Western Isles during today’s sunshine.

 

During this time of crisis in our country, the effect of Covid-19 on our charities is having a devastating effect, says Megan Macdonald of Sandwick Bay Candles.

With the Bethesda shop on Bayhead, Stornoway, currently closed and the numerous fundraisers required to meet the costs of running the hospice also being cancelled, it is important to keep fundraising. 

“I am asking for your help to raise funds for our local Bethesda Care Home and Hospice."

It started off with a hamper raffle for Bethesda. “I have a hamper valued at £100 which I am going to raffle.  So let's raise as much as we can!” said Megan.

Support in amounts large and small is coming in through the event's JustGiving Page

“Bethesda is a vital service on our island home and one that we as a family have had first-hand experience.  Having worked with Bethesda over the last few years I want to do as much as I can during this time of uncertainty,” she says

Then there started to be a growing list of businesses also getting involved and donating a prize!

The draw will take place on Wednesday April 29, 2020 at 8pm.

You can join the fundraising effort through - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sandwickbaycandles

On offer, apart from the £100 hamper from Sandwick Bay Candles itself, are:

Example - if you donate £10,  Megan will put 5 tickets with your name in the raffle. ❤️

With a COVID-19 death toll now almost four times that of 9/11*, New Yorkers are reeling from the impact, writes Taylor Edgar.

But the typical New Yorker, while alarmed at the unfolding tragedy in their city, is determined that New York will bounce back once they have defeated the pandemic.

For now, the city that never sleeps is being kept awake trying to absorb the reality of being a city mourning more than 11,000 dead and caring for 200,000 citizens infected with COVID-19.

From her home in Manhattan, international fashion designer Jovana Benoit is processing the new normal of the Big Apple.

She told welovestornoway.com: “At first it seems as if no one took the pandemic too seriously. But then it became apparent that this was not to play with and total panic happened overnight. The stores were empty, and people stocked up with probably unnecessary items just to hoard. The death toll is so high that it feels surreal as if we are in a movie scene.”

She continues: “This is probably one of the worst crises in modern history or the last few decades for New Yorkers. It caught everyone by surprise, and we seem not to have the end of this crisis anywhere near yet.” New York, though, has defaulted to resilience mode and the mindset that was carved out in the wake of the Twin Towers. How the city, an international hub of commerce, will change in the aftermath of this latest tragedy is still an open-ended question for now. However, with typical New York resolve, Jovana, amidst the current uncertainty enveloping the city, is sure of one thing.

“Definitely New York City will bounce back, but it will never be the same. People will be more careful and paranoid,” Jovana predicts. “I cannot speak for the politicians, but I think that, in general, the world will be different; you can no longer shake hands, and you will always wonder should you stay close to others when walking around, going to a restaurant, walking into an elevator. The only hope is that a successful vaccine will bring back normalcy after all this. For now, we hope for the best.”

Meantime, the city and state governor, Andrew Cuomo are pinning their long-term exit strategy on a robust regime of testing in the city and across the state of New York. The grim reality of the death toll, however, is ensuring most people are adhering to the tenets of Stay at Home and social distancing. 

Daily life for Jovana has drastically changed, but for the better, in some ways, as her focus has shifted to things that she feels are ultimately more satisfying. “You tend to find yourself doing things that you never realized could be meaningful as just spending time reading or talking with family members and really, just taking it day by day,” explains Jovana.

The same one day at a time approach is the philosophy she is adopting too for her eponymously titled fashion label, Jovana Louis (www.jovanalouis.com). After travel and tourism, fashion is one industry most affected by COVID-19 and the global economic downturn. Lockdown and the financial implications of the pandemic have had a massive impact on Jovana’s work and business.

Even so, Jovana remains upbeat: “We are basically in standstill mode for manufacturing, and all employees are at home. I, personally, can continue working on new designs that can be for next seasons once we reopen.

“This is going to hurt financially, and we can only hope that when things reopen, we can bounce back very quickly.

While wrapped up in a personal bubble in her Manhattan apartment, Jovana’s mind, like all islanders, is never far from her roots. To Jovana, her home will always be 1500 miles away in Haiti. Her family and friends are naturally never far from her thoughts as the spread of the COVID-19 infections encircles the globe

A worried Jovana says: “I can only hope that this pandemic doesn’t take the full force in Haiti as it has in other countries. So far, the numbers are very low, and we hope that it stays that way because Haiti is unprepared for such a pandemic.”

New York City with its global connections will almost certainly weather the storm and remain the hub it has always been for finance, fashion, entertainment and much more besides. It may be getting battered by COVID-19 at the moment, but its greatest asset - its people - will prevail.

Concludes Jovana: “Overall, New York is the epicentre of the world now for this pandemic, and obviously it is a very scary situation. The impact will take some time to wear off, but I feel that living in New York is still an amazing experience that one must be in to understand. Fashion will always survive, and we must stay beautiful.”

(*The 9/11 death toll (Twin Towers, Pentagon etc.) was 2,977 excluding the 19 hijackers. The latest figure we have for New York City is almost 11,477.)

Highlands and Islands Labour MSPs, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart, have joined forces in asking government to step in to help the survival of local media throughout the region. 

Both MSPs have been contacted by Highlands and Islands based media outlets who were struggling to compete with online media, with lack of business advertising, and who have been stretched even further since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Mr Stewart sought the help of Ian Murray MP, who is now Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary, in raising the issue with Ofcom before the COVID-19 outbreak. Ian Murray said at the time that he would write to Ofcom regarding the threat posed to local commercial media outlets by multinationals and that he will continue to work alongside David and other Labour colleagues to highlight the vital role that local newspapers play in our communities.

The Broadford based weekly newspaper West Highland Free Press stated last week: "After 2503 editions spanning 48 years we're devastated we won't be printing next week. A huge thanks to all in our great communities for the support and understanding. We aim to be back in June, but we'll also be staying online in the meantime."  Stornoway-based EVENTS newspaper, the in-print cousin of welovestornoway,com, is continuing in publication.

EVENTS editor Fred Silver said: "The support of MSPs is welcome.  However, newspapers and other media have to be wary of overt Government support, which is inevitably going to have strings attached. We are looking out for direct support from the communities which we serve."

MSP David Stewart said “I was pleased to have the support of our Westminster colleague, Ian Murray, as this is having a detrimental effect on our community based media groups and print businesses who are struggling to offer the same levels of support to charity and community groups in their area as they once did.

“In response Ofcom advised that several public bodies are looking at online advertising and its regulation. In 2018, the Government asked Dame Frances Cairncross to review the sustainability of high-quality journalism, including the role of digital advertising. Separately, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is also undertaking a market study into online platforms and digital advertising, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is also conducting a review into the regulation of online advertising in the UK. Ofcom advised that it will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of this work and any relevant implications.”

Mr Stewart’s Highlands and Islands Labour colleague, Rhoda Grant, has now also called for funding support from the Scottish Government to be made available to the journalism sector or for current existing support to be extended to the sector.

Mrs Grant has been contacted by newspapers who believe they cannot access any support from the Scottish Government through the COVID-19 pandemic, even though their advertising income has plummeted. In addition, distribution has become harder as some paper shops are closed and generally people aren’t leaving their homes. Mrs Grant said “This has further impacted on income streams.”

She said the journalism sector cannot take full advantage of the furlough system that is now in place as journalists have been listed as “key workers” by the Westminster Government.

Mrs Grant has contacted both the Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, and the Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, asking if funding could be made available for the sector. She has suggested extending business rates relief to the journalism sector or by creating an individual grant for struggling media outlets. She has, in addition, suggested that the Scottish Government could buy advertising space to allow small local businesses to advertise for free, helping both the newspaper and the small business as it is now understood that the Scottish Government has paid local and nationwide newspapers for a coronavirus wrap around advertisement.

Mrs Grant said: “It has been long documented that small local newspapers have been struggling financially for some time now and it’s worrying that they face even further turmoil due to the coronavirus.

“These Government sponsored wrap around ‘stay-at-home’ newspaper advertisements are a welcome helping hand to newspapers as people depend on the journalism sector as a source of information – especially now. Big newspaper corporation’s will be able to survive this however, I am worried about the future of the small, local papers within the Highlands and Islands and I believe the Scottish Government could do more to help them through this so that they can continue to print now and for future years to come.” 

 

Hebridean Housing Partnership want to assure tenants and partners that we are continuing to provide as complete a service as is safe to do, following the news from Central Government that the current lockdown measures will be in place until at least 7 May,

Lockdown has presented everyone with many varied and unanticipated challenges, but HHP staff have been working very hard from home to ensure that wherever possible tenants can access services, advice, assistance and support on an ongoing basis.

Dena Macleod, Chief Executive said, “During a global crisis of this nature, it is vitally important we work together to help and support the most vulnerable in our communities.

"Our approach has been to contact all tenants, starting with the most vulnerable, to find out what assistance they need and if we are not in a position to help, our Housing Officers are connecting them with the appropriate agency.

"So far we have managed to contact just over 1,000 tenants and the number indicating they need support due to not having family members in a position to help them, remains very low.  The Assistance line set up by the Comhairle (01851 600501) along with the various services put in place by communities throughout the islands, shows we are doing a great job of looking out for one another, which is very encouraging and reassuring.”

"Our Clerk of Works and handymen have also been very busy helping with the delivery of food parcels and other such vital aid, and we are encouraging all staff who are fit and able to do so, to join the coordinated local effort to support and assist those in our communities, alongside their day-to-day roles.

What services?

Although our offices are closed, we are providing Customer Services in as near normal a manner as we can. Telephone and Email support is available throughout. We are also processing applications, invoices, information requests and several back office functions remain unchanged.

Unfortunately, because of the Social Distancing requirements, we can only provide an Emergency Repair Service during this time. If you need to report an Emergency Repair, please contact us on 0300 123 0773.

A number of our planned maintenance, development and investment programmes are also on hold; but we are working closely with our partners and contractors to ensure these can be restarted as soon as it is safe to do so. We thank them all for their support and input as we work our way through this challenge together.

We also recognise the critical importance of keeping spirits high during these testing times. We have been supporting staff and tenants with steps and advice to protect their mental wellbeing, encouraging those who can to enjoy some exercise and to #clapforcarers in a show of solidarity and thanks for the many carers in our NHS, social care system and homes from the Butt to Barra, and across the country.

The Board and Management team would like to take this opportunity to wish all tenants, staff and their families continued good health, and to thank them for their support and understanding during this time.

If you need to contact us at any time to report an emergency repair please phone 0300 123 0773. If you have concerns regarding your Tenancy, or have queries or suggestions please call us on 0300 123 0773 or e-mail us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is extending the support it provides to those most vulnerable by expanding the eligibility of its Priority Services Register to include customers at increased risk of severe illness during the coronavirus pandemic.

A dedicated 80-strong team is also working to proactively contact customers who may be at risk of social isolation during the lock-down period, checking in on their welfare and signposting to further community support where required.

Nearly 750,000 customers are already benefitting from the additional care and support available from SSEN’s PSR – a free, tailored service available to all those who meet its criteria – including customers with a young baby at home, those over 60 and people who rely on electricity for home medical equipment.

And given the increase in customers who may require additional help during the coronavirus pandemic, the electricity distributor is expanding the PSR eligibility criteria to reflect this ever-changing situation.

Customers categorised at ‘high risk’ and ‘extremely high risk’ of severe illness from coronavirus are now eligible to sign up for additional support. This includes those following government guidelines who have received a letter from the NHS to socially shield for a 12-week period.

SSEN is also offering a friendly ear to PSR-registered customers over 75, with a new team set up specifically to call them during the pandemic, check on their welfare and signpost to local community support groups where required.

Using SSEN’s customer mapping tool, which provides detailed demographic information about the communities SSEN serves, 25,000 customers have been identified who may benefit from this additional support, including lone pensioners and those at high risk of social isolation.

Julie Walker, SSEN’s Social Obligations Manager, said: “The coronavirus pandemic has changed things for us all, and with everyone doing their bit to ensure they keep themselves, their friends, family and loved ones safe during the pandemic, here at SSEN we continue to focus on ensuring those most vulnerable are supported by our dedicated teams.

“By expanding the eligibility for our PSR we want to offer some reassurance in these worrying times, and so I’d encourage anyone who thinks that they, a family member, friend or neighbour could benefit from the extra help that is on offer, to get in touch, we’d love to hear from them.

“We’re also very aware that a lot of our elderly customers rely on their regular lunch clubs and coffee mornings for social interaction, and with these postponed at the moment they may not be having as much contact with the outside world.  This new programme of proactive calls is our way of letting the more elderly PSR customers know that we’re still here for them, and hopefully we’ll have a good few friendly chats in the process.”

In addition to those self-isolating or shielding for a 12-week period, customers are eligible for SSEN’s Priority Services Register if they:

  • Are deaf or hard of hearing
  • Have a disability
  • Live with children under five
  • Are blind or partially sighted
  • Have a chronic illness
  • Use medical equipment/aids reliant on electricity
  • Are over-60

For more information, or to register, please click here.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan has welcomed the announcement from the Scottish Government today that £3.5 million worth of support has been allocated for fishing vessels of over 12 metres.

The islands MSP had raised support for fishing vessels over 12 metres in length with the Scottish Government and has been in touch with seafood processing plants in the Western Isles regarding the plight of the industry.

Alasdair Allan said:“I am grateful to the Scottish Government for extending support to vessels over 12 metres in length and for their swift action in implementing grants to support the sector.

“The fishing industry is an integral part of the islands’ economy and, with the virtual collapse of their markets due to the coronavirus outbreak, fishing businesses have been in need of immediate support to ensure their survival.

“I hope that, in the meantime, we can consider ways to increase consumption of local fish and shellfish within Scotland in order to support our local businesses.”

 

CalMac has announced further changes in response to the Covid-19 emergency, following Government announcements on continued lockdown.

The ferry operator’s reduced service lifeline timetable has been extended to 7 May and there will be no recruitment of modern apprentices in 2020.

CalMac was planning to take 20 modern apprentices into deck, engine and hospitality roles and had already received around 450 applications for this year’s intake. That’s in addition to the 21 apprentices currently going through training, but stood down on full pay during the crisis.

The new intake has now been postponed until next year, when it will also be expanded to include more shore side roles. All applicants who had already applied will automatically be considered again next year and will have the opportunity to update their application with relevant experience gained in the meantime.

CalMac’s director of human resources, Christine Roberts, said: “We have considered a full range of options to continue with recruitment but, with regret, none of them are practical. Our current intake of modern apprentices is currently stood down from physical duties on full pay and continuing to study online at home, which will add on an extra six months to their training.

“If we simply postponed recruitment until later in the year we would be out of sync with our training partner City of Glasgow College's curriculum. We also do not have the capacity to have two sets of MAs working with us at the same time.”

Modern apprentices combine classroom study with time at sea and qualify with appropriate SQA qualifications. CalMac has employed more than 100 MAs since introducing the programme five years ago.

It takes a year for hospitality apprentices to be fully trained for their role as a senior catering rating and 18 months for deck and engine apprentices to be fully trained as navigational watch rating or engine room watch rating, plus another 18 months to become a fully qualified able seafarer.

Last year’s completed apprenticeships saw five seafarers from Lewis, Harris and Scalpay joining the CalMac workforce as engineers, deckhands and in the retail area.

Christine said: “Our MA programme is a key part of our talent pipeline, making sure we are training the next generation of seafarers. We continue to be 100% committed to delivering this, but unfortunately under the current crisis circumstances we will not be able to progress the programme this year, our priority has to be ensuring our current MAs are fully supported.

“We do not underestimate the value the communities we support place on these opportunities and this is not a decision we have taken lightly.”

Concerns have been raised that the Scottish Government's approach to supermarket deliveries could put vulnerable people at a disadvantage.

Last week, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron urged local supermarkets to go “the extra mile” to help customers who faced challenges in shopping personally instore.

Pressure has been mounting on the SNP government to pass big stores its “shielded” list, containing the country’s most vulnerable people who can’t leave their home during the coronavirus pandemic.

This would have followed the UK Government approach, which saw that list being handed over last month.  

A text service has been launched for the shielded group to get in touch with the Scottish Government.  It was revealed yesterday (Thursday 16 April) that only 21,000 signed up to have their details passed onto supermarkets.

Mr Cameron spoke after the issue was raised again at First Minister’s Questions.  “The UK Government simply passed its list on to the big chains, which allowed them to prioritise delivery slots for those who needed them most.

“But here, the SNP decided to take a different and more complicated approach which, judging by the results, has meant a lower number of shielded people receiving the help they need.

“Frankly, our big supermarket chains could do without having to manage a separate system in Scotland which has been introduced by the SNP simply for the sake of being different.

“While I have urged the supermarkets to do as much as possible, they badly need the Scottish Government to get its act together fast so that local people receive the supplies they require.”

 

Common sense and public trust are strong elements of the approach to the Coronavirus pandemic being shown in the Netherlands.

Our reporter, Annie Delin, asked her long-time friend Mark van Ments to give an outline of what life under lockdown in the Netherlands is like.


Mark lives in Amersfoort, south-east of Amsterdam in the province of Utrecht, with his wife Madeleen and their two primary-age children, Lucas and Juliette.

Mark said: “The last day my office was open was the auspicious Friday 13th March, so I’ve been working from home for over four weeks. The schools closed a week later, and my wife, whose face-to-face job has had to be put on hold, has had the difficult task of keeping the kids focused on work and not killing each other.

“The children have been used to traditional methods with blackboards and books, rather than laptops and video. They have adapted rather quicker than the teachers, who have the difficult job of preparing a week’s work in advance and getting it out to children. But the children are getting used to it, and are learning organisation skills, if nothing else.

“Before my current job I used to work from home and, in some ways, things don’t feel much different from how they did back then. The children are at home, so it feels a bit more like a holiday than a working week, and the streets are quieter. But if you only want to go out for a walk and to do the shopping it doesn’t feel that strange.

“For people who have to go out to work, or cannot work from home, on the other hand, particularly those in the health and food sectors life is completely different.

“The ‘social distance’ rule here is 1.5 meters apart, rather than two. The advice is not to go out in groups, but how big the group can be is not clearly defined – you see whole families walking together.

“Children are still playing in the street, but only in pairs or trios, except for the odd group of teenagers sitting together in parks. The official guidance says:’ Parents are asked to make their own estimates and use common sense.’

“The biggest difference is that handshaking and kissing (three times is the norm) have disappeared from the greeting rituals when you meet someone you know.

“The most recent rule was to have no more than three people from outside your family as visitors. Most people don’t invite people into their houses any more but stick to gossiping on the street or having a drink in the garden, sitting the required distance apart.

“Some people are much stronger on the rules, either through vulnerability or just to make it easier to have a single rule for the whole family. Despite the possibility of a hefty fine of €390 (€85 for teenagers) a few people seem to flout the rules altogether – but not many.

“Buses and trains are still running, albeit on a Sunday timetable. But the buses drive past you with just the driver on board as most people have nowhere to go.

“Essentials such as pharmacies and supermarkets and other food shops continue to open. Large supermarkets like Albert Heijn have a strict one-person only rule and have closed half the self-checkouts so that people can stand further apart.

“Our local organic shop is much less strict, asking only that fewer than four people are in the fresh fruit and veg area. Most shops with shopping trolleys and baskets clean them between use and hand them to you personally on entry.

“Shops can choose whether to open. Some clothes and makeup shops are closed, but most other shops are still open, although doing very little trade. I could go and buy books, birthday decorations, exercise books, phone battery and sports goods all from the high street.

“All shops provide free antiseptic handwipes, tissues and other essential tools for keeping safe and all shops have lines on the floor to help people gauge how far 1.5 meters is when they are queueing to pay.

“All forms of group entertainment (cinema, theatre, etc.) are closed and all restaurants. However, there is some flexibility – restaurants can still deliver and some takeaways remain open. For example, the traditional chip shops still serve chips with mayonnaise or sate sauce and the Italian ice cream parlours still provide a multitude of flavours to be eaten outside in the street.

“The only difference is that there is a one-way system that only allows one person in the shop at a time while the rest have to queue outside, using the lines on the pavement for guidance.

“As regards exercise, the advice here is to keep exercising, and there isn’t really a fixed time limit. Going out at the weekend you still come across walkers and cyclists in their complete Tour de France outfits, ringing their bells madly at you to get out of the way.

