World news – GB – Life on the UK island with no coronavirus cases


No shopping trips, no nightclubs, no cinema visits. National lockdown felt pretty different for most of us.

But on Rathlin Island, a small L-shaped bit of land off the coast of Northern Ireland, they’re used to it.

She’s one of around 150 people who actually live on Rathlin Island, and she works in its only pub.

« We’ve got a post office and gift shop. Then there’s a wee museum with things divers found in shipwrecks. »

But no worries about over-subscribed classes here, at that time just three students were enrolled in the whole school.

There’s no secondary school on the island. Instead of getting the ferry twice a day to the nearest one, Orlagh went to boarding school in Belfast.

« I know what the city is like because I went to school there. But I don’t think I’m missing out by living here, it’s just different. »

On the ferry from Ballycastle to Rathlin, you can quickly see why the island is so appealing to visitors.

Forget floating coke cans, if you’re lucky you’ll see dolphins in the sea surrounding the island.

But the main difference between Rathlin Island and the rest of the UK at the moment is that it hasn’t had any coronavirus cases.

The ferry is the only way to get to mainland UK from Rathlin, so shutting it off completely was a big decision.

The island has one district nurse who stays there, and can be contacted by phone. There’s no hospital or doctors surgery.

It opened back up for visitors in July, with social distancing in place, although not many have come.

« Some people are still shielding now, they’re still nervous and they don’t want to mix with anybody. »

Although Rathlin residents have avoided being physically impacted by coronavirus, the island has been hugely affected.

Kieran moved to the island four years ago and says since then it’s been « hot and full of tourists ».

Kieran hasn’t been off the island all year. He’s been working as a cleaner at McCuaig’s Bar.

He says: « Covid has taken a chunk of our profits, so we’ll have to see how we are over the winter.

« It would be such a shame if something happened to the bar because – well, it’s our only bar. »

Like most businesses there, McCuaig’s relies on a busy summer to get them through a winter with few visitors.

« The bar is only operating outside, and that’s very weather dependent. Nobody wants to sit outside on a rainy day. »

« We only have one district nurse, no hospitals. If she had to stop transmission of the virus it would have been quite a big procedure.

As some businesses on the island roll up their shutters again, some felt the restrictions on distancing and cleaning meant it wouldn’t be worth it this year.

Orlagh says: « We should be able to bounce back from this, but it’s going to take a long time. »

Hospitality venues will also be restricted to table service as part of new measures to tackle coronavirus.


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