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Kintyre’s health chiefs are urging people to adhere to strict social distancing guidance which forms part of unprecedented new measures brought in by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday in a bid to combat coronavirus (COVID-19).
Mr Johnson ordered everyone to stay at home unless going out for a handful of essential purposes, and those who flout the order risk being fined by the police.
The Courier understands that there were no confirmed cases of the virus in Campbeltown when the paper went to print, but health professionals say it does not mean the virus is not in the area, and that best practice is to behave as though everyone is contagious.
Kristin Gillies, a manager at Campbeltown Hospital, spoke to about 30 representatives from Argyll and Bute Council, South Kintyre Development Trust (SKDT), Argyll and Bute Third Sector Interface, Campbeltown’s two pharmacies, Shopper-Aide, Kintyre Food Bank, Kintyre’s community councils, local churches, Argyll FM and the Campbeltown Courier, as well as some local traders and hauliers at a meeting last Friday.
Kintyre Community Resilience Group (KCRG) was formed at the Campbeltown Town Hall meeting, organised by SKDT manager Eric Spence. It is hoped that the group will become a one-stop source of accurate and up-to-date advice and information about all aspects of the impact of the outbreak in Kintyre.
Despite everyone sitting in chairs separated by about one metre, Mrs Gillies advised the group that its first meeting should be its last face-to-face gathering.
Stressing the need to adhere to the social distancing measures, Mrs Gillies said: ‘Isolating people goes against all our instincts but we need to do it. This isn’t about scare-mongering, it is about being responsible. We need people to keep themselves safe and stick to the policies in place. We all have a role to play.’
Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Gillies said: ‘Campbeltown Hospital is a small community hospital that is not designed to look after seriously ill patients.
‘Although a significant amount of planning has taken place, there are no intensive care facilities. The long journey time to Glasgow will make it difficult to transport people with coronavirus to a large hospital with specialist services.
‘This is a very frightening time for everyone and Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) asks you to help keep the people of south Kintyre safe by staying at home as much as possible. Please stay safe by staying at home.’
Mrs Gillies explained that the hospital could benefit from volunteers, for example drivers able to deliver medicine or transport discharged patients home.
Health improvement principal Alison Mcgrory, who is coordinating the HSCP’s response to the virus, told the Courier: ‘The HSCP set up a Caring for People Tactical Group on Monday March 16 as part of the coronavirus emergency plan.
‘The purpose of the group is to put in place services that enable people to stay safely in their own homes for the duration of the outbreak. This includes shopping and prescription deliveries for people over 70 or with particular health issues that increase their risks.
‘We will also set up telephone befriending for people who are on their own or feel lonely as we recognise the significant impact this crisis is having on our emotional wellbeing.’
Representatives from other groups at the KCRG meeting, including Shopper-Aide, which delivers shopping to elderly and vulnerable people and runs a ‘buddy phone’ system, also expressed the need for volunteers.
After the meeting, Mr Spence said: ‘If you are fit and healthy and you think you’ll be able to help us out in any way, we would really like to hear from you.
‘There is a number of things that we’re going to have to have help with over the coming weeks and months if we’re going to minimise the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s not limited to carrying out shopping, leafleting, picking up people’s prescriptions, perhaps even just phoning around people to make sure everyone’s got what they need, particularly our vulnerable and older people.
‘We will provide you with any health and safety advice you need and, where necessary, any personal protective equipment if that’s required.’
Those who think they may be able to help should contact Mr Spence by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, including details of their name, age, address, contact information, specialist skills, services they can offer, and whether they have a driving licence.
These names will be added to a bank to be called upon to help where necessary.