“Advice is to go to places which are less busy. To help people with this many car parks in the countryside are closed, so people don’t go for a walk in isolation and come back to stand next to a whole load of cars. Some places, for instance popular seaside resorts like Scheveningen, do have patrols to try to limit the numbers. But most places are reasonably empty and even popular cycle routes have enough space for people to keep their distance.

“All sports clubs are closed, which makes sense for indoor and contact sports, but is a bit unfair on those of us who play tennis and can play from the baseline 23 metres away from our opponent.”

The pictures show the sign in the window of the San Marco ice-cream parlour in Amersfoort, which reads: ‘Enjoy Responsibly. Beware: social distancing 1.5 metres’ (picture by Lucas van Ments) and hand gel for use by customers in a bookshop doorway (picture by Madeleen).

Facilities for electric vehicle charging and fuel at piers are currently in operation.

The Comhairle facilities are not regularly cleaned and it is recommended that users wipe down any equipment that requires handling, before and after use.

The Comhairle have also asked that users follow prevailing government guidance on social distancing when using these facilities.

Ships’ horns, bagpipes and highland dancing have added a distinctive Stornoway twist to the regular Thursday night #clapforNHS, but a big bang planned for last night (Thursday 16 April) did not go ahead.

Stornoway’s Crown Inn planned to set fireworks off from the roof of the building on North Beach Street at 9.30pm last night, to show appreciation for NHS and key workers.

The show was designed to be watched from the windows of town centre homes and was to be live-streamed so that people could also watch from home.

But fears were expressed by many, including some NHS and emergency service workers, that putting on fireworks could cause unintended consequences, including the possibility of people travelling to town to view the display. Worries were also expressed about animal welfare.

Just before the regular Thursday night round of applause for keyworkers the Crown announced that they had postponed the show and they apologised to anyone ‘concerned or offended’ by their plans.

The change of heart followed a video message from NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson, in which he urged islanders to ‘stick to the rules’ and continue to stay at home.

Gordon said: “As a community we’re doing really well. However, that can definitely change in an instant if we change our compliance with the rules and the staying at home. So please keep it up, it’s undoubtedly having an impact on the experience we are having here.

“Please stick at it. I am very grateful for the efforts you are putting in and I know how difficult it is, but it’s making a huge difference.”

Crown Inn customers were divided as to whether the postponement was the right decision, with some disappointed at the cancellation. But others commended the flexibility of the business, with one commenting: “Maybe do it when this is all over and we can all be out to make the journey and watch.”

An RAF Puma helicopter is at Stornoway airport this morning (Friday 17 April) carrying out a familiarisation visit as part of her crew training.
The Puma is one of three that have been stationed at RAF Kinloss as part of the Covid support force working with NHS Scotland.
The helicopter landed at 10am this morning and is being opened for Coastguard teams to familiarise themselves with the interior. Later it will overfly the Western Isles checking out possible landing sites at key locations.
The Puma is the longest-serving helicopter type in operation with the RAF today. Normally stationed at RAF Benson, the three Kinloss-based craft have been kitted out with epipods suitable for transport of people with Covid-19 en route to mainland hospitals.
Pictures show the RAF Puma outside Garden Hangar at Stornoway Airport this afternoon with emergency crews on familiarisation (John Ramsay) and the interior of the helicopter (RAF)

Isles MP, Angus B MacNeil, is highlighting the various helplines which are available to constituents during the Covid19 crisis.

Commenting Angus said: “I know that many people require assistance during this pandemic, particularly businesses, employees and the self-employed and help is available.

“The situation we are in is unprecedented and it is important that we all do our bit in supporting each other. The support available locally is heartening and once again shows island hospitality at its very best.

“I have included details of some of the helplines available. As always, I am happy to help in any way I can and constituents can contact me by email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling 01851 702272.”

Vulnerable people helpline
Public facing helpline those at high risk (older, disabled, pregnant or receiving flu jab for health reasons) and do not have a support network at home. It will connect them to local services which can provide food and medicine as well as emotional support. Tel: 0800 111 4000

Other Sources of help for Individuals and families
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar helpline Tel: 01851 600501
For young people - https://young.scot/ 
For parents - https://www.parentclub.scot/ and https://www.children1st.org.uk/help-for-families/parentline-scotland/ 
For older people - https://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/ and Age Scotland free helpline Tel: 0800 12 44 222
For pregnant women - www.nhsinform.scot/ready-steady-baby or contact your midwife if concerned.
For Social welfare or financial help -Citizens Advice Scotland: www.cas.org.uk Tel: 0800 028 1456

Help for Employees
Employment rights advice - www.acas.org.uk, Helpline: 0300 123 1100, Relay UK: 18001 0300 123 1100

Help for Businesses
Scottish businesses helpline - Tel: 0300 303 0660, operating Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm. www.findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/ 
For non-domestic rates business support - https://www.mygov.scot/non-domestic-rates-coronavirus/ 
For business support - https://findbusinesssupport.gov.scot/coronavirus-advice 
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Small Business Support Scheme https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/coronavirus/coronavirus-business-support-fund/ 


Useful Websites
For Scottish Government information - https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/ 
For NHS Scotland information - https://www.nhsinform.scot/coronavirus 
For Resilience planning information - https://www.readyscotland.org/ 
For information on charities and third sector - https://scvo.org.uk/support/coronavirus 

Volunteering and helping in your community
www.readyscotland.org 

The Outer Hebrides and Orkney should lead the way out of the Covid-19 lockdown by becoming "test beds" for the national lifting of restrictions, one of Scotland's most respected microbiologists has suggested.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said because the two island groups had the fewest confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country they could become trial areas for exiting the pandemic.
He also suggested that the Highlands and Grampian could follow if the islands' trial proved successful.
The move was backed by Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, who said:"I think this is an excellent suggestion.
"We need to get testing up in the islands, but Hugh Pennington has a well-informed hunch that we just need to prove. However it would need to be well managed."
Former Labour Minister, Brian Wilson, who chairs one of the islands's biggest employers, Harris Tweed Hebrides, said:"This is a really interesting, constructive suggestion.
"We have a micro-economy here with very little coming and going at present. With careful monitoring and testing, it makes a great deal of sense to gradually re-open the economy and then roll out the lessons learned elsewhere. At some point, there has to be a movement and where better to start than with islands?"
The Outer Hebrides has had just six confirmed cases of Covid-19  - and was the only health board without a death from the virus - while Orkney has had five cases and recorded its first death on Friday with the passing of a 59-year-old grandmother with underlying health problems.
"There could soon be a case for a geographical lifting of restrictions - such as in some of the Scottish islands and the Highlands and Grampian," said Prof Pennington.
"The Western Isles and Orkney are the obvious candidates to be the test beds for an exit strategy for the country. Travel is restricted because they are islands and have extremely low levels of confirmed cases. You can control access to them and re-open things like shops and churches etc and get back gradually to normal life again.
"As for people travelling to the islands it is to be remembered that the vast majority of people have not been affected (by the virus).
"The key is to get testing up in those islands because if anybody showed signs of having the virus they could be quickly tested and aggressive contact tracing implemented. That is the eventual way out of this.
"The islands have good medical facilities, but you would need to have good and effective testing facilities in place with a quick result. It would not cost a lot of money. It would be an example for the rest of the country as long as there was an early warning system in place. It could then be possible for the Highlands and Grampian to follow.
"Hotspots will not last because people will either recover or sadly die. So we have to think of how we are going to get out of this.
"Overall cases need to come down substantially - by about ten times - for the lockdown to be lifted throughout the country. That is why we need test beds where levels are already low.
"The virus has been spreading under the radar into places like care homes, presumably by workers who were unaware they were infected. The testing needs ramping up. The best you can say overall is that it (the virus) is not now out of control, but we do not yet have control over it."
Prof Pennington, who has just been appointed by the Scottish Police Federation as a coronavirus advisor, said that government health planners needed to take into account that a vaccine will not eradicate the virus.
"We have had flu vaccines for 60 years and flu is still a pandemic threat and kills large numbers each year," said Prof Pennington.
"It is still the worst of all vaccines because it only works for some and not everybody. I would not be surprised if a corornavirus vaccine did the same. It will reduce the number of deaths, but not give complete protection or eradicate the virus.
"My hope is that Covid-19 behaves like its relative SARS and disappear if the right measures are taken. Then you will not need a vaccine but have it in reserve.
"But people should not be seeing a vaccine as a panacea. It reduces the risk and planners need to take that into account in their planning. They have not tested the vaccine enough to know how effective it will be.
"A second wave of this virus is possible, but I think unlikely in the foreseeable future. It didn't happen with SARS, its relative. There were three waves of the 1918 flu pandemic, but this is not flu."
The scientist worked at St Thomas' Hospital, London, with the renowned virologist who discovered the first human coronavirus -  Glasgow-born June Almeida.
Prof Pennington headed the investigation into the Ecoli outbreak in Wishaw in Scotland which claimed the lives of 20 elderly people in 1996. He chaired a 2005 enquiry into a Welsh E. coli outbreak.
He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 Birthday Honours for services to microbiology and food hygiene.

Come and explore your local COVID-19 website is the message from NHS Western Isles.

The local Health Board yesterday (Thursday April 16) launched its new dedicated Coronavirus (COVID-19) support website for those living and working within the Outer Hebrides at www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot

Thanks to Alanna Macneil from Barra for her colourful STAY SAFE poster

Aimed as a one-stop gateway for the local community, the new site features a streamlined, modern design, and offers easy access to essential and accurate information on COVID-19.

Providing links to the latest guidance from NHS Inform, Scottish and UK Government, the site also offers local information on support and services.  This includes the Near Me virtual appointment system, maternity services, dental health, patient travel and virtual visiting.

A list of commonly asked questions and answers is featured, as well as information on pregnancy and child immunisations, to even how to care for your hands.  Also included are the local film updates provided by Gordon Jamieson, NHS Western Isles Chief Executive.

Staff guidance has been included to help staff cope with issues and concerns that they may experience. 

A section to help cope with isolation is also there, offering a range of support, tools and tips to help individuals and families stay at home.  Information on keeping well and healthy living is provided, as well as useful support on how to stay in touch with family and friends outwith your household.

A community links section offers information on the local Community Support Hub and Helpline, which offers community support for those who require support whilst self-isolating or may be considered vulnerable during this time.  This includes support with shopping, collection/delivery of prescriptions, walking pets and telephoning those who may be feeling lonely or isolated.

In addition, a useful support section offers information on local support services, financial and accommodation support, as well as water and energy supplier information.

The new website will be updated on a regular basis.

Visitors are encouraged to explore their local COVID-19 website at www.coronavirus.wi.nhs.scot

NHS Western Isles Chief Executive Gordon Jamieson said: “This new website has been launched as part of our COVID-19 communications strategy to provide a wide range of local and national updates in one place for our local community. It will be updated as required and will contain the most current information for the people of the Western Isles. We would encourage members of the public to visit the website.”

 

As a fan of the Hebrides, your lovely islands are never far from my mind.  I loved my visit in 2018 so much that I returned the next year with my mother, sister and aunt.  It was such a joy to share the beauty of the machair and to explore ancient sites.  I cherish the memories of our time at a charming B&B in Swordale, and I think I bought my body weight in Harris Tweed, says Bayberry L. Shah


What is it like sheltering from Covid-19 here in Georgia?  No doubt it is similar to Stornoway, but I’ll try to paint a picture of one American’s perspective.

When we had to move to Atlanta, Georgia, years ago, I was not pleased.  The massive city is known for sprawl and traffic.  Commuters spend hours in their cars on eight-lane highways and the summers are stifling. A local running group’s T-shirt says it all: “Heat, Hills and Humidity!”

However, Metro-Atlanta offers any cultural activity possible and the cost of living is low compared to other big cities.  We took advantage of this and bought a good-sized house in Marietta, just north of the city.  The turtle pond in the back was a main selling point for me and we have enjoyed hosting large family gatherings for Thanksgiving each autumn.

Unfortunately, Georgia is in the top ten states with the highest numbers of Covid-19, and Atlanta has the majority of cases.  Marietta is in Cobb County, which had some of the first cases brought over from Italy.  As of time of writing, there are almost 900 cases in our county and 43 deaths.  In Georgia, there are over 14,000 and 501 deaths.  These are scary numbers and we haven’t reached the apex yet. 

Initially, my routine wasn’t really affected.  As a Digital Project Manager, I had occasionally had projects on which I worked from home for long periods.  Thus, when my company initiated social distancing, I settled into my home office in front of my computer, enjoying the cat on my lap and the option to do laundry in-between conference calls.  We started team check-ins each morning to get the daily status. 

I pushed for having a little fun on Fridays.  We encouraged everyone to turn on their cameras and share their alternate personas.  Some wore funny hats, masks, university T-shirts, or showed off their collection of Star Wars ships. (These guys are UX Designers, coders and techies after all.)  I shared my Lord of the Rings action figures and said that a good PM needs the wisdom of Gandalf.  The team enjoyed it.  We made plans for upcoming Fridays to vary the themes, sharing our kids, pets or hobbies. Hey, if the virus is keeping us apart, at least we can make an effort to have some laughs. 

Regrettably, due to the downturn in the food-service industry, my project was put on hold and I joined a large group who were laid-off.  I had enjoyed my time at Focus Brands.  They own eight brands, some of which are global, such as Cinnabon.  I had helped launch a new mobile food-ordering app for McAlister’s Deli and then took over Moe’s Southwest Grill.  The irony is that these apps are crucial to their business now that pickup and delivery are the only options. 

Being let go was a mixed blessing. I had spent long hours at that job for the past year, so I was in dire need of a break.  However, the prospects for finding another job any time soon are grim.  Unemployment is high all across the U.S. and hiring is on hold. 

I tend to be a homebody, so on the surface, I don’t feel much impact.  I get my outside time each evening while running or cycling.  I have noticed many more people out for walks in the neighborhood.  At first, people would dart to the side and even turn their backs on me as I ran past.  Now, I see people still stepping aside, but they give a smile and wave.  It is sinking in that these interactions may be the only ones we have in a day.  It is also nice to see the community decorating their mailboxes and putting cheerful pictures in their windows to encourage their neighbours.      

I get the most solace from running in a nearby park.  It is an expansive, hilly area of dense trees, so even on busy days, I rarely used to see more than a handful of folks.  They’ve closed the parking lot but there are plenty of paths leading into the woods.  If the Sheriff wants to chase after me, he’ll have to be up to 7+ miles!   I certainly don’t see the harm.  It feels like a basic need to be able to roam in open spaces, particularly when we are confined to our houses.  All stresses from the day are shed when entering the green spring foliage of the forest, and my respiratory system sure gets a good, strengthening work-out!

I gave myself a week to take time to enjoy my leisure without a strict agenda, but now I’m trying to structure my days.  While working, you always think, if I just had one more weekend day, I could get so much done.  However, when unemployed, it is easy to see hours slipping by without tangible accomplishment.  I found myself reading emails I never would have before.  Generally, I deleted 90% and skimmed only half of the ones I kept.  Now I find myself being tempted into perusing articles like “Life thriving in 100 million-year-old rocks.”  Or “Meet the castaway who has lived alone on an island for 31 years.” I can also be guilty of scanning through limitless, beautiful images of Scotland on Instagram.

But it is nice to have time to explore items of interest other than food-ordering App designs!  Sometimes I’m deeply moved.  Recently, my attention was caught by the headline: “15 Eerie Photos of New York City during Corona Virus.”  We used to live just outside Manhattan and have many friends there.  Indeed, looking at those pictures brought the seriousness of the shut-down to heart better than anything else.  New York is such a vibrant place that brings people together from all over the world.  To see Times Square empty and the theaters closed seems so wrong.  Even the hotdog stands are chained up. 

This week, I am turning a new leaf.  I made a list of all the personal projects that were shelved over the past year and I’m determined to knock out a few each day.  I’m blocking out my time.  Mornings, I start out with a cup of tea, my notebook and Scottish Gaelic videos on YouTube.  I’ve been slowly picking up the language that I hope to use on my next visit.  I then tend to my email but am careful not to get sidetracked into intriguing rabbit holes.  In the afternoon, I apply to jobs but with little hope.  The last time I was on a job hunt, I was alarmed at how fast my resume could be scanned by a robot and rejected. It felt like I was spending my days throwing my hopes down a black hole. I only got traction after connecting with past colleagues. These days it truly feels like a futile exercise to hone cover letters and fill out tedious forms.  So, I’ll apply to a few and then turn to tackling my closet or sorting my numerous photos of standing stones.

Friday is my day to brave the outside world and do errands.   It feels great to put on colorful clothes and shed the long-sleeved T-shirt and nurse’s pants that is my dowdy home uniform.  I take off in my car with a burst of energy and switch on the radio. I used to get daily doses of National Public Radio during my 40-minute commute to the office, and now find that I’m not as informed as I should be.  I typically stop by the pharmacy and a boutique grocery store called Trader Joe’s.  I feel more comfortable going there since they only allow a certain number of people in at a time, wash down each cart and spritz my hands as I head inside. 

With necessities taken care of, my big treat is to go through the Starbucks drive-thru.  They’ve closed many locations around town, but fortunately there is an open one nearby.  I used to leave the office and finish out my Friday doing weekly reports while sipping a delish latte.  It has always been my treat, but now it feels like an extra-special indulgence.   

People are finding new ways to stay connected. I was invited to a video chat with close friends this week and several work friends are having one next week.   The Audubon Society is hosting a nature talk that sounds interesting.  My painting group usually meets for wine and snacks at member houses, but this month we’re going virtual for the critique night.  It doesn’t appear that I’ll be competing in my favorite road/trail running races or triathlons this summer, but groups are getting creative.  There are many fitness challenges to get involved with and plenty of online yoga.  I just heard that a local group is holding virtual pub-hopping runs!

We need these types of things to keep up our spirits.  What will really weigh us down are long-term challenges.  On the forefront of my mind is my Mom, who is fighting cancer in a rehabilitation center in Nashville, Tennessee.  Now that I’m not tied to work, I want to drive north to see her, but no visitors are allowed.  There is so much I could do to help with her recovery if I could just be closer. This is really tough. 

It is even worse for major events like weddings and funerals.  My Great-Aunt Dru just passed away and we were not able to come together as a family.   But I remind myself, “An ni a thig leis a’ ghaoith, falbhaidh a leis an uisge.” (“What comes with the wind, goes with the rain?”)    

Each one of us will experience our personal trials and have to learn to manage this unfamiliar landscape the best we can.  Whether in Stornoway or Marietta, the silver lining is that we will see the world differently after this crisis and appreciate what we have all the more.  Simple pleasures that we took for granted take on genuine significance.  We will be ready for a global embrace.

Sending a big hug across the Pond to you!  I can’t wait to come back and do it in person.

  • Bayberry L. Shah is currently in Marietta, GA. USA.  Follow Bayberry on Instagram:
  • Bayberrys for beauty, trail running, sheep sketches and eventually, travel.
  • BayberryDawn for her new painting series, “Dawn of the Creative Spirit,” which is inspired by Neolithic art.
  • www.BayberryFineArt.com

Police officers and staff across Scotland will be given surgical face masks to wear as they respond to incidents or deal with the public where it is not possible to adhere to social distancing measures.

Police Scotland has secured initial stocks of type 2 fluid resistant surgical masks and is distributing them to its workforce in response to advice from Health Protection Scotland, Public Health England and the UK Government.

Officers and staff will be able to choose to use the type 2 masks in certain low risk situations where they are unable to maintain a two-metre distance from their colleagues or members of the public.

Officers and staff who are in contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have coronavirus will still follow existing guidance which recommends the FFP3 mask.

A total of 4,000 officers and staff in divisions across Scotland have already been trained in the use of, and supplied with, the FFP3 mask, which offers an enhanced level of protection through a face-fitted respirator.

Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: "We are committed to doing everything we can to protect the public and limit the spread of the virus, and to protect our own people as they carry out their duties.

“We recognise that every day our officers and staff are putting themselves in harm's way and we want them to have the right protection to do their job.

"In line with scientific advice, these surgical masks will be available for use as a precaution for officers and staff dealing with incidents where social distancing measures are not possible.

"Officers on routine patrol should not normally need to wear face masks, however they are being provided with the additional equipment to protect themselves, their colleagues and members of the public.

“The procurement of protective equipment continues to be challenging due to demand from across the emergency services but we are working hard to secure a sustainable supply of the masks for our people.” 

