COVID-19 – Organisations response

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Groups and organisations have been in touch with the Oban Times

Argyll Talking Newspapers

Argyll Talking Newspapers, which provides a free service to 125 listeners, will suspend their operation with immediate effect.

The charity, which reads local newspapers throughout Argyll and Bute, will provide listeners this coming weekend (March 20-21) with their usual USB sticks with a recorded message explaining the decision.

After that there will be no further recordings until further notice.

Speaking on behalf of the charity, chairman Robin Finlay, said: ‘This has been a difficult decision. So many people rely on us to keep them up to date with what is happening in their area. This decision has been taken in light of ongoing government and medical advice and with input also from the Talking Newspapers Federation.

‘Considering the average age of our volunteers and listeners, together with the transmission risks associated with the face to face contacts and the handling of sticks and envelopes by both groups, to continue may constitute significant risks.

‘We will be in touch again with our listeners as soon as the situation changes.’

Updates, news and information will also be posted on www.facebook.com/argylltalkingpapers

Atlantis Leisure

As a key social gathering hub for the Oban and Lorn community, Atlantis Leisure has taken its responsibility to respond proactively to the evolving Coronavirus situation very seriously.

Our priority is the health and wellbeing of the community which we serve – with each decision being made to protect this as much as possible.

Atlantis remains open to the public as normal. However, you will notice an increase in the diligence and frequency with which we clean and disinfect the Centre – and we would ask you to help us in this by wiping down pieces of equipment after use with the wipes and cleaning materials available.

The situation is developing very quickly, with fresh advice and information being issued daily. As such, we are reviewing individual events and activities on a case by case basis as relevant guidance is given.

Please keep a close eye on all Atlantis information outlets including our own social media, Oban Times online and Oban FM bulletins – we will issue updates across all of these as and when changes to our programme come into effect. It is very likely that changes, postponements and cancellations will be made.

CalMac

More than 3,000 CalMac customers have cancelled bookings since February.

Although the  year got off to a good start with a five per cent rise in bookings for January, numbers of people planning ferry trips have taken a tumble since coronavirus arrived in the UK.

Just 99,481 customers have made new bookings this year so far, compared to the 105,442 new bookings made from January to March 16 in 2019.

In February 2019 there were 613 bookings cancelled – during this February the number had shot up to 1,762.

In the first two weeks of March this year there were 1,405 cancellations made –  more than doubling the the 2019 March figure of 557.

CalMac says it is working closely and frequently with Transport Scotland, the Scottish Government’s Resilience Team and Health Protection Scotland to stay on top of the latest advice and Government guidance.

The latest COVID-19  advice is being included as part of the safety briefing before every sailing. CalMac  says it is not aware of any plans to set up testing hubs at its terminals yet – any screening would need to be organised and carried out by the NHS or Health Protection Scotland.

Other steps to prevent the virus spreading includes any uncovered food now being removed from display and scaling down menu offerings.

Every two hours, surface areas are being wiped down on board and on the smaller ferries, all passengers are being recommended to stay in their cars.

Until 31 May 2020, people can cancel any planned bookings without having to pay a fee, as long as the cancellation is made in advance of the sailing.

Go to calmac.co.uk/faqs/online-amendments or get in touch on 0800 066 5000.

Louis de Wolff, CalMac’s director of Health, Safety Quality and Environment said: ‘We are monitoring developments around Coronavirus very closely and have tried and tested plans to deal with situations like this.’

Churches

From this Sunday onwards no corporate worship gathering will take place at Oban Baptist Church’s Albany Street site – all Sunday AM services will be hosted online until further notice.

St John’s Cathedral will be posting a regular reflection or short time of prayer for people to use at home should they wish to do so. This will be updated each week.  Full details of the guidance that the church is following, given by the College of Bishops under advice from NHS Scotland,
can be found at www.scotland.anglican.org/coronavirus-updates/

Court

No new criminal jury trials or jury panels will be starting from now until further notice. Jury trials that have already begun will run to conclusion, if practical to do so. Essential services are being maintained as far as possible. Visit the SCTS website for updates.

Oban and Lorn Tourism Alliance/BID4Oban

OLTA Members and BID4Oban members are being encouraged to be flexible as coronavirus measures bring uncertainty to Scottish tourism.

Oban’s economy is inextricably linked to tourism and hospitality, and this year both the local Destination Marketing Organisations – Oban and Lorn Tourism Alliance (OLTA) and the regional organisation – Argyll and the Isles Tourism Cooperative – have invested heavily in marketing, participating in the collaborative West Coast Waters campaign and planning events and promotion themed around the VisitScotland Year of Coasts and Waters national campaign. The effect of the coronavirus pandemic on Scottish tourism is hard to predict, but OLTA’s director of marketing, Linda Battison is urging members to be flexible and responsive in the light of the current situation.

She said: ‘The safely of those in the industry and our valued guests is paramount.

‘We ask all our members to follow current government advice. The cancellation of large gatherings and the potential impact of any further travel restrictions will undoubtedly affect future bookings.

‘I would encourage operators to be flexible and to consider amending their booking terms, length of stay and cancellation policies during this time to encourage guests to rebook for a future date.’

Andrew Spence, CEO of Oban’s Business Improvement District (BID4Oban) commented: ‘Both OLTA and BID4Oban are looking to work with members and are open to any ideas from all sectors of the tourism and business organisations as to how we can alleviate the current situation.

‘In the meantime, we ask all our levy payers to follow current guidance to minimise the spread of the virus.’

Oban High School

In light of the move to the delay phase of managing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the UK, head teacher Peter Bain and his staff are liaising with the education authority and other head teachers across
the country and are continuing to discuss regularly and plan for the impact of the pandemic.

The Scottish Government and the NHS have confirmed there is no need at this stage to close schools. Parents will be alerted immediately if this advice changes.

To help support these measures the school have set up hand gel stations for all pupils, staff members and visitors to use at the entrance to the school. Everyone going into the school must use the sanitisers.

University of the Highlands and Islands/SAMS

The wellbeing of students, staff and visitors to our many campuses across the university partnership is our priority.

All 14 principals of the university and the colleges and research institutions which make up the university partnership met this morning (Monday, 16 March) to coordinate a response to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The partnership has subsequently decided to suspend face-to-face teaching at all centres from 5pm on Tuesday to help reduce the risk of spread of coronavirus within the community. This arrangement will continue until further notice.

This suspension will cover all further education, higher education and community programmes. Students should therefore not attend any classes in person until told otherwise. This includes lectures, tutorials, laboratory classes and seminars.

Campus buildings, including residences, student support and library services and resource centres, remain open and staff continue to work on site. However, there is currently no overseas travel permitted for students or staff. Only essential course-related travel within the UK will be allowed.

‘These are unprecedented times but we’re planning carefully to ensure students can continue their studies, including examination arrangements, with as little disruption as possible,’ said a UHI spokesperson.

You can keep up to date on the latest developments at www.uhi.ac.uk/coronavirus

SAMS decided to stop face-to-face teaching as of 6pm on Monday. On Tuesday morning they also asked staff in high risk groups to work from home.

VisitScotland Centres

VisitScotland have taken the decision to close its iCentres until further notice.