Economy hit hard, but life returning to Mid Argyll

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Slowly, gradually, there are signs life is beginning to return to something resembling those far off pre-lockdown days.

Construction firms are cautiously beginning to re-start, garages are opening, shops are innovating to open their doors, council activities are growing and preparations are under way to re-open schools – all with social distancing and other measures in place.

And we can now take to the fairways and dust down the bowls – subject to rules.

Significantly, Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing last week announced tourism businesses should be able to re-open ‘provisionally’ from July 15.

At the same time, groups set up to support communities during the crisis are beginning to reduce their operations. Team Tarbert, for example, has stopped its newspaper delivery service, while its TLC bags (food and essentials) service will wind up at the end of June. It will, though, continue to support those who are shielding and remaining at home in accordance with the government advice and will remain as a voluntary group beyond the pandemic.

The volunteer sewing group ‘Lets Get Scrubbing for the NHS’ is also winding up – more elsewhere in the June 19 edition.

But any doubt of the economic impact of coronavirus on Mid Argyll was removed when new figures from charity Social Investment Business revealed debit card transactions in Lochgilphead have dropped by 49 per cent since the pandemic started, with the town coming fifth in a list headed by Oban, which saw a 68 per cent fall in transactions.

Argyll and Bute Council, however, has plans to combat the economic effects of the virus.

The council’s interim executive director for development and infrastructure Kirsty Flanagan said that while it will take time to fully understand the short, medium and longer term economic impacts, ‘work has already commenced to gather data for Argyll and Bute, working with our partners to inform future engagement with potential funders including both governments’.

Ms Flanagan added: ‘The process of recovery has already commenced with a number of areas making progress in anticipation of the national economic recovery plan that may also have an impact on future economic priorities and direction of travel for our region.’

On Thursday June 18, Nicola Sturgeon was expected to announce a further relaxation of government restrictions – phase two – as COVID-19 mortality rates continue to decline week-on-week.