The type 2 masks serve two purposes. If someone has COVID-19, even if they are showing no symptoms, the mask can stop them from spreading the virus to other people.

There is also some evidence from the UK Government and Public Health England that the type 2 masks offer some protection if the person wearing them comes into contact with someone with coronavirus.

Vietnam has partially lifted its lockdown but extended the restrictions for at least another week on the hotspot cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. (writes Taylor Edgar.)

Nine other provinces have been similarly classified as high risk and will continue with confinement measures until April 22 at least.

The cities of Can Tho and Hai Phong, along with 13 provinces, meanwhile, have been declared ‘at risk’, with the remaining 36 provinces in Vietnam considered “low-risk” localities. Both categories are to observe relaxed infection control for another week.

As of yesterday (April 15), there were 268 COVID-19 infections in this SE Asian country. Ninety-seven COVID-19 cases are still active. However, close to twice that number, 171 people, have made full recoveries and been discharged from hospital; 23 in one day this week alone. No COVID-19 deaths have been recorded.

After the revised measures were announced, it also emerged that some 20,000 hospitality workers in Ho Chi Minh City have been furloughed or laid off.  The dramatic 26% downturn in foreign tourism is to blame. A further 8,000 staff are on short-time working.

Four Vietnamese, meanwhile, have been jailed for assaulting local COVID-19 task force members who were enforcing social distancing regulations. Yesterday two men were imprisoned in central Vietnam for nine months and a year, respectively.  Courts in the north the day before imposed identical sentences on two men who assaulted officials after being challenged for not wearing face masks in public.

It is being reported this afternoon (Thursday April 16) that an American man faces deportation after falsely claiming to be COVID-19 positive. Police believe the American concocted his COVID-19 story because he had run out of money and wished to find free food and accommodation.

The recommendation of the police in the northern port city of Hai Phong is that the unemployed English teacher is fined and deported for overstaying his visa when international flights recommence.

Scotland’s Community Foundation, Foundation Scotland, has distributed £1.2 Million to over 300 groups since launching its new emergency fund set up to support local charities and grassroots organisations across the country that are rapidly responding to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Foundation Scotland is now appealing to organisations in Stornoway and the Outer Hebrides to come forward and apply.

The Foundation Scotland Response, Recovery & Resilience Fund, delivered in partnership with the National Emergencies Trust, allows eligible groups to apply for grants between £1,000-£5,000.  

The primary focus is to support groups that are adapting to local needs such as projects reaching vulnerable people that are self-isolating, vital help for foodbanks, aid for community response co-ordination, the purchase of safety equipment for caring groups and funds for those supporting health and wellbeing needs with COVID-19.

The Community Foundation has designed a quick and simple online application form and is operating a swift turnaround time of just 72-hours so that groups receive support as rapidly as possible.  

The Community Foundation is eager to distribute funds to communities in need urgently and is appealing to local groups to apply.

Chief Executive of Foundation Scotland, Giles Ruck, said “In this time of national crisis, it is critical to distribute funds quickly to where they are most urgently needed. The Foundation Scotland Response Fund is offering that emergency funding now, we have a typical turnaround time of 72 hours from application to payment.

"Organisations that applied last week have already received essential funds.  We are assessing some incredible applications from dedicated organisations that are responding quickly and imaginatively to the challenges of COVID-19.  We are eager to encourage other charities and community groups in need to apply so that funds can continue to reach those most in need through this challenging time.”

For more details, eligibility criteria and to apply online visit https://www.foundationscotland.org.uk/

Leading ecologist Alastair McIntosh has praised the regular broadcasts being made on Twitter by Western Isles NHS chief executive Gordon Jamieson.

He said: "This is a wonderful connection to the community, leadership as service. I am very grateful with a 91-year-old mother in Stornoway."

Gordon Jamieson confirmed in the latest broadcasts - links beneath - that the official number of cases on the islands remained at six and thanked everyone for their commitment to the social distancing and stay-at-home measures which had made this possible.  "We are several weeks behind England and sveral weeks behind mainlan Scotland," he said." and let's keep it that way."

https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1250541151926566912?s=21

https://twitter.com/nhswi/status/1250541869559418887?s=21

There are loads of new aspects to welovestornoway.com over the past few weeks…

There's our guide to those businesses still trading…here's the link…https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/zany-s-zone-8

And there's our very own set of work sheets and helpful activity ideas with Mr Scribbles…here's the link…https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/library-3

Plus there's our digital access to the CnES Library Service throughout the Islands……here's the link…https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/library

And there's our international news service, looking mostly at Covid-19 across the globe…here's the link…https://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/welovesyhomepage-4/international-news

Lots to do and see on welovestornoway.com

 

Keen to keep connected with our local communities during these isolating times, An Lanntair introduces brand new Artist Support Programme Blog – HA! Hebridean Artists – as well as delivering a wealth of information, funding opportunities, family activities, and creative downloads, freely available on the arts centre’s website (www.lanntair.com)

HA! Hebridean Artists is a new virtual space created by An Lanntair’s Artist Support team as response to the cancellation of physical get-togethers, such as the monthly Artists Gatherings and Monday Music Sessions.

Sandra Kennedy, An Lanntair Artist Support, said: “We’ve been wanting to do something like this for a while, as many in our community are isolated even without the added isolation that we find ourselves in right now. So, when our physical gatherings, workshops, talks and music sessions had to be cancelled at short notice, making this blog a reality became our priority!”

Featuring blogs, interviews, new music, art, and more – including a Weekly Creative Challenge – the HA! blogsite also provides a platform for useful and inspiring resources, as well as links to grants and funding opportunities available at this time.

And An Lanntair is looking to the islands’ artists, musicians, and creative practitioners to help build HA! Hebridean Artists by inviting contributions of photos, artworks, songs, music compositions, performance videos, podcasts, book, and website recommendations.

An Lanntair’s Education team have also been busy behind the scenes, with a number of new resources and activities now available online, including a beautiful and exciting creation by Lewis artist and teacher Alice Macmillan – The Hebridean Handbook.

Designed as a gentle guide to home learning, with accessible activities for all ages, The Hebridean Handbook is a fun-filled education resource pack for island families to enjoy together.

Divided into themes, each relevant to different aspects of life in the Outer Hebrides, it encourages families to explore our unique environment, learn about nature and get creative – with the first theme ‘On the Shore’ available now.

And for those island families who are missing Full Circle activities – our Full Circle Art Workers have created a series of new Creative Activities Worksheets now available online, including how to Make an Elephant and the Lego/Minecraft drawing challenge; along with our Family Music Song Collection, complete with tunes and downloadable song-sheets. Please do visit www.lanntair.com to find out more and keep connected

Today, Thursday 16th April at 4pm, Education, Skills and Children’s Services staff from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will hold a live stream discussion forum for pupils, parents, staff and members of the wider community.

You are invited to log in to the live stream, which will be broadcast from e-Sgoil using this link: http://www.e-sgoil.com/cnes-education-covid-19-april/

The focus of discussion will be measures that the Comhairle, with assistance from a range of partner organisations, is taking to ensure continuity of education services across the Western Isles during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Viewers will be able to submit questions in advance and during the livestream.

The live stream will be chaired by Colin George Morrison and will feature a panel – some of whom will be connecting remotely – including the Director of Education, Skills & Children’s Services, Bernard Chisholm, alongside service officers and headteachers.

More than a few Islanders over the years have had direct experience of life in Antarctica, taking their skills to the other end of the world through the Hebridean winter to join support teams for tourism and cruise vessels…as well as being involved in more traditional expeditions.

But what about now? We asked Taylor Edgar to investigate. This is his report.

If you want to know how to handle isolation, ask an Antarctic researcher. So we did.

And it turns out the secret isn't such a huge secret after all; it's to keep busy, learn a new skill and don't take too seriously what others might say in the heat of the moment.

Nadescha Zwerschke is a marine ecologist who has spent the last 16 months at Rothera Research Station, looking at the impact of climate change on Antarctic marine food webs. She, therefore, knows a thing or two about isolation and adapting to an unfamiliar environment. To put this into perspective, Rothera Research Station is 1100 miles south of the Falkland Islands on the northwest tip of Antarctica.

"Isolation in Antarctica is a bit different as we are cut off from the rest of the world, but there are still 23 people at the station during winter, and up to 160 during the summer season. I was really lucky, and we had a great team during winter that spent a lot of time together; nonetheless, being confined to Antarctica during the darkest and coldest season can feel lonely sometimes," says Nadescha.

What helped her was regular contact with her family and friends. But there were still dark days when she would find the going tough being so far away.

"Whenever I had a hard time I would often put on a pair of skis and go up the hill in the morning – watching the sunrise always feels special, whether you are alone or with somebody else," says Nadescha.

 "When I wasn't working I also got into baking and started experimenting with recipes I usually never have the time for, such as making croissants from scratch – which was very much appreciated by the rest of the group."

With the luxury of time and being free from the usual distractions of home life, others on the research station spent their free time learning new skills such as welding or woodwork.

Enthuses Nadescha: "It is the time to finally do what you always wanted to do, but never seem to have the time for – whether that's knitting a jumper, editing your photos or learning how to fix an engine. And, most importantly, never take the mood of your isolation buddies too seriously – they probably didn't mean what you think they said!"

Being so remote and removed from the outside world and their families, COVID19 is naturally never far from the minds of the research station crew.

"World events seem very surreal when you're so far away. Most of us have been in daily contact with friends and family, and the British Antarctic Survey is keeping us informed about what is happening. We also have access to the internet and social media, and there is a daily newspaper with the main news. Apart from worries for family at home, day-to-day life for us isn't really affected," Nadescha says.

Thankfully, Antarctica is COVID19-free. As a matter of standard practice, the research station doctors are prepared for all health issues that could arise. Each station has trained personnel, a medical centre and 24-hour access to telemedicine at the British Antarctic Survey Medical Unit based at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust. To further minimise risk, all station staff are given a thorough health screening before going to Antarctica to ensure they are medically fit.

Also, as a matter of routine, there is an extra year's supply of food, fuel and supplies in case of emergencies. However, Rothera station is not designed for large numbers of people to over-winter, with the added inherent risks involved in such a remote location at that time of year.

As this year's season draws to a close, there is an added element of apprehension about returning home, not least the international travel restrictions.

Explains Nadescha: "Being so removed from everything and for so long, it is hard to imagine what the rest of the world is like at the moment and what this will mean for us. However, the station management team is keeping us updated about our travel home. Our research station leaders brief and update our staff each day about the changing situation in the UK to help them understand what they might expect when they get home."

And they will have plenty of time to ponder their arrival back home. For rather than catching flights home as usual, British Antarctic Survey staff will now travel to the Falkland Islands to join a ship heading to the UK.

As Antarctica is coronavirus-free thanks to the precautionary measures taken by the British Antarctic Survey, the researchers will, subject to the latest government advice, not need to self-isolate in the UK unless they display symptoms.

International travel restrictions, though, have put some of their plans on hold. "After 16 months in Antarctica, a few of the people who had wintered had planned to go travelling in South America for a while, which of course we are now unable to do," adds Nadescha.   "However, after such a long time, I had also really been looking forward to meeting up with friends and family living across the UK and Germany. Not being able to see my grandma or siblings is pretty hard."

British Antarctic Survey 

The Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey now plans to return scientists, support teams and construction workers home by ship from the Falklands.

Significant disruption to international travel caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the virus, has meant a major rethink of travel plans.

A passenger ship moored off the Falkland Islands and operated by Noble Caledonia will provide temporary, quarantined accommodation for scientists and support staff while they wait to return home. The ship will bring back to the UK around 90 science, support staff and several construction workers who have been building a new pierfor the RRS Sir David Attenborough.

The ship is scheduled to leave the Falklands on May 3 for its 20-day passage back to the UK.

 

MSP Donald Cameron is continuing to encourage support for local media services.

The Highlands and Islands MSP has written to Kate Forbes, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, to urge the Scottish Government to help local newspapers, radio and online news providers.

Mr Cameron said: “The news media across the Highlands and Islands is providing an essential public service by keeping the public informed about the local impact of the pandemic.

“They are doing a fantastic job but it costs money to source and publish this information at a time when their advertising revenues are being slashed as a result of the emergency.

“I have suggested a number of measures that could be introduced but it is imperative that ministers act quickly or I fear we risk losing an invaluable part of our region’s infrastructure.”

Editor Fred Silver, of welovestornoway.com and EVENTS newspaper, said the local news media would be seen as letting down their readers and followers if they failed to continue publishing…but faced overwhelming odds given that advertising from local enterprises had almost evaporated. Surely, there was advertising from public sector sources which could be made available through all local media outlets.

Taylor Edgar looks at a community in Peru cut off by Covid-19 lockdown

Nestled in a sacred valley in the foothills of Machu Picchu in Peru, the community of Arin is hoping for the best while looking after hostel guests stranded by COVID-19.

There is an air of being encircled in this sacred valley of the Incas, now cut off from the outside world by roadblocks. So far there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in this small community.

But in the neighbouring city of Cusco, a major transit point for people visiting the famous Machu Picchu world heritage site, 104 cases have been confirmed. Nationally, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Peru stands at 5000.

The outbreak has led to the remote valley community of Arin being placed in total lockdown, closing its access to the nearby large towns of Calca and Urubamba. 


Carlos Garavito H, general manager of an arts and research residence (KAI Residencia de Arte e Investigación), remains pragmatic despite the substantial COVID-19 measures being put in place.

“We are taking all the precautions in the town, masks, gloves and limited mobilization,” says Carlos. “Also, we can’t go to other towns because they ask us not to use vehicles for the moment. Now we are moving only by bicycle or by walking.”

By chance, when the total lockdown came into place, the KAI residence had no guests staying, so there was no immediate impact on the business. However, this doesn’t mean an opportunity to put his feet up.

Explains Carlos: “We are taking all the precautions to cover the requirements that the government is planning. Also, they are making papers in law to support artists. There are many ways to focus on what we are doing. For the moment, we are working online with fairs, contemporary art schools and galleries.


"This shift to online working is the most significant change, with the pandemic underscoring the need for digital technology. That, and complying with the government containment measures and trying to maintain as far as possible a normal life.

“While we are in total lockdown, here in the sacred valley, we are talking all the precautions to control people to not hang out, mostly at night,” Carlos explains.

“We have time to buy food and supplies in the morning, but we are very conscious of the situation, so we are spending on just what we need, not more.”

In the valley, most people work their farms and appear to be handling the situation well, Carlos believes. But he notes: “Of course, people are feeling isolated because they depend on the exchange of products in the town markets. In comparison with Lima (the capital of Peru), the situation here is controlled. We need to wait until the government gives us permission to start again.”

Meantime, Carlos must wait until life returns to normal in this corner of Peru, a valley sacred to the Incas, and well-known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. The remote valley sits in the shadow of Pitusiray, one of the two “guardian” mountains of Calca province.

The valley is a breathtaking setting where visitors can work surrounded by inspirational landscapes and without distractions. Outlining the work they do at KAI, Carlos says their centre is designed to help with the development of creative projects. These projects range from research and educational projects such as audiovisual, photographic design, research in social or natural sciences, educational workshops, with particular emphasis on the Andean region.

Stornoway police are asking for public help after a set of gates were removed from the common grazings at Aignish in Point at the weekend.
Three galvanised metal gates, measuring 2ft by 3ft, were removed from their positions between the evening of Easter Sunday (12 April) and lunchtime on Monday 13 April.
Two of the gates were recovered yesterday from the shore at Aignish, but the third remains missing.
Police are asking anyone with information about the incident, or anyone who knows where the third gate is now, to contact them on the non-emergency number 101, quoting incident number NH401/20.

Food, toiletries and basic household essentials are being handed out in increasing quantities to families and individuals struggling during lockdown.
Lt Callum Newton of the Salvation Army’s Stornoway Corps said that demand is growing by the week for donated goods to help keep households out of want.
Callum will open the doors to the Salvation Army hall on Bayhead at 12 noon today (Wednesday 15 April), for two hours, with a supply of food, toiletries and baby items, all available to anyone who needs them.
The twice-weekly openings, each Wednesday and Saturday since lockdown, have been well-stocked by businesses, supermarkets and individuals donating both money and supplies, but Callum said both personal callers and people requesting deliveries are on the rise.
He said: “Demand is high for what we are providing and for the first time in five years in Stornoway I have actually seen us run out of food before it was time to close our doors. On that occasion Eilean Siar Foodbank helped us out and we continue to work together to support each other.”
Food parcels are being delivered to people isolating at home by Eilean Siar Foodbank and by the Salvation Army, in addition to a series of
Scottish Government initiatives including grocery boxes for shielded individuals and vouchers for families with children eligible for free school meals.
Last week it was announced that £147,000 had been allocated to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar from the £350 million Coronavirus communities fund to help the local authority ‘meet emerging local needs and circumstances.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has set up the multi-agency Care for People group, with representation from NHS Western Isles, Hebridean Housing Partnership and third sector bodies including the Salvation Army. The role of the group is to be a single point of reference co-ordinating care for people affected by emergencies.
The aim is to meet people’s practical and emotional needs during and after the emergency and to attend to basic needs such as safety, security, food and shelter, whilst being mindful of people’s mental health needs.
Lt Newton said that the efforts of all the organisations offering support to people were directed towards offering what is needed in the safest and most effective way possible.
He said: “When we open our doors we have a distancing and hygiene policy in operation and we have an out-of-hours service constantly available so that we can deliver to people who are isolating and can’t come in.
“Our baby bank supplies are especially important for people with young families and expectant mothers. We make arrangements for mothers to come in by appointment to choose the baby clothes and other items they need, so that they can be in the building when nobody else is there and avoid contact with other people.
“We have had tremendous support from individuals making donations and from businesses donating goods.”
And he praised the resilience and community spirit being shown in the islands, from individual to corporate level. He said: “It’s amazing how people have looked out for their neighbours. From a Christian point of view this is what it is all about – having that love and care for each other.
“Businesses are not trying to take advantage of the situation, but they are being responsible and working hard as part of their community, and we have seen so many volunteers and community groups coming forward.
“For the Salvation Army, this is what we do and have been doing for 100 years, but when you see it like this as part of a whole community effort it proves that we are still a community, with resilience and community spirit.”
The Salvation Army hall at Bayhead is open from 12noon until 2pm each Wednesday and Saturday for collection of food, toiletries and baby items (pictured). You can contact Lt Callum Newton on 07493 880058 to arrange for delivery or visits by appointment.

Additional support is being made available for businesses and the recently self-employed, it has been announced today (Wednesday 15 April.)

The Scottish Government has announced new coronavirus support for smaller businesses and self-employed, following representations from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

The £220 million package includes specific help for the newly self-employed; smaller chains; businesses with acute short term cash-flow problems and for other firms excluded from existing help.

FSB wrote to the Scottish Government making the case for an extended package of measures for operators excluded from existing support initiatives, as well as those that believe the help insufficient.

The FSB's Highlands & Islands Development Manager, David Richardson, said: "While we don't know all the details yet, these new Scottish Government measures, which come after campaigning from the FSB, will undoubtedly help a great many Highlands & Islands businesses and the self-employed, and, by extension, the fragile communities in which they live and operate."

Colin Borland, FSB's director of devolved nations, commented: "For those that were due to receive nothing – like the new self-employed and some home-based and vehicle firms – this new help could be a lifeline. For others – like smaller chains – it could provide a critical top up to the money already in the pipeline.

"This help looks more flexible than previous schemes, and Ministers in Edinburgh deserve credit for adjusting the help on offer following feedback from firms and the FSB.

"We'll need to see the swift deployment of this cash. And this looks unlikely to be the end of the story. If we want as many firms as possible to make it through this crisis, then governments north and south of the border may be required to provide additional rounds of help."

Commenting Angus MacNeil MP said: “Further details of how and where to apply, eligibility criteria and deadlines will be available soon.

“Protecting people’s health is of course very important and rightly remains the Scottish Government’s primary concern, the economic impact of Covid19 is enormous and the Scottish Government is doing everything it can to support business and individuals.”

Further information can be found here.

Thousands across the Western Isles got involved in the new Social Media Activities Programme.

Designed to keep people entertained during lockdown, the programme was launched last week and kicked off with an online yoga class.

Over 2,000 watched the first class, taken by Sophie Marsh.  Sophie will hold a second class on Wednesday, available from 4:30pm.  

The Comhairle have also received multiple colouring in designs.  One participant said: “I am in my 50s and I am currently colouring these in. I am enjoying every second of it.”

