First published in John O’Groat Journal in September 2020
This year started fairly normally then we entered a quite unprecedented period where things that we previously took for granted; shopping, visiting family or friends, going out for a coffee or to the pub for a pint, were suddenly stopped or restricted.
Lockdown arrived and we were introduced to new words like social distancing, self isolating and shielding.
Police enforced the lockdown; I was stopped in Thurso and politely asked what the purpose of my journey was and where I was going. The Police officer was happy with my answer that I was delivering shopping to my mother-in-law who was shielding.
Emergency services and front line NHS workers continued to operate throughout the lockdown but had to adapt to deal with the threat of the Coronavirus.
Essential workers like chemists, delivery drivers, refuse collectors, postal workers, shop and care workers, to name some, became our new heroes.
Communities across the county responded to the lockdown and, working with Highland Council and organisations like Caithness Voluntary Group, offered support to people self isolating or shielding due to health concerns.
Folk went out of their way to help their fellow citizens, individuals and groups raised funds for the NHS and others produced things like face coverings, visors and protective clothing.
In Thurso, members of Thurso Community Development Trust quickly identified that they had the capability to respond to the needs of the community and using social media asked for volunteers to help. They set up their own Covid-19 helpline and email address and extended their area to include Halkirk and west of Caithness. Like other groups across our communities they organised meals and used volunteers to deliver them to those shielding or self isolating.
I volunteered to man the helpline for a few hours a week and from my experiences I believe that the lockdown brought our community much closer together. This could be seen by just how willing the volunteers were to give up their time doing things like collecting prescriptions and shopping. Also, from speaking to folk stuck at home it was very obvious just how grateful they were to the volunteers.
CHAT, with support from Caithness General League of Friends, donated 30 Samsung tablets to our three hospitals for patients and staff to keep in touch with family during restricted visiting.
Technology certainly helped a lot of people through the lockdown with folk like my mother (91) and mother-in-law (85) joining the silver surfers and now quite happily using Facebook and video calling family and friends across the world.
Others really struggled during the lockdown and as we enter another period of new restrictions there is a fear that mental health issues will increase.
In my next column I hope to touch on mental health concerns and what additional services and help are available in our area.
Meantime we can all do our bit to fight the virus, wear a face covering when required, maintain social distancing, wash hands regularly, request a test if we have symptoms and download the Test and Protect app if possible.