COMMUNITY and business life in Eskdale and Liddesdale is grinding to a halt as the coronavirus COVID-19 tightens its grip on the UK and around the world.
Venues are closing their doors and user groups are cancelling their meetings and community events, sporting events are being postponed (see our sports pages) and people are cancelling holidays and trips.
In Langholm a COVID-19 support site has been set up on Facebook. It will help to co-ordinate assistance to people who are self-isolating and can’t do their shopping, get prescriptions, take part in other normal activities or just want a chat on the phone or online to ward off loneliness.
Within 48 hours the site got more than 600 members, with lots of people and groups offering their help.
Businesses providing goods and services to the area are using the site to post changes to their procedures to prevent the spread of the virus and many are offering deliveries which is really helpful.
The E&L Advertiser has printed some #viralkindness leaflets which can be picked up from its High Street office and completed by anyone looking to help others and posted through their neighbours’ doors.
Langholm town hall has now closed but the mobile post office will be in Parliament Square tomorrow from 9am to 2.30pm, next Wednesday from 12pm to 3.30pm and again next Friday.
Dalston Pharmacy in Langholm is experiencing extremely high volumes of prescriptions and people are asked to order repeat prescriptions in plenty of time. The minimum for most surgeries is two working days.
Gordon Winter, pharmacist, said: “If you bring a prescription into the pharmacy and the wait time is more than five minutes, please call back for it at the time given.
“This helps limits the number of people in the pharmacy at any one time and reduces personal contact time.
“Please observe “social distancing etiquette” by keeping two metres away from staff and others.
“If you have symptoms of coronavirus (see NHS24 online for latest advice) do not attend a pharmacy, GP or the emergency department to be seen.
“Avoid touching anything unnecessarily such as counters or products you won’t be buying. Consider using contactless for payments over £5.”
Gary Collins, manager of the Co-operative Store in Langholm, said the store was, like many others, experiencing huge demand.
He said: “If anyone has any questions I can help with about the Co-op, short stock lines or anything you’re worried about, feel free to contact me.
“Like everywhere just now, we are experiencing huge demand and are stretched but we will do everything we can to get in the things you need.
“If things escalate in and around the town, we will put together a plan to help people as much as we can.
“Could I just ask that, if you are shopping with us, you stick to the guidelines on hygiene; it would take only one member of staff to fall ill to potentially close the store down for a period.”
The Langholm and Canonbie Schools Cluster has notified parents to prepare their children to work online from home and to contact the school if their children do not have internet access.
The Langholm Academy school office is not being staffed but can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
For those who cannot access the Langholm COVID-19 Facebook page, some volunteers, willing to collect requests by phone, text or email and place these requests onto the site regularly, are needed.
A poster is being made and being posted around town giving details of how to contact volunteers.
Volunteers are also needed to collect the #viralkindness leaflets and drop these around the town.
Volunteers and those seeking help need to take all necessary precautions over health and personal safety and security.
It may be a good idea for shopping to be left outside the door in a similar fashion to the current Royal Mail procedures.
Wherever possible, people should try to use volunteers they know and trust and vice versa.
They are advised to follow government guidelines and avoid all unnecessary human contact wherever possible.
NHS Dumfries & Galloway says it’s planning for an unprecedented increase in acute hospital activity.
It has been fortunate that no cases have been identified in the region but anticipates that this situation will change rapidly and hospitals will need to adapt to manage large numbers of patients ill with the virus.
Jeff Ace, chief executive, said: “Our teams need to focus on this change, on their own retraining and the reconfiguration of services.
“I have decided to suspend all non-urgent outpatient and inpatient activity at DGRI from now.
“A small number of critical services such as renal dialysis and cancer treatment and surgery will continue as normal but we cannot continue to provide our full range of clinical activity.
“Please do not attend the hospital for appointments which are not related to these critical services.
“We will call every patient to confirm cancellations or arrange for remote consultation using the NHS Near Me video conference technology.
“Other patient pathways such as psychiatry and psychology clinics will continue as normal.”
Dr Cliff Sharp, NHS Borders medical director, said: “Testing is taking place using one of our occupational health vehicles near the Primary Services block on the Borders General Hospital Campus.
“Should someone, who needs testing, be unable to attend, testing can be one in their home.
“Two patients living in the Borders have tested positive for COVID-19, having returned from listed risk areas. No patients are being treated in the hospital.
“Given the contagious nature of this coronavirus, confirmed cases in the Borders were inevitable and I would urge the public to play their part in helping us minimise the risk by following advice.
“Please do not attend the hospital or any healthcare setting and request a test for coronavirus. Testing is by appointment only.
“If you are worried you may have coronavirus, call 111, stay indoors and avoid close contact with other people.”
Tracey Logan, Scottish Borders Council chief executive, said: “We are creating plans to ensure the community response is co-ordinated locally and residents, who want to help, are protected.
“We’ve contacted resilient communities groups to request more information and ask whether they’re willing to co-ordinate volunteers to offer support in their communities.”