The first episode of Fuine, one episode a week will be shared on The Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook Page on Tuesdays at 6pm.

Tom Maciver has taken on the role of Quiz master and he put on quite the show last Thursday, four thousand people tuned in to give it a go. He will be back again this Thursday at 7:30pm with a new quiz, and a surprise new category.

The first week of the activities programme finished with a live ceilidh courtesy of Iain ’Spanish’ Mackay. With nearly seven thousand views, it was a huge success and the Comhairle welcomes the interaction which saw so many people requesting songs and getting involved in the comments.

One listener said: “Brilliant. Best hour and a half I have spent during lockdown.”

Well known local artist Iain ’Tosh’ will bring you a live set from 9pm this Friday. The Comhairle will introduce a new local artist every week and anyone interested in performing can get in touch on the Facebook page.

The Comhairle would like to thank all the entertainers who have given up their own time to make this possible. All the activities mentioned will be available every week on the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Facebook Page for the duration of the current lockdown in place to tackle COVID-19.

In the latest of his reports from around the world on the coronavirus pandemic, Taylor Edgar looks at the crisis on a reservation in the US state of Arizona. 


The Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona spans an area more than twice the size of the Highlands and Islands and is home to roughly 300,000 tribal members with some residing off the reservation.  This mainly rural desert area in the southwest of the United States, east of the Grand Canyon, sprawls over land in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. It is some 2,000 miles from the New York City coronavirus epicentre.

Yet, even here, COVID-19 has arrived. And the Navajo Nation, mostly unprepared to handle a pandemic, is bracing itself for what comes next.

Keanu Jones, a member of the Navajo Nation and a senior at Navajo Technical University, says he is anxious about what is about to be unleashed.

“The Navajo Nation is really struggling with the pandemic. Our land base is the rough size of the state of West Virginia, but we only have 13 grocery stores across the entire nation,” states Keanu.

“We don’t have enough hospital beds and hospitals to accommodate everyone. I know the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 were shipped off the reservation to a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, to house the patient. This is extremely alarming knowing that the state of Arizona and other state’s hospital beds will reach full capacity, and we might not have anywhere to place our patients.”

The lack of infrastructure is underlining the need to observe COVID-19 restrictions in order not to exhaust the reservation’s medical resources.

As of April 11, there had been 698 confirmed cases on the Navajo Nation reservation, 24 deaths and 2,760 negative test results. This is a development that has shaken locals, lulled into a false sense of security due mainly to their geography.

“Being at home on the reservation you feel isolated from the world, but when cases start to hit the reservation, it doesn’t feel that way anymore. We started to understand and realise the severity of this pandemic. Being at home on the Navajo Nation at times feels like an escape from the world at large. However, when the first Navajo community contracted the virus, it made an impact closer to home. Once a distant idea, the pandemic now is striking ever closer to home.”

57-hour Curfew

When the pandemic reached their door, the Navajo Nation governing body immediately signed an executive order implementing stay at home restrictions and social distancing. The local tribal government instituted a 57-hour curfew from 8 pm on April 10 until 5 am on April 13 in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. The draconian measure has now been relaxed, but the overnight curfew remains in place as does hand-washing and social distancing and bans on large gatherings.

To relieve some of the pressure on the Navajo Nation’s healthcare system, the National Guard has been assisting and setting up makeshift hospitals in local gymnasiums.

Meanwhile, the local authorities are conducting education and outreach programs to ensure the public are doing all they can to prevent further infections. Social media is being utilised, as well as the Navajo Nation’s radio station, and the newspaper to provide regular updates. But with many parts of the reservation without electricity, running water or internet access, it is challenging.

Thanks to the Navajo Nation’s unshakeable family and community connections, there is a sense of pulling together and looking out for each other. Listing some examples of this community spirit, Keanu says: “Some communities can provide food boxes, firewood and other items for families that require supplies. Schools are distributing take-home boxes of food for the students and their families on their campuses. Communities and schools continue to find ways to support the community and one another.”

Donations are also being received by a variety of tribal organisations to help the Navajo Nation overcome any difficulties they face in combatting the pandemic.

For Keanu, who is studying Creative Writing and New Media, COVID-19 has meant transitioning to online learning which, for many students, is not practical at home.

“Thankfully, I’m able to access the internet through my phone and use a hotspot, but there are other students that don’t have the same privilege; some might not even own a computer. I live in the rural areas of the reservation, so we don’t have running water, we have solar for electricity.”

Looking After The Elders

Of more significant immediate concern for Keanu is his 85-year-old grandmother, who because of her age and diabetes is in a high-risk category. Keanu ensures she has an adequate supply of firewood but is careful to keep his distance when checking on her every other day. Given her underlying health issues, taking his grandmother to the hospital for treatment of any kind represents a severe threat to her well-being. And other families are sure to be facing similar dilemmas with vulnerable family members.

“I’ve learned that by living in the rural areas, you can’t rely on anyone else like the federal, state, tribal government to help with everything. We continue to provide for ourselves and make trips into the nearest city to buy our groceries,” remarks a resolute Keanu.

“Life since COVID-19 hit the Navajo Nation has been surreal. It feels like a dream at times, but it’s important to know that we’ll get through this by continuing to take care of ourselves and other family members. Life is difficult on the Navajo Nation, but this was how we grew up even without the pandemic. This way of life has helped us to do our best at being self-reliant, especially in a time like now.”

In common with many indigenous tribes, the Navajo Nation is grappling with COVID-19 against a backdrop of serious social issues including high suicide rates, unemployment, poverty, loss of language and culture, and a host of associated health issues.

In these uncertain days, though, some of the tribe are looking to their cultural wisdom to provide a helping hand.

“The Center for Disease Control’s restriction on large gatherings has impacted social and cultural activity engagements. There are cultural stories and practices in place that help to combat situations like this; however, it’s important to keep that knowledge amongst our communities and families,” Keanu reveals.

He continues: “The history of my ancestors and that of many other indigenous tribes have been through so much. This is another obstacle we are facing, and with the strength of our cultural practices and knowledge, we will prevail. It’s important to remember that Native Americans are not completely extinct, we are still here, and we will always be here. The life we have on the Navajo Nation may seem very difficult, but it’s normal for us; it’s our way of life.”

  • You can find out more about life on the Navajo Nation reservation on the Keanu Jones  YouTube channel.

 

Keeping Covid-19 at bay…by keeping visitors away.  How this has worked on Samos.  Report by Taylor Edgar

The Greek island of Samos is a COVID-19 holdout so far. The picturesque island is one of several Greek islands that are COVID-19 free.

Due to its scattered nature, Greece with some 200 inhabited offshore islands took very early counter-measures compared to its European neighbours. As of Monday, they have contained the pandemic to 2145 confirmed cases and 99 deaths.

Acting sooner against the pandemic has undoubtedly saved many lives and avoided the disparate health care system across Greece from becoming overwhelmed.

Talking to welovestornoway.com from her home on the island, Lily Liati, a French teacher at a local school, feels Greece is faring well in its battle with the virus that has wreaked such terrible havoc and death across Europe.

Along with her 35,000 islanders, Lily has little choice but to accept the restrictions imposed by the government in a bid to head off a real Greek tragedy. With so much at stake, however, she feels Greek cities are having a tougher time than small island communities.

She told welovestornoway.com: “Several islands in Greece have not got COVID-19, at least not yet. Samos is one of them. Our government took quite strict measures, very early, compared to other European countries. I think this is the main reason Greece, in general, is doing so well.”

The COVID-19 measures, she goes on, are countrywide, but life in the cities is far more challenging than in small island communities like Samos.

“In the cities, it is more difficult for people to live with these new rules, but for us here there is not such a big change since we can still walk in nature, or by the sea. We have big gardens, it does not enclose us in apartments,” says Lily.

Though she may make it sound idyllic, it’s not so straightforward. Anyone who wishes to leave their home first has to send an SMS message to a government hotline explaining where they want to go and then await permission. The only acceptable reasons for leaving home are to go to the supermarket, the pharmacy, the bank, the doctor or for physical exercise such as jogging, walking or exercising dogs.

As far as Lily can tell, most people are obeying. The system is enforced, and police finding anyone outdoors without the necessary SMS permission from the government is fined 150 Euros.

Echoing the strategy of the Scottish government for the Scottish islands, a key component in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the Greek islands has been to limit access. Only permanent island residents can enter or leave. Inter-island travel is effectively banned. Permission to travel between islands is only granted in exceptional circumstances and is difficult to obtain.

It seems that by shielding itself from the outside world, islanders on Samos may yet ride out the Covid-19 pandemic unscathed.

 

There’s new hope for Outer Hebrides businesses, hanging on by a thread as they wait for Government support to meet the costs of furloughed worker salaries during the Coronavirus crisis.

The UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme could be available for applications by Monday (20 April), reducing the waiting time that employers feared could see their cash reserves exhausted before grants were received.

The scheme gives employers the chance to keep staff on their books, sending them home from their jobs with the guarantee that 80% of their salaries will be paid by the UK Government.

Employers have been waiting for the application portal (available here) to open for claims but HM Revenue and Customs had posted no firm date for the scheme to open.

But today (Tuesday 14 April) David Richardson, development manager for the Highlands and Islands Federation of Small Businesses, has reported positive news on an accelerated process for the scheme.

He said: “We understand that HMRC will launch the new system on Monday and that payments should start to appear in accounts at the end of this month. We are watching the situation closely.

“The UK and Scottish Governments reacted very quickly and came up with unprecedented packages of support. They then needed to get the systems and rules in place for delivery and everyone behind the scenes is working their socks off to try and get in place a system that works.

“I know that businesses are worried sick about this situation, but we can only go by what we know. It should be a short period after the April date that the money starts flowing.”

The news will come as a relief to many island businesses, faced with mounting staff costs at a time of little or no income.

John Moffat, chair of the Outer Hebrides Chamber of Commerce, said: “Companies’ income has stopped and not all businesses have the resources to pay staff.

“There are Scottish Government grant schemes helping some sectors, but these are not supposed to be for meeting the cost of wages. Some staff may not be getting paid at all, being told that they will have to hold on and wait until the grant comes through before their employer has enough in the bank to pay them.”

The biggest concern for businesses remains that the inundation of applications to the claim system could see the website crash or payments out being delayed under sheer volume of work.

John Moffat said: “HMRC systems are robust and you’d like to think that they could cope, but who knows? This is a brand new system which will be heavily used from day one, so it could struggle.”

And any delay in paying out the money to meet the costs of furloughed staff could add to an toxic situation in industries related to tourism, already cash-poor and treading water as they held on for the start of a season that was due to start at Easter.

John said: “We’re now looking at the risk of there being no summer season, or no tourism season at all in 2020. That could mean tourism-facing companies getting no meaningful income this summer.

“In the worst-case scenario, that could mean no income between September 2019 and March 2021. My worry is that this uncertainty will continue until July and then we have effectively lost the season. It’s going to be a challenge for businesses survive.”

Some of the uncertainty could be relieved by next week, but David Richardson believes that there is little to be gained by reinforcing alarm or criticising what has been done to help.

He said: “Of course there are concerns about what happens when this ends, but the question is what can we do? What we have to do is to ensure that businesses are looked after now.

“Matters of life and death had to be looked after first and, as the time passed, we could see where the weaknesses and gaps in support were and try to plug the gaps and buttress the weaknesses.

“It should now be a short period before the money starts flowing and, in the meantime, it’s important that businesses make sure they do everything they can to speed the process along once applications open.”

Picture: Stornoway Town Centre has been eerily quiet as businesses send their staff home (K J Macdonald Pharmacy).

Vietnam looks set to lift its country-wide lockdown tomorrow (Wednesday) as the number of cases has remained stable at 265 cases.

The Vietnamese government is likely to confirm the relaxation tomorrow unless there are dramatic developments overnight. The SE Asian country has already announced schools are to reopen on June 11 and lifted the ban on domestic air travel from April 16.

As of Tuesday morning, there were 119 active COVID-19 cases, while 146 people (55% of all infections) have fully recovered and been discharged from hospital. There have been no recorded deaths due to COVID19 so far.

Fears are being expressed, however, over the health of a British pilot in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnam Airlines pilot continues to fight for his life in intensive care. But a 74-year-old British man, John Garth Dixon followed his wife out of hospital in Hanoi yesterday. The pair had been infected on a London to Heathrow flight in early March and have now recovered.

In another development, a Vietnamese man on the run in Thailand on an assault charge has turned up at a quarantine centre in north-central Vietnam. He had been on the run for several months but decided to flee COVID-19 in Thailand, only to find himself shepherded into a centralised quarantine facility at the border.

However, his luck finally ran out on Monday, and he was arrested at the quarantine centre before his 14-day quarantine came to an end. He is now back in quarantine under police custody.

Meanwhile, two foreign visitors, a German and a Colombian, have been rounded up by the authorities and returned to the quarantine facilities for which they fled.

The drama has not been confined to quarantine centres; the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has spawned a new Vietnamese soap opera.

The state broadcaster, VTV has brought two of the leading dramas together into a new show (Những ngày tháng không quên - Unfamiliar Days) with a dedicated COVID-19 theme. The homegrown soap opera has opening titles and closing credits showing the cast wearing masks.

Coronavirus is woven into the storylines. Any time a character leaves or arrives home, they are always shown wearing a mask. Social distancing is also acknowledged with never more than two characters, usually cast family members, on outside locations shots.

Over 163 virtual appointments were made with NHS Western Isles Services in the last fortnight.

The NHS Near Me service was already being used by NHS Western Isles, but was recently expanded to include GP practices and local opticians.

As part of the remote access to services, NHS Western Isles has also recently set up a virtual reception service to help patients access Near Me VC appointments.

The virtual reception is staffed by real members of our Patient Services team who will answer VC calls and transfer patients to the right Virtual Waiting Room for their Near Me appointment.

NHS Western Isles Patient Services Team member, Liz Macleod, stated that it is a ‘great resource’ that ‘runs very smoothly’.

She added: “It really is fantastic that patients and clinicians can still see each other and interact virtually.

“I am very grateful to be able to #stayathome but to be able to continue to provide a service to colleagues and patients at the hospital.

"Just ask your GP or other health care professional for a Near Me, Attend Anywhere or VC appointment, and we’ll do the rest."

Patient feedback has been extremely positive across the board, as the service is easy to use and enables people to continue to access healthcare services remotely from the comfort of their own homes.

In terms of the use of Near Me in the last 2 weeks there were 163 virtual appointments totalling 37 hours of consultation time across nine services:

Respiratory
Physiotherapy
Various GP Practices
Child and Adult Mental Health Services
Speech and Language Therapy
Nutrition and Dietetics
Paediatrics
Diabetes Specialist Nursing
Orthopaedic Surgery

Picture shows Virtual Receptionist Liz Macleod in her living room, transferring patients to their virtual waiting room for their healthcare appointment from home.

An extra £600 million funding will help aid Scotland during the coronavirus pandemic.

Shadow Finance Secretary, Donald Cameron, said: “Our public services are under unprecedented pressure keeping us as safe as possible and we are all incredibly grateful for everything that is being done.

“However, this costs money, and I therefore very pleased that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has made the announcement that substantial extra funding is being made available.

“At a time like this, it is right that the full resources of the United Kingdom are mobilised in this fight and that includes our financial resources.”

The 5% funding cut to Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) will not be reversed, the SNP Scottish Government have said.

The SNP budget passed in Holyrood earlier this year saw £2.954m slashed from HIE for the coming year and figures show a fall of 44 (almost 50% reduction) in permanent operations staff working within the organisation since 2017. 

In a written question to the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Scottish Labour MSP, David Stewart asked what plans they have to reverse the decision in its 2020-21 Budget to reduce Highlands and Islands Enterprise's budget by 5%, in light of the impact of COVID-19 on businesses, and to support economic recovery in the region.

The Scottish Government however refused to confirm that they will reverse the swingeing cuts instead responding to say they are working closely with HIE to “identify opportunities to manage the in-year financial pressures so that they can continue to meet the needs of businesses and communities across the region.”

Commenting on the Scottish Government’s response, David Stewart MSP said: “Businesses and communities across the Highlands and Islands will be deeply concerned that the Scottish Government is still refusing to stop the considerable cuts to Highlands and Islands Enterprise at a time when small and medium size enterprises the length and breadth of the region are facing some of the most significant economic upheaval and challenges in a generation.

“We already knew the effects of the Coronavirus shutdown on businesses – including restaurants, shops and arts organisations – was going to be massive. Every day we hear evidence of businesses now struggling and concerns over the long term economic impact of Coronavirus on the fragile rural economy.

"The Fraser of Allander Institute has estimated that if lockdown measures continue for a three-month period, there could be a 20-25 per cent contraction in Scottish GDP and I’m concerned the Highlands and Islands could face the brunt of the recession.

“The cuts being passed down to HIE this year were always short-sighted, however, the impact that these cuts are going to have now due to the additional pressures being put on businesses across the region by the negative economic impact of Covid-19 bring this into even sharper relief.

“HIE play an essential role in strengthening local communities across the Highlands and Islands, which is one of Scotland’s most economically fragile areas.

"It is vital that the Scottish Government now listen to the concerns of people, communities and businesses across this region and finally commit to reversing these cuts and show a real commitment to supporting businesses and economic recovery in the region once we are through this crisis.”

A quiet Easter weekend showed people sticking to guidelines and staying at home, according to a statement from ferry operator CalMac today (Tuesday 14 April).
Just 163 people travelled by ferry in western Scotland on Easter Sunday, compared to 21,570 last year – a staggering 99.2% drop in numbers.
The ferry company last week issued a reminder that only essential travel on their lifeline services would be allowed over the Easter weekend.
And today they congratulated the general public for heeding the national 'stay at home' message and leaving those ferries which did sail virtually empty of passengers.
Operations director Robert Morrison said: “There had been concerns that the good weather over the holiday weekend would encourage people to try and access the islands, but thankfully the guidance not to travel unless absolutely necessary seems to have been accepted.”
The four-day bank holiday weekend saw just 1,837 making a ferry journey across all of CalMac's 28 routes, compared to 112,000 for the same period in 2019.
Robert said: “Reports from ports over the weekend showed that that no vehicles were stopped from boarding. This, combined with the extremely low passenger number, tells us people are listening to government guidelines to stay at home. We are only carrying lifeline supplies and essential workers needed to keep island economies running and communities safe.”
It was earlier reported that 66 parties of travellers had been refused passage on CalMac ferries in the two-week period from March 27, because their journey was not essential.
The picture shows MV Loch Seaforth making her daily crossing last week, carrying essential traffic only (Chris Murray).

 

Since its tiny beginnings in 2013, welovestornoway.com has become a vital - even essential – part of the media across the Outer Hebrides.

From the start, it aimed to be wholly supportive of - and totally involved with - our local communities on the Western Isles. 

We had a policy from the start of being positive about news, looking on the hopeful side, celebrating achievements whenever that is possible.

We have developed and paid a network of correspondents and writers often based in different parts of the islands and the world…which has really come into its own with the coronavirus international news service. 

We also have a policy of being wholly supported by local advertising - or locally-related advertising  - which enabled us to offer the best possible deal to our tens of thousands of readers.

In the last year the number of regular users has risen immensely. In the month of March 2020, it was 43,406 - up from 26,886 in March 2019 - an increase of 62 per cent. 

Now with the coronavirus crisis, our news and information service is in demand like never before - one post was read 24,000 times!

However, the shutdown of the economy has savagely reduced our income, which was mostly from job advertising.

So we are looking at the basis of our business model.

We are asking for your opinion to be expressed. 

We want to know what you - our readers - think of a membership/supporters scheme.

All we want to know just now is whether you would support this concept.

In the future, once the economy recovers, any additional income would enable us to employ more reporting staff to cover local events even more fully. 

And this is what we would offer to you in return - as a bonus and reward for your support for welovestornoway.com.

 

Gold member/supporter

  • Free subscription to our Scottish Islands Explorer magazine (cover price £4.95) - which appears 6x a year
  • Free delivery of EVENTS newspaper direct to a postal address of your choice - that’s 12x a year
  • Free delivery of annual HEB Magazine to you.
  • A weekly specialised news digest emailed to you - contributions from our correspondents across the world. Covering news you wouldn’t normally hear about. 

This would be £10 a month by standing order or £100 a year by standing order or other direct payment.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.to express your views. Subject line: Gold
This is just to express interest - it doesn’t commit you at all.

