Some news outlets, influencers and businesses think that right now is a great time to encourage folks to go hiking in the Scottish highlands, visit remote islands to “get away” from the virus or book self-catering accommodation in rural areas to self-isolate “in comfort”. Let me tell you why that is a bad idea…
Rural and remote communities from all over Scotland are asking folks to stay away for now. Islands from Jura to Shetland and popular tourist destinations like the Fort William and the North Coast 500 are posting messages pleading people not to treat their communities as convenient getaways during this outbreak.
Officials and institutions are supporting these calls and are taking measures where possible:
I can’t believe I have to spell this out, but here are five reasons not to “escape” to the countryside in the face of the Coronavirus crisis.
1. To avoid shortages
There are messages and images all over social media showing empty shelves in supermarkets.
Supermarkets and shops in these rural areas are at higher risk of shortages as delivery times are much longer than in the cities and central areas of Scotland. Additionally, there are fewer people who could be hired as emergency staff to help speed up the re-stocking process.
Rural communities do simply not have the resources to feed additional people in their campervans, holiday homes or short-term rentals.
2. To avoid putting even more pressure on the NHS
There is an extremely limited number of ventilators and full ICU beds available in hospitals in the Scottish Highlands.
Many islands have no hospitals at all and are preparing as well as they can to deal with an outbreak among the local population. Look at the tweet below – that’s the situation on the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides and it is not the only place like this.
The average age of locals in these communities tends to be quite high, i.e. a larger proportion of the local population is at risk to get the virus and require intensive care.
Rural communities do not have the medical capacities to care for a high number of affected patients, so why risk bringing it in?
Castlebay village hall in Barra and medics have prepared for #coronavirus – this is not far from 3rd world basic. No ventilators, no much oxygen either, no testing. Islands such as this could be badly hit. Message is don’t come on holiday please RT. pic.twitter.com/3kV8S1zoZW
— Angus B MacNeil MP (@AngusMacNeilSNP) March 20, 2020
3. To avoid taking risks
One of the most controversial topics right now is (at least in my bubble), the question of whether we can still go for walks or not.
We all know that being outside and getting some fresh air (walking, cycling etc.) does wonders for the mind. Even in times like these, it seems important to remain an exercise routine and go outside regularly to tend to our mental health.
However, some are confusing going for a quick walk in your local to get exercise + stay sane with going on a hill walk in the Scottish mountains or spending a leisurely day at the beach.
“If I drive to the mountains or the beach, go for a walk by myself and there is no one else around, what’s the harm?”
The problem is – other people are around. Popular mountains near Glasgow have been compared to Sauchiehall Street – here & here – (= busy) and some Scottish beaches are said to be “busier than on a bank holiday“.
Here are some of the harms these non-essential outings could cause:
- You could injure yourself and require medical attention, which puts an unnecessary strain on the NHS.
- You might develop serious symptoms in the time you are outside and become incapacitated.
- You might touch something that an elderly local comes into contact with shortly after – a stile, a gate etc.
- You might stop at a local shop or petrol station to pick up snacks because you forgot yours at home and interact with locals.
- You might do this every day and then have to make unnecessary trips to the petrol station.
As of yet, nobody is saying that we all have to stay indoors all the time. But I do challenge you to think hard about every outing, every trip on your bike or in your car, every time you step outside.
For an eloquent take on how the outdoor community should behave during this crisis, read Alex Roddie’s piece “The outdoor community needs to change its messaging regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and right now“.
“The hills are not open.” – #MountainsAreCalling #DontPickUp
We’re simplifying the advice to walkers from several sources. Many feel they need to get out for their physical and mental health (if not social isolating). This advice will be on all our walk pages and elsewhere:
– Stay in your local area
– Stay safe
– Practice social distancing
— Walkhighlands (@walkhighlands) March 22, 2020
4. To avoid all unnecessary trips to service stations
I think it is worth focussing on this point a bit more.
Every time you get in your car for a leisure trip right now (i.e. a walk in the mountains or a “weekend escape”), you waste fuel. Eventually, you will have to fill up your car at a service station, touching the nozzle and paying at the machine or the till.
Unless you have a private charging station for your electric car, you simply cannot travel without making contact with someone eventually.
Also, some areas are experiencing limited fuel supplies (the Isle of Skye, for example), so let those people fill up their cars who actually NEED to go somewhere, such as NHS workers or delivery personnel.
5. To be a role model & to save lives
In my opinion, people have two missions right now:
- Save the lives of those who are in at-risk groups by avoiding unnecessary outings and social distancing.
- Be a role model and inspire kids and teenagers to practice the same.
Everybody wins, and who knows – there might even be a small chance that some of the responsible behaviour and consideration for others continues beyond the Coronavirus crisis!
If you need any more reasons to convince you to stay at home, I suggest you take a good look at yourself in the mirror.
Or read the news from Italy.