 

Silver member/supporter

  • Free subscription to our Scottish Islands Explorer magazine (cover price £4.95) - which appears 6x a year
  • Free delivery of EVENTS newspaper direct to a postal address of your choice - that’s 12x a year
  • Free delivery of annual HEB Magazine to you.

This would be £6 a month by standing order or £60 a year by standing order or other direct payment.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express your views. Subject line: Silver
This is just to express interest - it doesn’t commit you at all.

 

Bronze member/supporter

  • Free subscription to our Scottish Islands Explorer magazine (cover price £4.95) - which appears 6x a year

This would be £30 a year by standing order or other direct payment.

Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express your views. Subject line: Bronze
This is just to express interest - it doesn’t commit you at all.





Ferry operator CalMac accompanied an unprecedented Easter ‘stay at home’ message with news that 66 parties of would-be travellers have been refused ferry transport in the past two weeks.

The company has also extended its lifeline service timetable until at least April 30, according to an announcement made on Friday (10 April).

Government advice not to travel unnecessarily spurred CalMac to implement an ‘essential travel only’ policy late in March.

From 27 March they have been seeking evidence of island residency or key worker status for all customers on all sailings.

Commercial customers have been made aware that they are expected to provide evidence to their drivers that they are carrying essential goods or providing essential services as defined by the Scottish Government.

CalMac has also published essential travel guidance on its website and placed posters at ports and on vessels about essential travel and self-isolation.

The moves followed widespread concern about people seeking ‘isolation holidays’ in the islands, with an influx of motorhomes just before the Coronavirus lockdown was announced.

This weekend CalMac reported that a total of 66 parties of travellers have been refused passage on ferries under the new restrictions.

But the company has now powers to make checks on passengers, beyond asking them why they are travelling when they turn up to board. A spokesman for CalMac said: “We need to take people on trust when they tell us their reason for travel.”

Director of operations Robert Morrison said: “We have to stress to (non-essential travellers) in the strongest terms not to, they will not be allowed to travel. Government advice is only to go outside for food, health reasons or work, but only if you cannot work from home.

“Only essential travellers are currently being allowed to board which includes food and medical supplies, utilities workers, transport and the emergency services.”

CalMac is currently working to an emergency lifeline timetable that has seen overall traffic drop by more the 95%. This timetable has now been extended to 30 April.

 

Since the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, supplies of hygiene commodities like cleaning fluid, disposable cloths and tissue paper have been flying off shop shelves across the Western Isles.

But island companies have stepped up to fix the chronic shortage of one virus-busting essential with a true community effort, using initiative, ingredients, packaging and printing that are all locally supplied.

The result is that the Western Isles have become virtually self-sufficient in one of the most important protective products for front line staff and home-workers – hand sanitiser.

North Uist Distillery are keeping their Downpour gin in production, while at the same time partners Jonny Ingledew and Kate Macdonald are turning out hundreds of litres of hand sanitiser.

Jonny said: “There was a story in the news just as the epidemic started about a Bristol distillery that was producing hand sanitiser, and we started to get enquiries locally to see whether we were going to do some.

“There was an obvious local problem in that no-one could get access to this vital product and, as we have the ingredients, we felt an obligation to make it. We had the alcohol and we had hydrogen peroxide and glycerine too. The bottles were ex-stock from another company and they also helped us to get labels printed.”

The result was 1,000 bottles given away to front-line staff including care workers, posties, delivery drivers and GPs surgeries across Uist and Barra.

Island customers are the absolute priority – despite enquiries coming from posties in Devon and NHS workers in Newcastle. Jonny is adamant: “We don’t want to get into the sanitiser game, we just want to make sure people here have access to it while they badly need it.”

Another batch of bottles is due in stock this week and Jonny – who is working alone at the distillery now – is also filling 10 and 20-litre jerry-cans for shops throughout the Uists. That cuts down on the use of plastic containers, which are anyway in short supply on the wholesale market.

Jonny said: “People can bring along their own bottles – we suggest an empty, clean handwash container – and get them filled at Lochmaddy shop, Berneray shop and bistro, Lovats supermarket, Daliburgh Co-op, Bayhead shop, Eriskay shop and What’s Happening at Sollas.

“We’ve donated most of the bottles but we ask for a donation/payment of £2.50 for a 250ml bottle to cover costs. Companies of key workers that were able to purchase them did so and we really appreciate that as it allows us to keep producing and donating where it’s needed.”

North Uist distillery has joined a list of producers who are making sure the whole of the Western Isles can get access to sanitiser, passing customers between them to ensure the islands are covered from North Lewis to Vatersay.

Isle of Barra Distillers are moving into full production this week and yesterday (Sunday 12 April) they announced that their first batch is already out to key workers including staff at St Brendan’s Hospital, Castlebay Post Office and other frontline businesses.

They said: “We will be producing as much as we can as fast as we can. We will be doing this free of charge and all costs will be covered by the Isle of Barra Distillers. If you are a key worker on the Isle of Barra then please get in touch and we will see what we can do to make sure you have a supply.”

Meanwhile in Harris, two companies are working together to bring a sanitiser to those who need it most. Essence of Harris has joined forces with the Isle of Harris Distillery and is now in their third week of production of a hand sanitiser they’ve called ‘Spirit of the Hebrides’.

It’s been supplied free of charge to Western Isles Hospital and emergency workers like ambulance crews and police officers, as well as being personally delivered to the homes of those caring for at-risk individuals at home.

Demand has been so high that a 250ml sanitiser gel was put up for sale on the Essence of Harris website – where it sold out almost immediately. A company spokesman said it was hoped that the product would be back online soon, once raw ingredients had arrived.

The Harris duo have been joined in Lewis by the luxury salon cosmetics brand Ishga, who have been working quickly to respond to gear up to the needs the island community.

Providing some of the base ingredients, Ishga joined Essence of Harris and the Isle of Harris Distillery to create a sanitiser for frontline service staff while their hand cream is also being supplied to NHS Western Isles Hospital and to local hospices and businesses in Stornoway.

Ishga director Malcolm Macrae said: “We’ve been supplying both the sanitiser and the hand cream free of charge to people like home carers, supermarket staff and hospital workers. A lot of them have been telling us that their hands are in bits after all the hand-washing and we wanted to give them something to help their skin recover as well as to protect them from infection.

“The recipe we have been using for the sanitiser is the one supplied by the World Health Organisation and it has been checked and approved with trading standards at the Comhairle.

“The communities here in the Outer Hebrides have been very supportive of our business over the years so it’s great to be able to use our skills and experience in order to give something back. It’s also great to be able to work alongside other local businesses at a time like this in order to deliver this very important service to the local community.”

Pictures show hand sanitiser supplies made in Barra, North Uist, Harris and Lewis, much of which is going out free of charge to island frontline workers.

 

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has demanded that the SNP must detail exactly how it is spending the £2.2 billion received from the UK Government to support businesses through the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Cameron, the Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary, said: “We keep hearing from senior SNP figures that its package of support for businesses is superior to the UK Government’s.

“But absolutely no evidence has been provided to back this up, and it is certainly not the message I am receiving from local businesses in the Highlands and Islands who simply can’t understand why the Scottish Government is diverging from the rest of the UK in some respects.

“So far, the only clarity we have is that firms in leisure, hospitality and retail with more than one property are being sold extremely short, which could have a very damaging impact on our local High Streets.”

“Ministers must detail exactly how it is spending this considerable package of support from the UK Government, and which areas are actually going to benefit from this.”

Both Nicola Sturgeon and finance secretary Kate Forbes have claimed their package of support is superior.  But so far no details have been released about where the cash is going.  Across Scotland, firms in retail, leisure and hospitality have hit out at SNP divergence which sees £25,000 emergency grants provided by business rather than by property.  They have warned this will consign companies with more than one premises to collapse, costing thousands of Scottish jobs in the process.

 

 

New opening hours come into place for Lovats Supermarket in Balivanich today (Monday 13 April.)

The shop will be open from 9am to 2:15pm and 2:45pm to 6pm from Monday to Saturday.

The Sunday opening hours will be from 11am to 6pm.

A three-year-old has won the virtual Uist Easter Bonnet Parade of 2020.

Anna, who wanted rainbows and flowers on her Easter bonnet, was named the winner by Reverend Drew Kuzma.

The virtual event allowed children in the local communities to take part in the traditional Easter Bonnet parade from the safety of their homes.

The idea came from Lovat's Supermarket, which also provided the prize of a hamper.

Reverend Kuzma commented that all the bonnets were lovely, remarking: "Well done everyone on their hard work and so darn cute!"

 

Thousands of homes across the Highlands and Islands could benefit from the Warm Homes Discount - but they are left out.

The discount can result in a £140 reduction for electricity bills over the winter months.

The money is paid directly to the suppliers and is a one-off discount on electricity bills, between September and March.

Utility customers may also be able to get the discount on gas bills instead if the supplier provides both gas and electricity.

Those receiving the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit - or those on a low income who meet the energy supplier’s criteria for the scheme are eligible to claim the discount.

A response from the U.K. Government from Rt Hon, Kwasi Kwarteng MP the Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth to MSP Rhoda Grant, however, has revealed that even with a widening of the scheme due ahead of next winter, there will be around 1,350,000 customer accounts U.K. wide which are not covered by the WHD.

The U.K. Government is now planning on consulting on a Reformed WHD in the first half of this year, where the threshold for participation will be reviewed. Subject to this consultation, the threshold may continue to fall, potentially to zero or a small minimum, delivering a level playing field for energy suppliers.

Commenting Rhoda Grant MSP said: “It’s clear from the Government’s response that the Warm Home Discount scheme is crucial to the Highlands and Islands and this is reflected in the number of claims that are made across the region each year.  It is, however, very concerning that there still might be thousands of people missing out on this discount every year just because their energy supplier is not a registered participant in the scheme.

“The U.K. Government must support a move towards ensuring mandatory participation the scheme for all energy suppliers, regardless of customer numbers, to ensure that there is a level playing field and that no household misses out on this valuable discount which could mean the difference between heating and eating for many.

“With one in four household across the Highlands and Islands living in fuel poverty, both the Scottish and U.K. Governments must do everything they can to reverse this scandal and ensure that everyone can afford to heat their homes, expanding the warm home discount to all energy suppliers would be a step in the right direction.”

What weather we've had this week!
Ruaraidh planted The Veggie Box strawberries last weekend so I'm now on the countdown not for when the lockdown finishes but to when I can have strawberries.
Apologies to those whose orders we could not completely fill this week, we will hopefully have this sorted out this week.
The news from the market is that broccoli prices continue to rise – however, we have noticed that when this happens quality can drop, we won't know till later about price and quality but may be something we have to take a decision on so be aware.  On the plus side, the new season sweetheart cabbage is a good green alternative.
Thanks very much to those that have payed so promptly, if we could ask those paying by Bank transfer to use their name and invoice number as a reference.
The card payment system seems to be working well, so just give us a phone on Friday and we can take a payment.
For those still to pay can we ask that you can manage that as soon as possible, any issue just give us a shout.
Also if you could pay for your order once you have received it, as some items need weighing and this is never exact, it can be slightly over or under depending on the size of the carrot.
Please can we have your order in by 12.30 on Monday 13th April 
 Pick up and delivery will be the same as usual, pick up at unit 2C Clintons yard on Thursday from 10am till 1pm delivery on Wednesday afternoon and from 9.30am on Thursday, if you have specific arrangements please let us know, we have been lucky with the weather so far but please keep an eye out for us if it's raining as there really isn't much we can do.
Directions can still be an issue so if we haven't delivered before please can you give specific directions.

Vegetables

 

Price Each

 Quantity

Butternut Squash  

 

£2.40

 

Green Cabbage

 

£2.35

 

Savoy Cabbage

 

£2.35

 

Cauliflower

 

£2.55

 

Celeriac (UK)

 

£2.40

 

Celery (UK)

 

£1.65

 

Garlic Large

 

£0.95

 

Kale 250g

 

£2.35

 

   

Price Per KG

Quantity

Broccoli (UK)

 

£6.00

 

 Dirty Carrots

 

£2.15

 

Ginger

 

£8.00

 

Leeks (UK)

 

£3.50

 

Mushrooms UK

 

£5.25

 

Onions (White)

 

£1.65

 

Onions (Red)

 

£1.75

 

Cyprus

 

£2.30

 

Golden Wonder

 

£1.45

 

Jersey Royals

 

£5.75

 

Roosters

 

£1.25

 

Shallots

 

£4.75

 

Swede (Scottish New Season)

 

£1.75

 

Sweet Potato

 

£2.95

 

 

 

Price Each

Quantity

Little Gem (x2)

 

£1.60

 

Cucumber

 

£1.20

 

Spring Onions

 

£1.10

 

 

 

Price Per KG

Quantity

Peppers (Mixed Red, Green, and yellow)

 

£5.25

 

Tomato (Cherry on Vine)

 

£6.15

 

Plum Tomatoes

 

£4.40

 

Fruit

 

Price Each

Quantity

Fugi Apples

 

3 for £2.50

 

Gala Apples

 

4 for £1.50

 

Washington Red Delicious

 

3 for £1.80

 

Braeburn

 

4 for £1.50

 

Avocado

 

£1.65

 

Clementine’s

 

4 for £1.50

 

Grapefruit

 

£0.95

 

Kiwi Fruit

 

£0.50

 

Lemons

 

£0.60

 

Limes

 

£0.50

 

Oranges Large                 

 

3 for £2.50

 

Pears (Conference)

 

4 for £1.80

 

Plums

 

4 for £1.50

 

   

Price per Kg

Quantity

Bananas

 

£1.85

 

Chillies Red

 

£15.00

 

Courgettes

 

£3.95

 

Green Seedless Grapes

 

£5.95

 

Red Seedless Grapes

 

£5.95

 

Rhubarb

 

£5.50

 

Local Fresh Eggs

 

£2.00

 

 

Stornoway Running and Athletics Club found a way for runners to maintain their social distance while getting their fix of competition running yesterday (Saturday 11 April)

Nearly 60 runners turned out for the SRAC Virtual 3k, run by individuals and family teams on the roads closest to their own homes, from Barvas to Aignish and from Europie to Marybank.

There were even two runners from much further afield – taking part in the event in Horsforth in Leeds and Shap in Cumbria.

Fastest on the day was 14-year-old Charlie Morrison from Barvas, posting a time of 10 minutes and 24 seconds, with 15-year-old Rachel Murray of Cross Skigersta not far behind on 10:58.

Just as impressive as the age range of the runners – the youngest was just five years old and the oldest 73 – was the imagination on display as runners designed their own bibs and event colours for the virtual run.

An SRAC organiser posted on Facebook today: “Huge well done and thanks to everyone that took part.

"It was great to see the effort some of you went to with the bib numbers, face paints etc.

"If we have somehow missed anyone out then please get in touch and we will add you to the results.

"As you can imagine it was a bit chaotic pulling the results together.”

Pictures show some of the runners and their creative race strips, paying tribute to an extraordinary race in unprecedented circumstances (SRAC).

 

Island businesses have received a huge pat on the back from salvors working on a wrecked vessel in the middle of the Minch, as the rescue and salvage operation continues against the odds.

Shipping agents Stornoway Shipping Services have been co-ordinating efforts by island contractors and suppliers as salvage company Resolve Marine works with shipowners Misje Rederi and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to unload hundreds of tons of cargo from the Norwegian-owned cargo vessel MV Kaami.

The mammoth operation, involving dive vessels, cargo carriers, Coastguard aircraft and shore-based co-ordination has been eclipsed in the news because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but in any other circumstances the salvage work would have dominated local headlines.

Weather and the precarious position of the ship have also made the operation especially challenging. Yesterday (Saturday 11 April) SSS representative Alastair Macarthur snatched a few moments from a flat-out few weeks to pass on thanks to the companies who have pitched in to help.

He said: “Every salvage is a challenge but throw in COVID19 and it makes it a whole lot more interesting! We at SSS would like to thank the efforts of all businesses that we have approached for assistance. Once again you have all come up trumps.

“Without you all, we at SSS would not be successful. To us at SSS, you are all key and essential workers. We applaud you all.”

On Thursday 180 tonnes of cargo was offloaded from the grounded vessel after weeks of preparation and survey work to establish the ship’s condition and potential for removal. All potential pollutants have also been removed and planning is now unde way for the next stage of the salvage operation.

The salvage is overseen by the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention supported by the MCA, salvors, the ship’s insurers and the Scottish Environment Group.

Pictures show MV Kaami fast on rocks between the Isle of Lewis and Skye, and other vessels working round the site to remove cargo over a few calm hours late last week (Stornoway Shipping Services)

The UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has broadcast on Twitter his personal thanks to the staff who saved his life.

Described by veteran journalist Andrew Neil as an "unprecedented broadcast by a British Prime Minister" the very poignant video was shot shortly after being discharged from hospital.

He says; "It is hard to find the words to express my debt to the NHS for saving my life."

He adds a plea for everyone to stick to social distancing rules.  "The efforts of millions of people across this country to stay home are worth it. Together we will overcome this challenge, as we have overcome so many challenges in the past."

He also thanks by name many of the doctors and nurses who saved his life, especially Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal.

His partner Carrie Symonds in a separate tweet says: "I cannot thank our magnificent NHS enough. The staff at St Thomas’ Hospital have been incredible. I will never, ever be able to repay you and I will never stop thanking you."

https://twitter.com/borisjohnson/status/1249336590482243585?s=21

A second theft has been reported to police in Point, following the report last week of the theft of a lawnmower in Sulisiadar.

Over the last four to six weeks a DeWalt mitre saw and a Bosch cordless drill were taken from an outbuilding at a house in Aignish, Point. The items are similar to those pictured.

Stornoway police are appealing for witnesses or information about anyone that may have been seen acting suspiciously in the area.

Anyone with any information in relation to this incident is asked to contact Police Scotland on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they wish to remain anonymous. The incident number to quote is NH/385/20 

A police spokesperson said: “Crimes of dishonesty at domestic properties fortunately remain an uncommon occurrence in the Western Isles.

However, we can take simple and inexpensive steps to make our homes less attractive to the opportunist thief. 

“Please secure outbuildings, and check them and their contents regularly.  Further crime prevention advice can be found at https://www.scotland.police.uk/keep-safe/home-and-personal-property/secure-your-garden-and-outbuildings

 

Over 500 households in Stornoway town centre were without power from 2.30pm this afternoon (Sunday 12 April) after a fault on the high voltage network cut supplies to the town.

There was a momentary power-loss over a wider area. 

The outage affected properties around the Matheson Road, Robertson Road and Plantation Road area of Stornoway.

Engineers were quickly on site with power restored to all properties by 4.30pm today.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Network apologised to all affected customers for the inconvenience.

Businesses in crisis, foodbanks in demand…these are part of the focus for the latest edition of the Skyetime Podcast which is available to download now – giving an insight into problems being faced by an island almost entirely dependent on tourism and visitors to run its economy. 

In the second edition of Skyetime, journalist and publicist Simon Cousins shares more stories and information to help the community of Skye - and elsewhere – through the Covd-19 crisis and lockdown.

This week Marc Crothall, the CEO of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, describes the process of negotiating with Government ministers to secure the financial support needed by tourism businesses of all sizes.

Sam and Mark Crowe of the Old Croft House B&B and Skye Bike Shack - share their experience of going from financial security to the breadline in a matter of weeks.

Accountant, Faye Macleod, offers advice to companies applying for Government support and Rosie Woodhouse describes the dramatic surge in demand at the island’s foodbanks. 

Go to Apple Podcasts or Spotify to subscribe so that you don’t miss an episode or you can download the latest episode here. 

https://www.buzzsprout.com/852226/3330748

To share a story, pose a question or to sponsor the Skyetime Podcast This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

At least a quarter of hotels in one island area are being missed out by Government Grant schemes.

This is revealed by the latest survey done by tourism management organisation, SkyeConnect.

At present businesses with a Rateable Value above £51,000 are not entitled to support from the Small Business Grant Fund, intended to aid businesses being crippled by the coronavirus lockdown.

Of the 40 hotel businesses on the Isle of Skye surveyed, 10 responded (25%). All respondents have staff on ‘furlough’ with the majority reporting that more than 10 staff have been put on the temporary 3-month Government Job Retention Scheme (JRS). However, it is not expected that Government payments through the JRS will start hitting bank accounts until June.

And the vast majority (70%) can only afford to pay staff for another four weeks.

SkyeConnect Board member, Anne Gracie-Gunn, runs three hotels that make up the Sonas Collection.  “Two out of the three hotels in the group do not qualify for support as the Rateable Value is above £51,000.

"We have staff at each hotel on furlough. Our bills run in to the tens of thousands of £s every month. We cannot wait until June for the Job Retention Scheme to start paying out.

"Unless hotels across Scotland are included in the Small Business Grant Fund, regardless of Rateable Value, many of the anchors of the Scottish tourism industry, and their staff, will be gone for good.”

A third of the businesses surveyed need between £20,000-£30,000 a month of either grant aid or loans to survive the current lockdown, and beyond.

Every business surveyed has been told by their insurer that they are not covered for losses during the pandemic.

Their survival efforts have not been helped by the Online Travel Agents such as Expedia, Booking.com and Airbnb.

Two-thirds of hotels report their efforts to rearrange bookings with customers have been over-ridden by the OTA’s.

SkyeConnect Chair, Dave Till, says the survey demonstrates that the larger providers are hurting just as much as everyone else in the sector.

“People might think that the larger operators have greater resilience to cope with such a crisis. Our survey shows that is not the case.

"They employ significant numbers of people they are seeking to protect. If they do not qualify for Business Grant aid, they will not be able to support staff until Job Retention funding comes through in June.

"We join with our partners in the Scottish Tourism Alliance in calling for an urgent change to the Business Grant Fund criteria to protect some of the largest employers on Skye.”

 

Isles MP Angus MacNeil has written to Health Secretary and Director of Covid-19 testing at Scottish Government to get Isles testing up and running.

Angus MacNeil MP said: "All praise to NHS Western Isles who have done everything they needed to do to be ready for testing, including getting equipment in place and training staff. However, due to the lack of cartridges, tests require to be sent to Glasgow.

“The only thing required now is cartridges which hold the reagents to allow tests to be carried out at NHS Western Isles. I understand some other centres across Scotland also have an issue with the lack of cartridges and I am writing to the Scottish Government Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, and the Director of Covid-19 testing, as to when we these cartridges will arrive.

"This could be a vital window to get testing up and running in the islands if we hope to replicate the amazing success of the Faroe Islands in staving off the effects of Covid-19.  This was achieved by testing and chasing the virus, in addition to tracing people who have been in contact with those who had the virus."

Community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust this week made the biggest one-off donation in its history – and it went to NHS Western Isles, in recognition of the heroism of frontline staff and to support islanders suffering during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The charity, which owns the largest community-owned wind farm in the UK in terms of output and reinvests all its income back in the local community, made a donation of £40,000. It is the first grant awarded from Point and Sandwick Trust’s newly set up pandemic community fund, announced last month, and NHS Western Isles is now looking at best ways to spend it.

The money is to be mainly used to support frontline staff and Covid-19 patients and will hopefully also benefit cancer patients. Frontline staff are to be consulted about ideas and a member of staff within NHS Western Isles has been tasked with leading the decision-making process.

Initial ideas include therapeutic pamper packs for frontline staff, including some local products so the money can be reinvested in island businesses, and emergency items for patients who are admitted in a rush, without personal belongings and without the possibility of receiving them later on from a friend or relative, due to the ban on visitors. Emergency admission items could include nightwear, underwear, toiletries, phone chargers and other essentials.

Consideration is also being given to upgrading rest areas for frontline staff and to funding access to external counsellors for staff struggling with the impacts of the pandemic.

If funds allow, some money could also be used to bolster the budget for cancer patients, including island patients in hospitals on the mainland who have been cut off from the family visits that would normally be a source of emotional and physical support.

However, these are all preliminary ideas and NHS Western Isles stressed staff would be very much involved in the decision making.  

NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We have been overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of businesses, organisations and individuals across our local communities, who have demonstrated such kindness and have pulled together to help at the toughest time we have faced in the history of the health service.

“The donation from the Point and Sandwick Trust was completely unexpected but so incredibly generous. I would like to thank the Trust on behalf of our staff and the health board. We will be involving our staff in deciding how to make the best demonstrable use of this very kind gesture.”

Point and Sandwick Trust board member Agnes Munro – a retired Accident and Emergency nurse, pioneer of an innovative system of nurse-led A&E care, and former winner of the Scottish NHS Manager of the Year award – spoke about the decision to award the money to NHS Western Isles.

Agnes said: “The PST board are delighted to be able to help in this way, in what is an awful time of crisis. We’re aware that there are situations where patients are admitted to hospital unexpectedly and don’t have the essential items that would normally be considered required for hospital. We’re also conscious of the huge pressures the staff are under and it would be good to think that some of the funds could be channelled towards helping maintain their physical and mental health, and of course there are also non-covid patients such as cancer patients who will also have needs.

“These are all situations the Point and Sandwick Trust board considered when deciding to award the money to NHS Western Isles but of course it will be entirely at the discretion of the health board to use this money as it sees fit.”

Announcing the creation of the fund last month, Calum Macdonald, the former MP for the Western Isles who is also the development manager for Point and Sandwick Trust, said the Point and Sandwick Trust board had decided to devote “all the income that isn’t already committed to key local organisations like Bethesda to support the community effort we are going to need to get through the pandemic.”

He added: “Whatever happens, we will have to pull together to help each other and also to help the fantastic health and care workers we have in these islands to tackle this virus.”

Point and Sandwick Trust’s biggest ongoing financial commitment is to Bethesda Care Home and Hospice. It has committed a total of £55,000 to Bethesda every year for 25 years – the lifetime of the turbines at Beinn Ghrideag. The money to Bethesda is paid in two instalments each year. 

People must stay at home this weekend and not travel to or within the Western Isles unless their journey is necessary, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan.

The islands MSP said no one should be unnecessarily travelling to the islands and other rural areas, and that doing so not only risks spreading Covid-19 but puts an unnecessary burden on local healthcare providers and essential services.

The right of access does continue to apply and exercise remains an important part of physical and mental wellbeing during the current crisis but the Scottish Government have stressed that it must be done responsibly.

During the current emergency, everyone should:

  • Stay local – do not travel in your car to take exercise; please make use of the paths, open spaces and quiet roads in your own local area
  • Maintain your distance – stay at least 2 metres away from other people and avoid busy times on popular paths or places
  • Respect the health and safety of crofters, farmers and others working the land – follow all reasonable requests and signs to avoid particular areas such as farmyards, fields with pregnant or young livestock, and other busy working areas
  • Keep your dog under control – put them on a lead or keep them close at heel and do not let them approach other people or livestock
  • Avoid contact – try to avoid touching surfaces and plan a route that does not require you to open gates
  • The Scottish Outdoor Access Code requires that people walking dogs act responsibly, take notice of any signs, and prevent their dogs from scaring or attacking any livestock.

Crucially, no one should be driving to take their daily exercise. By ensuring that we continue to strictly abide by these measures, we will protect the NHS and save lives.

Alasdair Allan commented: “In normal times, the Easter weekend sees the islands play host to a large number of tourists on their holidays. The coronavirus outbreak means that people now need to stay at home for the foreseeable future.

“Restrictions are in place for plane and ferry travel to the Western Isles. CalMac passenger numbers are down to 5% of their normal levels and more than 60 tourists have been stopped from travelling in the past few weeks alone.

“Exercise remains extremely important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing during the current crisis. However, it is crucial to stay local and follow social distancing guidelines set out by the government. People should not be travelling to have to exercise.

“The best way to beat the pandemic is to stop the spread of the virus - and for this reason, it is essential potential people stay at home, and give our NHS a chance to save lives.”

MSPs, agriculture groups calls for care in countryside:

http://www.welovestornoway.com/index.php/articles-auto/16616-people-must-stay-out-of-countryside

A sixth case of coronavirus has been confirmed on the Western Isles, the Scottish Government said today (Friday April 10)

It was Western Isles NHS which announced on Tuesday night that there was a fifth case on the Isle of Lewis. This was added to the official list yesterday.  It is not known where the sixth case lives. 

The total number of positive cases reported for Highland Region was 144 – 7 up on yesterday.

There are 43 cases shown for Shetland - just the same for the previous day.

There are still four cases in Orkney, the same as for several days.

A total of 28,652 Scottish tests have been concluded so far. Of these:

  • 5275 tests were positive. That's up 710 from yesterday, a rise of 15.6%.
  • In all, 2775 of the cases were in the Greater Glasgow, Clyde, Lanarkshire and Lothian areas - an increase of 170 since yesterday, up 6.5%

The latest national coronavirus figures were confirmed at 2.00pm today.

A total of 495 patients in Scotland who tested positive for coronavirus are now reported to have died, it was stated. 

That is 18 more than the previous day.

Nationally, there were 1585 Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) attendances, of which 508 were for suspected COVID-19.  SAS took 267 people to hospital with suspected COVID-19.

In all 687 people were affected by delays in hospital. This is 925 less than the baseline period (04/03 weekly return) and follows an initial target to reduce delays by 400 by the end of March. A further target of reducing by a further 500 has been set for the end of April. 

As of 9 April, a total of 8,363 staff, or around 5.0% of the NHS workforce, are reporting as absent due to a range of reasons related to Covid-19.

There is a new-style display of figures for the spread of the disease at

https://www.gov.scot/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-tests-and-cases-in-scotland/

 

"Adequate and affordable" broadband will be available to more island premises, in a new move from BT.

Currently more than 15 per cent of premises in Na h-Eileanan an Iar do not have access to a fixed line broadband connection of at least 10Mbps.

There is now a legal right for those eligible to request the service under the new Universal Service Obligation (USO).

In areas where there is 4G access but no broadband, customers can apply to BT for a home hub.

Angus MacNeil MSP said: “This is a very welcome step forward in providing an adequate and affordable broadband connection for island premises.

“I would encourage householders to contact BT for further details on their eligibility.

“The value of access to online services has never been highlighted more strongly than in our current Covid-19 situation. It has never been more important as communities, businesses, churches, schools and more are all relying on online services to communicate and to continue providing vital support and order services.”

BT will be writing to all those premises in Na h-Eileanan an Iar who Ofcom’s preliminary analysis has shown may be eligible.

Those who think they are eligible should contact BT on 0800 783 0223. BT will then carry out some checks to confirm if analysis is correct, and that they are eligible for an upgraded broadband connection at no cost to them.

Youngsters are invited to send their rainbow pictures in to NHS Western Isles.

Over the past few weeks, pictures of rainbows have appeared in windows as a way to cheer up people who walk past them and as a message of thanks to local frontline NHS staff.

NHS Western Isles is now appealing for people to send in photos of their rainbow pictures so they can be shared online (with some in print) – particularly for those who are self-isolating indoors.

Gordon Jamieson, NHSWI Chief Executive said: “We are inviting children to share their rainbow drawings which we will promote on our social media channels and within various NHS sites across the Outer Hebrides.”

“The aim is to bring a smile to people’s faces during this difficult time as well as providing something for the children to do while they are off school and missing their friends.”

Budding artists are told there is no set criteria, just that images be of rainbows and feature bright colours – something that will brighten everyone’s day and bolster community spirit!

To take part, images can be sent as a private message to the NHS Western Isles Facebook page, Twitter account (@NHSWI) or by emailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

However, the public are asked not to send in their pictures by post.

The pictures shows Katie Morag and Seonag from Scalpay with their drawings.

A dog that had gone over the cliffs at Ness was rope lifted back to safety by the Coastguard on Wednesday 8 April.

Ness and Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Teams were called out at around 4:35pm to help the dog.

The owner had joined the dog at the bottom of the cliff prior to the team's arrival.  

Both the dog and her owner were safely recovered to the top of the cliff by the rope rescue technicians.  

 

Images show the rope rescue taking place and the dog safely back on the cliff.  Photographs from HM Coastguard - Western Isles, Skye and Lochaber Facebook page.

Local newspapers and the "crucial role" they play must be protected amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Scottish Conservatives have said.

News publishing supports around 4,000 jobs in Scotland, as well as providing a vital public service.

Shadow finance secretary Donald Cameron has now urged his SNP counterpart Kate Forbes to work with the UK Government to ensure action is taken as quickly as possible.

He said a 100 per cent rates holiday was essential, and that the Scottish Government should direct more advertising in the direction of newspapers.

He also suggested investing in a similar scheme to the Danish government, which has introduced a fund for media organisations during the crisis.

A similar initiative by the Scottish Government could be replicated for around £25 million.

A trusted media loan scheme has also been floated, which established titles could sign up to.

Mr Cameron said: “We are seeing throughout the coronavirus crisis just how vital newspapers and broadcast media are.

“In my own region of the Highlands and Islands, the local newspapers, websites and radio have always played a valued part in the life of our communities, and they are continuing to do so during this crisis when up-to-date local information is indispensable.

“They also play a crucial role in holding both the Scottish and UK governments to account, and in carrying vitally important public health messages.

“But these are also publications who, in some cases, are a month away from collapse.

“We simply cannot allow this industry to disappear, and the Scottish Government needs to step in and ensure these publications are supported.

“It should be providing support in the form of a rates holiday, and channelling more of its considerable advertising budget in the direction of the local press.

“It would be extremely regrettable if newspapers, having played such a critical role during this health and economic emergency, were allowed to collapse immediately afterwards.

“We know papers have been struggling for years, but this could be a chance to finally boost their resources and ensure they can continue operating for generations to come.”

Fred Silver, editor of EVENTS newspaper based in Stornoway, echoed the comments: "We face an almost insuperable challenge in the present lockdown conditions as there are no coming events to report on or preview…and so many of our monthly advertisers are closed down. Yet people still want to read news, and get accurate, curated information. We would welcome a dialogue with elected representatives at any level to see how this could be achieved."

 

Adrienne, aged 28, tells Taylor Edgar about life on an Indian Ocean island with rampant Covid-19…plus and erupting vocano and dengue fever

The Indian Ocean island of La Reunion is feeling overwhelmed right now simultaneously dealing with 362 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and an outbreak of deadly dengue fever.

With so much disease to contend with, an eruption of the local volcano is relegated to almost sideshow status as the island finds limited island resources extremely stretched, with only 100 intensive care beds for the 860,000 inhabitants of this French département d'outre-mer (overseas administrative area).

Speaking from her home in La Reunion Island where she is in lockdown, 28-year-old Adrienne is concerned that fear is one of the biggest factors coming into play locally, especially among an island people that love local markets and regular family gatherings. 

“It's because of our insulation that we fear the dreadful consequences of a widespread epidemic in Reunion. We are far away from mainland France, and we can't really get help from other countries in the zone such as Mauritius and Madagascar, etc.. I believe that we are not confident in our ability to respond should there be a large number of Covid19 cases,” she states.

“For instance, we only have 100 beds in intensive care units for the whole island! Health care personnel are lacking masks and protective equipment...and we also have to deal with the dengue fever epidemic and the volcano 'Piton de la Fournaise' just erupted a few days ago. But no worries at all. It isn't a dangerous one, and there are several eruptions each year, which can often be seen from the road! But this time everyone has to stay at home.” Piton de la Fournaise is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

In some ways, the volcanic eruption has been viewed as a welcome relief from Covid-19 and dengue fever. Explains Adrienne: “It's one of the things that we love about the island. It's an awesome thing to see the lava flowing down the mountains. Just this time, most of us weren't able to witness it, but only on TV.”

The island, which lies east of Madagascar and 175 km southwest of Mauritius off the coast of Africa, has received some assurances of help from France, including a naval ship, “Le Mistral”, the promise of medical face masks from the national reserve, and a variety of economic measures.

Meantime, the islanders are adjusting to medical response measures that are putting daily life on hold. For Adrienne, who returned to La Reunion in 2018 after studying and living abroad for several years, the confinement has meant postponing a house move and having a planned trip to mainland France next month scuppered after their flights were cancelled.

She told welovestornoway.com: “My life is very different now. For starters, I'm always home, as well as my partner who is working from home. I only go for a walk once a day, for one hour, and within 1 km from home, with the compulsory form and ID.

“My partner goes out shopping for groceries once a week alone. I don't see my family and friends anymore. We now talk on the phone.”

Like her fellow Reunion islanders, Adrienne has little choice but to take the Covid-19 response measures seriously when the island is so remote and relatively vulnerable. In addition to the usual measures to stay at home, work from home, hand washing, like mainland France, citizens of Reunion can only leave home for specific purposes and complete a form to do so.

“Measures have been implemented related to travelling and the airport. As one can note that 75% of Covid19 cases in La Reunion are imported, it was decided to restrict travelling and impose quarantine on those travellers arriving in Reunion. In order for them not to infect other people, they are now taken care of in centres and hotels for 14 days,” continues Adrienne.

The testing regime, which previously was limited to incoming people showing symptoms and their close relatives, has now been extended to include health care personnel and anyone with a referral from their GP.

“There are several testing centres now on the island. People stay in the car while getting tested, and the results are known within 24 hours,” remarks Adrienne.

With a population almost 32 times that of the Outer Hebrides, the findings on La Reunion have been that most Covid-19 cases have been ‘imported’ by people arriving from mainland France and elsewhere. Sixty-two people (as of April 8) have been diagnosed with Covid-19 because of a direct link with one of these infected people while only 23 people have tested positive after having no direct or indirect link with the people arriving from outside the island.

At present, 35 people have been hospitalised and four are in intensive care units. Forty people have fully recovered, and no one has died of Covid-19 so far.

Interestingly, 31 Covid-19 cases, 9% of the total, have been aged under 18 and 8% of people testing positive are over 65. Almost half of those affected by coronavirus (49%) are aged 18 to 50. The balance (34%) are in the 51 to 65 years age bracket. Worryingly, 41 of the Covid-19 cases are healthcare workers.

As a result of being contacted by welovestornoway.com, Adrienne did a little of her own research on the Outer Hebrides and any linkages with La Reunion. She was impressed by what she discovered, in particular the travel restrictions being imposed on ferry services.

She notes: “Solidarity between inhabitants is now at its highest. Initiatives have been taken in the Outer Hebrides but also in Reunion when it comes to shopping, for instance. I've read that in Coll, they had to develop an online shopping and delivery door-to-door system, and that to avoid large gatherings at the unique shop!”

It’s clear then that there is a very real affinity between fragile island communities, no matter their size. And a real sense of community and sticking together. 

Thomas Taylor Edgar

Cargo removal has taken place today (Thursday April 9) on the grounded vessel Kaami, stuck on rocks in the Minch near Stornoway.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said:  "Salvors safely boarded MV Kaami yesterday (April 8) and were able to successfully open two of the vessel’s hatch covers allowing access to the cargo.

"However, due to the weather and sea conditions over the past few days, a swell had built up and it was not possible to safely bring a vessel alongside the MV Kaami for a period long enough to begin offloading cargo.

"Cargo removal operations from the ship started early today (9 April). Approximately 180 tonnes of cargo have been offloaded and are being transferred ashore. Safe off-loading from MV Kaami is heavily dependent on weather and sea conditions, and this morning’s operations were conducted between high and low water.

"The salvage is overseen by the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention supported by the MCA, salvors, the ship’s insurers and the Scottish Environment Group.

"The HM Coastguard fixed wing aircraft will carry out further flights during cargo removal operations to monitor for pollution.

"A temporary exclusion zone of 500 metres remains in place around MV Kaami to all but those vessels directly involved in supporting the response.

"The Maritime Accident Investigation Branch is carrying out an investigation remotely with assistance from the salvors."

Lewis and Harris

Starting on Tuesday 14th April, staff based at ISL will be offering online fitness classes to our community.   Janet Macleod and Lisa Weir, Fitness Instructors, will be offering the following activities:

  • Classes twice daily for  ISL class attenders
  • 1 – 1 training and activity advice

The timetable for the classes will be as follows:-

Tuesday    11am and 4pm
Wednesday 11am and 4pm
Thursday   11am and 4pm
Friday    11am and 4pm

This will be reviewed on a weekly basis depending on uptake and customer feedback.  Janet will be offering group classes to anyone who has attended classes at ISL.

Lisa will also be available for individual training advice.  If this is of interest to you, please e-mail Lisa directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and she will get back to you.

All classes are free and you don’t have to have a ‘Slàinte Mhath’ membership to join in.  Customers using Connect, our online booking system, will get first chance to book when classes go live for bookings and some classes will have limited numbers to ensure that the Instructor can monitor all customers appropriately. There will be a waiting list option available if classes are full.  Classes can be booked in advance and customers need to select ISL on the online booking form, to book a place. 

How do I book onto a class?

‘Slàinte Mhath!’ members – You will be able to book online using our Connect online booking system. You will need to have a PIN number to access this system. Please e-mail your name, address and date of birth to Nataliya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and she will e-mail it back to you. This will mean that you will get first access to available bookings when classes ‘go live’.

Not a ‘Slàinte Mhath!’ member? - If you e-mail Nataliya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, address, date of birth and a contact phone number, we will set you up with a temporary membership which will allow you to access the Connect online system too.

Member on Non-Member - If you don’t wish to use the Connect online booking system, you can e-mail Nataliya at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. stating which class you are wishing to attend and she will advise if there is availability. E-mails will normally be responded to between 8am and 6pm Monday – Friday.

Classes will be delivered online using a combination of methods including Zoom. You will be contacted by Sport and Health staff with more specific instructions before your first class with an explanation of how the activity you are interested in will be delivered.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has now received the revised National Clinical Guidance for Community Health and Social Care Staff in respect of Personal Protective Equipment.

This has been agreed and communicated jointly by the Scottish Government, COSLA and Trade Unions.

The joint communication states:“That guidance makes clear that social and home care workers can wear a fluid resistant face mask along with other appropriate PPE where the person they are visiting or otherwise attending to is neither confirmed nor suspected of having COVID19, if they consider doing so is necessary for their own and the individual's safety - they are professionals and we trust their professional judgement.”

 As a result of the revised guidance, the Comhairle is now taking the following actions:

  • Calculating the anticipated usage of PPE, particularly face-masks and eye wear across the Comhairle, and Third Sector workforce throughout the Western Isles. This includes the 10 residential care homes, the 13 Home Care Locality Teams, 1 Children’s Residential Unit, Social Work Teams and Children’s Services Support Staff;
  • Circulating the revised guidance to our workforce and 3rd sector partners;
  • PPE deliveries will be made, for onward distribution to staff;
  • Estimating what our PPE usage would be over a 7 day period and then making a request to the NHS Scotland National Distribution Centre for a 7 day stock to be maintained given our geographic location, isolation and rurality;
  •  Continuing to monitor all incoming and outgoing PPE, ensuring consistency and equity of use across the Western Isles.

Head of Community Care Jack Libby said: “We welcome the revised guidance, which offers our workforce the additional PPE they have been requesting, allowing them to continue going about their duties with the utmost professionalism and dedication. I commend them for their endeavours.”

 

During the current Coronavirus pandemic, dental services will be delivered differently.

NHS Western Isles deeply regrets reducing access, but these essential changes will limit contact between patients, and protect staff.

All routine treatment (examinations, dentures etc) is suspended.

 Emergency care will be available for urgent problems:

  • Swellings affecting breathing or the eye.
  • Injuries (adult tooth knocked out, or badly broken)
  • Bleeding
  • Prolonged pain not helped by pain-killers.

Most other conditions will not be seen, but advice on self-help will be offered.

Patients with urgent dental emergencies should call their local centre

 Lewis and Harris:   01851 704400   NHS Emergency Dental Centre, Castleview Practice, 77 Cromwell Street, Stornoway
 Isles of Uist:  01870 602178  Liniclate Dental Clinic, Liniclate School, Isle of Benbecula.
 Isle of Barra: 01871 810400 Barra Dental Clinic, St Brendan's Hospital, Isle of Barra.

Please do not attend without calling first, as staff are required to conduct a brief medical assessment before offering appointments.

Patients are reminded NOT to call The Western Isles Dental Centre, Tarbert Dental Clinic, or Lochmaddy Dental Clinic.

These clinics will be closed until further notice, as staff are engaged elsewhere supporting other services.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to announce that ‘Virtual Visiting’ has now been introduced to Western Isles Care Homes to help residents stay in contact with friends and family.

One family member whose mother is in a Western Isles Care Home said: “I think that virtual visiting is great, particularly during lockdown.  Whilst my Mum does have a mobile which she can use for basic calls, using FaceTime is a fantastic way to keep us more connected with her. Also, it allows her to see her grandchildren which she just absolutely loves, it really is heartwarming.

"It’s great that the staff are able to facilitate this, even more so at a time when face-to-face visits are just not possible. We do worry that Mum will start to feel isolated during lockdown, and we of course miss seeing her, so having this option just helps alleviate those concerns and makes us all feel that little bit closer.”

Head of Community Care Jack Libby said: “I am happy to say that we are rolling out the scheme, and for those Care Homes who are up and running with the initiative, the feedback has been very positive. We aim to have the roll-out completed within days."

Anyone looking to arrange a ‘Virtual Visit’ can contact the care home of the resident they wish to visit.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Leader, Roddie Mackay, has spoken about the ongoing work being carried out by the Comhairle and other agencies across the Western Isles in response to the COVID-19 crisis, in advance of the Easter weekend.


Councillor Mackay says: “Although our resources and capacity are largely devoted to our three key objectives in relation to COVID-19 - keeping our statutory and support services operating to the highest level possible; keeping our clients, customers, employees and members safe; and providing community leadership, information and external advocacy, we are continuing to run the ordinary business of the Comhairle as best we can.

“Work continues on policy issues and Councillor Uisdean Robertson, the Chief Executive and colleagues attended a teleconference this week, regarding the Islands (Scotland) Act, the Director for Communities attended a Workshop with Orkney and Shetland Councils on the projects which we hope will comprise the Growth Deal for the Islands, and we have responded to recent correspondence on Energy issues.  Although all of these matters are a key part of the ongoing work, we are also considering our preparations for the recovery phase post COVID-19.

“The Comhairle continues to work closely with Public Health, Department of Work and Pensions, Hebridean Housing Partnership and other local partners. This work will, of course, continue over the Easter weekend.

“I would reiterate the advice from Government to the public – please do stay at home unless absolutely essential and adhere to the physical distancing guidelines.

“We have sought to try and keep families engaged with activities on social media and will continue to communicate updates at the earliest possible opportunity.

The following are updates on the various Comhairle services which have been continuing, and will continue, this coming week.”


Care

Our Care Workers continue to show how dedicated they are to their profession and how much their service users mean to them, and they to their clients. We value their huge contribution to our response as a community to this challenge as they continue to deliver excellent service in these troubling times and we all appreciate and applaud them.

I have had confirmation that at the minute we are receiving sufficient PPE from the national distribution centre, and  all social care staff will be given PPE in keeping with the latest national guidance. As has been our practice from day one of this pandemic, we continue to follow national guidance and the supplies we get of PPE are based on that guidance.

Can I conclude by thanking all Care Staff for their patience and professionalism. We are repeatedly, across our island communities , seeing evidence of what a wonderful and highly dedicated workforce they are. I think it is becoming apparent what the social care workforce offers communities across the UK is at long last receiving the recognition it deserves.


Education

Throughout the holiday period, the Comhairle has operated provision for children of key workers in seven area hubs and a childcare centre. Two partner nursery providers have also continued to support key worker parents. We acknowledge the responsible use of this provision by key workers who are critical to maintaining local services and it will continue to be available to them as they need it. For the start of the new term on 14th April, we intend to open an additional three hubs to accommodate increased demand from key workers after the holidays. Details of these will be issued to parents ahead of the start of term

There has also been a very positive response to requests for volunteers to support our services, demonstrating the strength and resilience of our community and the professional commitment of our staff teams as they offer to work across other key services.

As well as maintaining key worker provision, the Comhairle is advancing plans to support continuing learning for children and young people who are at home as term recommences on 14th April. The Comhairle's innovative investment in eSgoil is proving to be a very wise decision as we utilise the excellent technology it provides us with to teach pupils across the islands and, indeed, we will continue to offer teaching across Scotland, which sees eSgoil increasing its prominence as an important national resource.


Volunteers

We have launched a Volunteer Registration Form and Contact Centre 01851 822899 to collect details of individuals and community groups throughout the Western Isles looking to provide volunteering support during COVID-19. The Contact Centre will operate Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and enable the Comhairle to match volunteers against the needs of individuals and families in our communities.

We would also urge anyone in need of help or support to contact our Customer Services team in the usual manner on 01851 600 501. We are anticipating a high number of calls, therefore we would ask for your patience

Both the Volunteer Line and Support Line will remain open during the Bank Holiday and we are continuing to contact people who request support.


Business

We have launched a new COVID-19 Local Business Support Scheme to help businesses unable to access support from existing Scottish and UK Government business schemes.

We’ve heard from many businesses that are falling through the cracks of the existing support schemes, so we’ve listened to that and are making grant funding available of up to £5,000 to support local businesses through this crisis and help them prepare for recovery.

With our limited financial resources, we have to target support where it is most needed.  The first stop should be the various Government schemes and interventions and if that is unsuccessful, businesses should contact our Business Gateway team on 01851 822775 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to help them with their application.

Further information on the Scottish Government Business Support Grant 

Further information on the Local Business Support Grant can be found on our Business Resilience page.


Isles MP congratulates Comhairle on new Covid-19 Business Grant Scheme

The launch of a Small Business Support Grant by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has been welcomed by Na h-Eileanan an Iar MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

The grant scheme will offer those small business in the Council’s area who have not qualified for other schemes announced by the UK and Scottish Governments grants of up to £5000 to support local businesses through this crisis and help prepare them for recovery.

After hearing of this initiative Mr MacNeil said: “It is good to know that Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have been listening to the local business community and are being pro-active in supporting those most in need at this time.

“While there is a lot of help available for businesses of all sizes, there are inevitably some that will fall through gaps in provision. This move by the Comhairle targets those businesses in our own area who provide a valuable service but don’t meet the criteria for other schemes.

“I have had a number of constituents who are unable to get access to the business support schemes previously announced so it is good to have a local initiative to point them to. I congratulate all those involved in the formation of this scheme, Council Officers, Councillors and other members of the Comhairle’s Businesss Resilience Group.”

After initial success in containing Covid-19 heading in from China, densely-populated Singapore faces a new clampdown as cases arrive from Europe and USA.  Taylor Edgar reports:

The lingering memory of the disastrous SARS outbreak is the primary reason Singapore is being quoted as having a gold standard response to today’s Covid-19 pandemic.

Back in 2003 the city state situated off the southern tip of the Malay peninsula was caught off guard and 33 Singaporeans succumbed to SARS. When Covid19 broke out in Wuhan, China last December,  Singapore was determined not to make the same mistakes again and acted early to contain the infection.

Dundonian, Duncan McGavin, an oil production equipment engineer based in Singapore, is now three weeks in working from home and adapting to the new reality imposed by Covid-19.

Welovestornoway.com asked Duncan if he could account for Singapore’s success in containing Covid19.

He explained: “SARS is still up there in the memory of a lot of people here, and it also made the government prepare for such a thing.  So they were quick to act and provide lots of help and advice to businesses.

“People in Singapore also tend to do what they are told and don’t quote human rights when asked where they have been for the last week, so the tracing has been excellent.  I have heard lots of stories of people being phoned and told that they were in the same taxi as someone who was a confirmed case and they then have to self isolate; which is checked by knocks on the door.  Even though the numbers have gone up, they are still doing this and it is still effective. Healthcare is pretty good here too, hence the low number of deaths.”

Because of the early intervention and contact tracing, Singapore, with a population of 5.8 million, has detected 1375 Covid-19 cases so far. The death toll, at the time of writing Thursday April 9), stands at six.

Continues Duncan:  “Singapore has had COVID-19 for quite some time now as we had a few flights of tourists from Wuhan during Chinese New Year just before Wuhan was locked down.  We kept on top of it, just adding between zero and six cases per day. We didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Then it (Covid-19) came back, with cases coming in from Europe and America more recently so the numbers shot up.  In fact, early on Singapore was second behind China if the Diamond Princess cruise ship was not part of the Japanese numbers. Now we are way down the list.”

For the past three weeks, travel restrictions have been in place and anyone arriving in Singapore has to self-isolate for two weeks, a practice now almost universal.  A week ago social distancing was introduced, with bars, entertainment venues being closed down, and markers appeared on the floor to ensure customers kept one metre apart while queuing in the commercial premises that were allowed to remain open.

“As of Tuesday most workplaces are closed, and food places can’t do sit in but take away remains available, as a lot of people in Singapore eat out in Hawker Centres (hot food courts) every day.  Schools closed as of Wednesday, and we are told to stay at home unless going out for food or exercise. Compliance will remain to be seen,” says Duncan.

For him, the travel restrictions have stymied business travel to his company’s Vietnam base in Ho Chi Minh city, as well as golf trips to Indonesia he had scheduled.

“After Monaco, Singapore is the most densely populated country in the world, so social distancing can be a challenge, but most people are managing.  I think it’s partly the SARS memory again,” Duncan points out. “Also, most people live in relatively small flats so working from home can be a challenge.  One smart thing they are doing is encouraging taxi and private hire drivers to become food delivery guys.”

Duncan originally worked in Aberdeen but transferred to the international business hub of Singapore for a two -year stint which turned into 11 years. He is now a Singapore permanent resident, a Singapore homeowner, and has a young son with his Singaporean wife.

Despite being thousands of miles away from his native shores, there’s one thing that remains the same: “It seems that panic buying toilet roll is a global phenomenon. Singapore had it a few months back when we first saw cases.  When they did it in the UK we thought, ‘Yep, we did that too’.”

Thomas Taylor Edgar

Scottish Conservative MSPs are urging the public to ‘respect the countryside’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With Easter weekend approaching, Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron and Scottish Conservative colleagues have advised the public to stay at home and avoid non-essential trips into the countryside.

A spell of good weather and the upcoming bank holiday Easter weekend has prompted fears that members of the public will flout social distancing rules and the lockdown advice.

Lambing, calving, and other farming activity is taking place right across the Highlands and Islands, and farmers and crofters are asking the public to stay at home in order to avoid unnecessary contact and animal worrying incidents.

The plea from MSPs echoes calls from the National Farmers Union of Scotland and the Countryside Alliance, who have issued similar advice urging the public to think twice about unnecessarily roaming across farmland and through farms.

Mr Cameron said: “Crofting and farming remain very important occupations across the Highlands and Islands. 

“So, when taking the permitted outdoor exercise, we must all remember that the countryside is still a ‘working’ landscape for many local people.

“Please take care, especially at this time of year -  stick to footpaths, and avoid fields where calving and lambing is taking place.

“If we all work together and follow advice, we can also reduce the number of animal worrying incidents which remains an issue across rural Scotland.

“Exercising regularly during the Covid-19 is important for maintaining good physical and mental health, but people should not be accessing areas of the countryside too far from their home, in line with Government advice on non-essential travel.”

Ed Rowlandson, Countryside Alliance said: “Under normal circumstances we’d always encourage people to get outside and explore the countryside.

“However, the official guidelines on containing the spread of this awful virus couldn’t be clearer. We need people to stay at home to save lives.

“For those doing local travel for exercise, please respect the importance of sticking to footpaths and other walkways while maintaining a distance of 2 metres from others.

“If you cannot avoid opening a gate, please be sure to close it behind you and remember to use a sanitiser after doing so.

“If we stick to following these crucial guidelines, we can hopefully avoid having any further restrictions brought in.”

Gemma Cooper, NFU Scotland Head of Policy Team said:  “NFU Scotland encourages the public to get out and enjoy the Scottish countryside and within the current circumstances it is understandable that increased volumes of people will want to make the most of the fresh air and green space that is available close to them.

“However, the impact of increased access-taking in recent weeks has been immediate and acute for many Scottish farmers on the urban fringes and unfortunately, it is clear that many access-takers are not aware of their responsibilities when exercising or walking dogs on farm land.

“NFU Scotland members are reporting problems in substantial numbers, including littering, gates being left open, crop damage, uncontrolled dogs and access to fields of newly lambed ewes and freshly calved cows.

“In addition, there has been a huge increase in farmers reporting the public taking access through (or in) farm steadings and other buildings, with some reports of finding the public in farmhouse gardens.

“It is important for the public to understand that farming activities are food production and these must continue during Covid-19. This Easter, NFU Scotland is asking the public to remind themselves of the Outdoor Access Code and to ensure that their behaviour does not make farming activities any more difficult than it already is in these unprecedented circumstances.”

Sarah-Jane Laing, Chief Executive of Scottish Land & Estates said:“It’s important for good physical and mental wellbeing that people have access to their local countryside during the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, our members who own farmland and estates are contacting us on a daily basis with concerns about the number of people using the countryside with apparent disregard for the health of farm and estate workers and the safety of young calves and lambs and their mothers. Our members are having to erect new signs as a result of this to remind people of their responsibilities.

“Key workers such as farmers working hard to deliver healthy local food should not have to worry about members of the public infringing on their personal space during this crisis. People should ensure they always keep at least two meters away from others. Another huge concern is people taking dogs into fields with young livestock – this should be avoided. If the farm animals become distressed, or a young lamb is mauled by a dog, this can have a devastating impact on the mother, young animal and the farmer.

“We want everyone – the public, farm and estate workers and animals to be able to enjoy our beautiful local countryside during the pandemic, but people need to understand the importance of keeping their dogs on a lead around farm animals, never going into  fields with young calves or lambs in and giving a wide berth to our hardworking key workers.”

Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, Rhoda Grant, reiterated messages from front-line NHS staff for people not to travel to the region during the Easter break, backing the UK and Scottish Government’s health messages during the Cornonavirus crisis.

“Anyone tempted to travel to the Highlands and Islands over Easter, please, please don’t,” said Mrs Grant.

“We have limited resources in our region and you will be putting people at great risk. Please stay at home and only go out for permitted purposes.

“If you think you can sneak in under the radar, I can assure you that our communities are on high alert at the moment for anyone breaking the rules.

“It is hard for families and friends who would normally meet up, but these measures are necessary, especially to protect the elderly and for the most vulnerable.”

If media do substantiate cases where rules have been broken Mrs Grant added: “No-one can be ignorant of the advice not to travel and this just puts communities at risk. I hope that the police will take strong measures to make sure that people breaking the lockdown go home and stay safe in their own areas.”

 

Father and daughter team Derek and Kayleigh Smith came to the rescue of a dog and its owner in Ness yesterday afternoon (Wednesday April 8).

“Stornoway Coastguard Rescue team were tasked to assist Ness CRT following reports of a dog and its owner stuck down at the bottom of some cliffs at the Butt of Lewis.

"The owner and Bonnie the dog were both safely returned to the cliff top by rope technicians Derek and Kayleigh Smith, father and daughter, both members of the Ness CRT."

This was described in the official message on Facebook as an "excellent outcome."

The Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team is on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to respond to those in need. 

Photographs from Stornoway Coastguard Rescue Team Facebook page.


welovestornoway.com would love to add your own tributes to those you can see below – whether it’s a picture of your own superhero or a few words of thanks, why not send them in to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll help keep the support for local superheroes going!


Front line workers are the new superheroes of society, according to health board and Comhairle chiefs, and a wave of public support for those that do the essential background jobs is sweeping across the islands.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles are both shining the spotlight on workers who are keeping essential services running, with social media featuring pictures of workers from waste management operatives and hospital cleaners to nurses and doctors.


Joe Macleod from Back , appears on England's BBC South news explaining how he comes from an island community himself, and is now tasked with working to help another island community.  
Well done Joe and all the armed forces stepping in to keep us safe. 
Helping to build a new hospital on the Isle of Wight. 
Image.jpeg

Appeal for rainbow pictures!

Over the past few weeks pictures of rainbows have appeared in windows across the Outer Hebrides as a way to cheer up people who walk past them and as a message of thanks to local frontline NHS staff.  NHS Western Isles is now appealing for people to get in touch and send in photos of their rainbow pictures so they can be shared online (with some in print) – particularly for those who are self-isolating indoors.
 
Gordon Jamieson, NHSWI Chief Executive said “We are inviting children to share their rainbow drawings which we will promote on our social media channels and within various NHS sites across the Outer Hebrides. The aim is to bring a smile to people’s faces during this difficult time as well as providing something for the children to do while they are off school and missing their friends.”
Budding artists are told there is no set criteria, just that images be of rainbows and feature bright colours – something that will brighten everyone’s day and bolster community spirit!
To take part, images can be sent as a private message to the NHS Western Isles Facebook page, Twitter account (@NHSWI) or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  However, the public are asked not to send in their pictures by post.
Pictured are Katie Morag and Seonag from Scalpay with their drawings - well done girls!

Don't forget to praise the excellent Woodys delivery drivers. A special thanks to Iain who delivers to Point with his dog Axel. We are also grateful to all our posties.

That from Moira and Gary Sturgess via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


And at the same time the public are doing their bit to highlight exceptional service, offering positive feedback to delivery drivers, CalMac staff, shop workers and front-line carers.

Claire, a community staff nurse in Lewis. leading from the front in poster campaign

Along with the pictures we’ve highlighted below of superhero keyworkers, there’s been applause and pipe tunes, coloured rainbow drawings and social media posts highlighting the positive contribution so many people are making to keeping us safe, supplied and cared for when we need it.

We Love Stornoway would love to add your own tributes to those you can see below – whether it’s a picture of your own superhero or a few words of thanks, why not send them in to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll keep the support for superheroes going!

Social media pages are full of comments like these:

“We are very fortunate with all the services that are keeping us going. Thanks are not enough for all the hard work everyone is doing, but thank you very much anyway.”

“Well done to all the chemist shops who are putting in a sterling effort in the current climate. Big hand clap to each and every one of you.”

 “It's always service with a smile as usual. Thank you to all of you who have been so helpful. It’s great to see so many people supporting you, whilst you’re supporting all of us. I know it's not much saying thanks in a message, but I truly give you all a huge thank you.”

“Well done to all the CalMac employees both pier side and vessel, for keeping vital services running. You all do an amazing job.”

Graham Macintosh, cleansing operative, Stornoway

Donald MacNeil, cleansing labourer, Barra

Alex Mackinnon, plant operative at Creed Park

Derek Mackay, waste collector (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar)

Regina, cleaner at Western Isles Hospital

Kathryn MacSween, Macmillan nurse at NHS Western Isles

Donald Ross Gillies, senior charge nurse NHS Western Isles

Western Isles Hospital catering staff (NHS Western Isles)

Rainbows for Blackhouse Bakery from Orla in Upper Bayble

The Loch Seaforth coming in with the freight, picture by Chris Murray who said: “The lifesavers, key workers, thank you all for the fantastic stuff you are doing in these testing times.”


welovestornoway.com would love to add your own tributes to those you can see above – whether it’s a picture of your own superhero or a few words of thanks, why not send them in to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll help keep the support for local superheroes going!


A message via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I would like to thank all the NHS staff and especially Nurses and Doctors for all their hard work and dedication on the front line everyday, particularly through this dreadful disease. 

I would also like to give my upmost sincere thanks to the A&E Drs and nurses for their help and in keeping me alive, their patience and quick thinking 6 months ago.
Luckily, because of A&E Staff I am still alive and recovering from a traumatic illness. Thank you to the Psychiatric Team at WI Hospital for all hard work and perseverance in their hard work, they, too are still working through these very difficult times. Thank you to all NHS Staff from the bottom of my heart. (name withheld)

NHS Western Isles' Dermatology Nurse Angela Woodley has issued some top tips for the public to keep their hands healthy in response to COVID-19.

With people washing their hands more than they ever have before, many of us will experience symptoms of dermatitis, manifesting in dry, chapped, itchy and swollen skin on our hands which can be very painful.

However, following some basic and practical advice can go a long way to ensuring we are able to keep hands clean - in line with national guidance – while also maintaining good hand health along the way.

Here’s some top tips for following guidance, treating dermatitis and mitigating the chances of it occurring:

  • Always wet your hands before applying soap.
  • Wash hands regularly with soap, paying attention to areas between the fingers and around the nails, for 20 seconds. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
  • Apply moisturisers after drying your hands. These should be fragrance-free. Use a greasier moisturiser at bedtime under cotton gloves (or socks) if hands are particularly chapped.
  • Avoid any wet work if your skin is very dry or splitting.
  • Try to wear gloves for household chores.
  • Avoid unnecessary tasks that add extra stress to the hands eg. use of bleach, painting and decorating, gardening, car washing etc.
  • Mild topical steroids can be purchased over the counter from community pharmacies and can be useful if skin itchy or inflamed. Use twice a day for a week whilst adhering to good hand care rules. 

Angela Woodley said “While it’s crucial for us all to be washing our hands more often, as a result, many of us will also have experienced symptoms of dermatitis such as dry, itchy skin, rashes and swelling.

“This change occurs due to skin being irritated by cleaning products such hand sanitiser and soap, and even water. It can be quite painful if untreated so following these basic but effective tips will help minimise any irritation, and help your keep your hands healthy throughout COVID-19.”​

NHS Western Isles is recommending a free book to parents of primary school children, about coronavirus.

Axel Scheffler has illustrated a digital book for primary school age children, free for anyone to read on screen or print out, about coronavirus and the measures taken to control it.

Published by Nosy Crow, and written by staff within the company, the book has had expert input: Professor Graham Medley of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine acted as a consultant, and the company also had advice from two head teachers and a child psychologist.

The book answers key questions in simple language appropriate for 5 to 9 year olds:

  • What is the coronavirus?
  • How do you catch the coronavirus?
  • What happens if you catch the coronavirus?
  • Why are people worried about catching the coronavirus?
  • Is there a cure for the coronavirus?
  • Why are some places we normally go to closed?
  • What can I do to help?
  • What’s going to happen next?

The book is offered totally free of charge to anyone who wants to read it. However, at the back of the book, is a link where families can make a donation to help the health service if they find the book useful: https://www.nhscharitiestogether.co.uk/.

Kate Wilson, Managing Director of Nosy Crow, said: “We were very aware that many parents and carers are struggling to explain the current extraordinary situation to children, many of whom are frightened and confused. We thought that the best thing we could do would be to use our skills to produce a free book to explain and, where possible, reassure children. We asked Axel, whose work is so familiar and so loved, to illustrate it. He was happy to do it, and did it extraordinarily quickly. Meanwhile, having heard Professor Medley interviewed by the BBC, we looked him up and wrote to him, and despite his huge workload, he reviewed the book over a weekend, and we were able to incorporate his suggestions, together with those of two head teachers and a child psychologist, into the final version of the book. We hope it helps answer difficult questions in difficult times.”

Axel Scheffler, illustrator of The Gruffalo, said: “I asked myself what I could do as an children’s illustrator to inform, as well as entertain, my readers here and abroad. So I was glad when my publisher, Nosy Crow, asked me to illustrate this question-and-answer book about the coronavirus. I think it is extremely important for children and families to have access to good and reliable information in this unprecedented crisis, and I hope that the popularity of the books I’ve done with Julia Donaldson will ensure that this digital book will reach many children who are now slightly older, but might still remember our picture books.”

Professor Graham Medley, Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “This pandemic is changing children’s lives across the globe and will have a lasting impact on us all. Helping children understand what is going on is an important step in helping them cope and making them part of the story – this is something that we are all going through, not something being done to them. This book puts children IN the picture rather just watching it happen, and in a way that makes the scary parts easier to cope with.”

Download the book at: https://nosycrowcoronavirus.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/Coronavirus_ABookForChildren.pdf

Or at https://www.dropbox.com/s/88ok8kfdjjj4gkn/Coronavirus.pdf?dl=0

 

Salvors have today (Wednesday 8 April) returned to the site where a 90-metre cargo vessel is still ‘fast on the rocks’ in the Minch between the Isles of Lewis and Skye.

Efforts are resuming to get cargo shifted ahead of a salvage operation.

An HM Coastguard spokesperson said that the operation to remove oil from the cargo vessel MV Kaami has now been completed by salvors, while fuel and contaminated seawater from the onboard tanks have been taken ashore for recycling and disposal.

During a break in the weather on Saturday (4 April) the salvage team boarded the vessel and installed a motion monitoring system. This allows salvors who cannot remain on aboard the vessel safely during severe weather to monitor the vessel’s stability.

Wind and sea conditions hampered any further activity over the past few days, but with an improvement in the weather today salvors are back on board the Kaami with the local dive support boat Hirta (Kilda Cruises) and utility vessel Forth Warrior in attendance.

Also working around the site are the guard vessel Multratug 3, which has been maintaining an exclusion zone around the stranded vessel, and utility vessels Carly and Leslie Anne.

Salvors Resolve Marine Group are hoping to bring the Forth Guardsman, a flat-deck landing craft with a long-reach digger aboard, alongside the stranded vessel. Part of today’s remit is to carry on inspections of the damage and to try and use the ship’s gantry to remove cargo from the hold and make it ready for removal.

It’s then hoped they’ll be able to use the Forth Guardsman to remove the cargo on to a barge and take it away. One option for the barge to be used is currently in Tarbert, Isle of Harris, where it has been involved in dredging for the harbour improvement works now under way.

The state of the weather is critical for the next part of the operation, with vessels and cargo salvage equipment on standby to make use of breaks in the weather. The salvage is overseen by the Secretary of State’s Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SoSrep) supported by the MCA, salvors, the ship’s insurers and the Scottish Environment Group.

Once the cargo has been removed, the recovery of the empty ship will need to be carefully managed. Options under review will include an attempted refloat and tow, or lifting the damaged ship out of the water and onto a heavy load carrier such as was used for the removal of the Transocean Winner oilrig in 2016.

The position of the ship and the recurring poor weather conditions have created a challenging salvage operation, with additional problems added into the mix because of the Covid-19 situation. Planning meetings have been taking place using remote technology and there are some movement restrictions affecting personnel who would otherwise be travelling internationally.

However, the closure order on harbours and slipways issued by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar late last week has not had a significant impact, as the salvage of the stranded vessel is regarded as an essential operation on the grounds of maritime safety and environmental protection. This means that service vessels are able to move between ports in Lewis, Harris and Skye without restriction.

Pictures show the MV Kaami in its stranded position (MCA) and the salvage vessel Forth Guardsman (Briggs Marine).

 

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is launching a new COVID-19 Local Business Support Scheme to help businesses unable to access support from existing Scottish and UK Government business schemes. 

Comhairle Leader, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “We’ve heard from many businesses that are falling through the cracks of the existing support schemes, so we’ve listened to that and are making grant funding available of up to £5,000 to support local businesses through this crisis and help them prepare for recovery.

“With our limited financial resources, we have to target support where it is most needed. 

"The first stop should be the various Government schemes and interventions and if that is unsuccessful, businesses should contact our Business Gateway team on 01851 822775 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to help them with their application.”

"This is just one of a number of measures the Comhairle has taken to support local businesses. 

"Last week it was agreed to offer all small businesses a three-month deferral on loan repayments, as well as offering support to tenants in Comhairle properties. 

"The Comhairle is also leading a multi-agency Business Resilience Group focused on engaging with and reaching out to all sectors of the business community across the islands."

Chairman of Sustainable Development, Councillor Donald Crichton, said:  “I would like to thank everyone involved in establishing the COVID-19 Local Business Support Scheme. We are committed to doing as much as we can to ensure our local businesses survive and I am pleased that we now have a scheme in place which can provide emergency financial support to local businesses.”

The Comhairle is also managing the Scottish Government Business Support Scheme.  To date more than 450 applications have been received with more than £1.6m paid out to small businesses throughout the Western Isles.

Further information on the Scottish Government Business Support Grant can be found at:https://www.cne-siar.gov.uk/news/2020/march/scottish-government-s-business-support-grants/

Further information on the Local Business Support Grant can be found at the Business Resilience section of the Comhairle’s website.

Earlier Shadow Finance Secretary Donald Cameron warned that the Scottish Government will need to act urgently to deliver an economic support package.

Mr Cameron made his comments after the Fraser of Allander Institute estimated that if the current coronavirus-related restrictions last to the summer, “Scottish GDP could contract by 20-25%.”

Mr Cameron, a Highlands and Islands MSP,  said: “A contraction of this magnitude would be brutal for jobs, growth and prosperity.

“The service sector could be down by 20% which would have enormous implications for the Highlands and Islands.

“For instance, the report forecasts a severe contraction in the accommodation sector which forms a bedrock of the regional economy.

“Everyone understands the public health need for lockdown at the moment.

“But this warning makes it all the more essential that the Scottish Government gets its economic support package absolutely right and that it is tailored for the differing needs of the regions and not just focused on the Central Belt.

“As it stands, businesses of all sizes, right across the country, are concerned that hasn’t been the case.”

 

 

The coronavirus outbreak is affecting the way many of us live our lives – the way that we study, the way we spend time, and the way that we work - and it's normal that this will affect people's mental health, says Lews Castle College. 

The situation may well be making you feel anxious, and the level of news and information that is available might be leading to feelings of overwhelm.

We also know that some of your normal self-care and coping strategies might be a lot more difficult just now given the lockdown and social distancing requirements we’re all facing, and the self-isolation that some of you might be required to follow.

We've gathered some resources that might be helpful, and there are lots of links below – these will in turn take you to pages where you can find guides, tips and resources.

The most important advice from all of these resources and guides is to stay connected

 spiders web

If you need to talk to someone from the College about how you’re feeling, and how this might be affecting your studies, your first point of contact will normally be your PAT (Personal Academic Tutor) or course leader.

If for some reason you don’t feel able to contact them, or you know that they aren’t available – for example during the Easter break - you can get in touch with Student Services by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

This email account is monitored Monday to Friday and someone will get back to you as soon as possible. Please do not use this account if you need to speak to someone urgently – we have given the numbers for national helplines below.

The College counselling service remains available to students – although face to face appointments are not possible at the moment, counselling sessions can take place over the phone or using video technology. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want to arrange to speak to a counsellor. This service is free, and confidential.

If you need to talk to someone urgently, please call one of the national helplines:

Person Using Smartphone

Breathing Space is open Monday-Thursday 6pm to 2am and weekends from Friday 6pm through to Monday 6am 0800 838587 (it’s free to call)

Samaritans are open 24 hours, day and night – the number is 116 123 (it’s free to call from mobiles or landlines)

This is a national service – although people volunteer as Samaritans from your local community, your call will go through the national helpline, and it is highly improbable anyone local will ever answer a local call.

If it’s not easy to make a call from home, you can get in touch with the Samaritans by email – contact details here

Fiji awaits the coming Covid-19 storm, with a night-time curfew, school closures, and a lock-down in the main towns. Taylor Edgar reports:

With only 15 confirmed cases of Covid19 cases so far and no deaths, tropical storm-hit Fiji is bracing itself as the Pacific islanders acknowledge that they are only at the beginning of the virus infection curve.

Speaking from his home in the Fijian capital, Suva, Robin Taylor is concerned that with Covid19 testing being spotty and only conducted when people have symptoms and meet certain criteria, more infections are on the way.

Robin, who owns an independent school in the city, told welovestornoway.com: “There are two initial infectious people who brought it into Fiji from abroad and were very disappointing in their self-imposed isolation and instead roamed around a lot of Fiji in just a few days. The first patient furthermore was less than forthcoming as to where and whom he had seen, making tracing the contacts very hard.”

Since the initial outbreak, there has been a lockdown in Suva and Lautoka. In addition, there’s a curfew every night from 8 pm to 5 am across all the Fijian islands.

“I guess it would be fair to say that Fiji right now is not feeling too bad because the hospitals are not overwhelmed and fatalities have not occurred. This is probably where New Zealand was two weeks ago,” Robin reports.

“I know that the hospitals are gearing up for a surge of patients to come in. A real lack of equipment, e.g. proper protective gear for the front-line workers. I saw a nurse geared up to treat a potentially infected patient who had items such as a dust mask that covered her surgical mask, and eye protection, that came from the local hardware store. Comical - but tragic. I hope that the medical front-line staff do not get hit too hard from this, but the examples around the world are not a cause for hope.”

Because Covid-19 has not yet fully  ‘hit’ Fiji, there’s a sense of surrealness being felt by most. People are not taking social distancing seriously as the government grapples with what is for them and most other countries a unique situation.

Echoing the strong sense of community spirit ingrained in the Outer Hebrides, Fijians still feel the need to connect and want to do so most often around the kava bowl (kava is a strong herbal drink made from a member of the nightshade family which is traditionally shared for its relaxing qualities). Due to this community spirit, dozens of people are being arrested every night for breaking curfew.

Despite the restrictions, Robin is not feeling cut off or affected other than by local businesses being closed and his school. The school closure has naturally kept him very busy dealing with the impact, though as far as is known no one connected with the school has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

Explains Robin: “The Prime Minister has ordered that all children be kept at home. However, we are gearing up for online and distance learning. We were already doing this with our secondary school, so much of this is not going to be foreign. However, having to construct something meaningful for our younger primary school children will be a challenge.”

Ironically, while online learning and videoconferencing are the product of the 21st Century, the courses under construction for younger primary school students will adopt practices more akin to the correspondence courses of the late 19th and 20th century. The more dynamic web technologies, meanwhile, will enable classes for older students to be a very different and interactive experience.

Points out Robin: “Some of our expatriate students have been forced to return to their homeland, mainly Australia, which is very hard for them and us. Some though have elected to continue learning with us because they are going to find it hard to get into a school in their homeland anyway, and everyone will be doing online/distance learning in any case.”

At the moment, for the Briton, who settled in Fiji in 1994 and has raised a family there, life is hectic on the business front getting teaching staff up to speed on online teaching. And he has plans for any downtime.

“One thing that I will do that will be different for me, is when I have time, I’m going to do a lot of planting in the garden. I definitely see a real need for this if the global economy heads towards a depression. If not, then I’ll have achieved a ‘bucket list’ aim of mine nevertheless,” he comments.

So far there have been no shortages in the shops. There was a run on toilet paper at the beginning, but the shelves were soon restocked. Laughs Robin: “The panic buyers, I understand, then tried returning their hoarded goods but were refused."

As fellow islanders, readers will no doubt recognise much of what is happening in Fiji. And wish them well in the uncertain days ahead.

Thomas Taylor Edgar

 

The chief executive of NHS Western Isles has spoken with warmth and gratitude of the public response health services are meeting from the whole community across the islands.
Gordon Jamieson was speaking late last night (Tuesday 7 April) as he made the announcement that a fifth case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in the Isle of Lewis.
He also took the opportunity to give an update on staff training and preparedness for an increase in cases and to speak of the community response to the crisis.
Offers of help range from hand cream from Ishga, the Lewis-based manufacturer of salon quality toiletries, to haulage services from big-wheelers, D R Macleod. People have offered to make face masks and scrubs as well as contributing other personal protective equipment and Harris company Essence of Harris has moved into production of sanitisers and hand gel for front line workers.
Gordon said: “I am humbled every day by the numerous offers of assistance across a variety of areas that are coming in from our community here in the Western Isles.  We can’t thank everybody publicly but I can assure you that their efforts just show how much our community is pulling together to try and combat the Covid-19 virus, and I would like to thank everybody for every single offer that has come forward.  Thank you.”
People offering to make personal protective equipment or to donate hand creams and sanitisers to the NHS locally are being asked to email Chris Anne Campbell at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. first, so that checks can be carried out to make sure all products are safe for use in a health and care setting.
Chris Anne said: “We have been overwhelmed by the offers of support we have received from the public, local businesses and organisations. On behalf of NHS Western Isles, I would like to thank everyone for their generosity.”
Pictures show NHS Western Isles chief executive Gordon Jamieson during last night’s broadcast and Diane Morrison, NHS worker, reinforcing the message of thanks.

Are you a young reader looking for something to keep you occupied?

The Gaelic Books Council are looking for readers between the ages of 16 to 29 to take part in a research project about Gaelic books.

Entitled Ficsean Furasta, the project will ask readers to share their thoughts on their favourite Gaelic books before taking part in a virtual focus group with researcher, Euan Dickson.

Participants will be rewarded with a £20 book voucher.

Anyone wanting to take part is asked to email Euan before 20 April 2020 at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

A bheil thu eadar 16 is 29 agus dèidheil air leughadh?

Tha sinn a' sireadh dhaoine òga airson pròiseact rannsachaidh mu leabhraichean Gàidhlig air a bheil Ficsean Furasta.

Bidh sinn ag iarraidh ort do bheachdan a thoirt dhuinn air na leabhraichean
Gàidhlig as fheàrr leat agus pàirt a ghabhail am buidheann fòcais air loidhne
còmhla ris an neach- rannsachaidh againn, Eòghann Dickson. Gheibh neach sam bith an sàs sa phròiseact àirleas-leabhair luach £20!

Ma tha sibh eadar 16 is 29 bliadhna a dh’aois agus deònach pàirt a ghabhail, sgrìobh post-d gu Eòghann aig This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Ceann-latha: 20 Giblean 2020.