THE potentially deadly virus sweeping the country has not dampened the spirit of the Dumbarton and Vale of Leven community as locals rally to support elderly and vulnerable residents.

Latest figures in Scotland showed two deaths and 195 confirmed cases of Covid-19 – a new illness which affects lungs, caused by coronavirus.

As supermarket shelves are cleared of essential baby formula, toilet rolls, and non-perishable goods, West Dunbartonshire Council says its schools will remain open for now. In addition, gatherings of more than 500 people, including the Kiltwalk to Balloch, have been cancelled.

Elsewhere, care homes are asking visitors to stay away and some pharmacies have resorted to serving customers through a hatch in the door in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic.

With the international situation developing hourly, people locally are rallying round to ensure help is available, particularly to the elderly and infirm, who are most at risk from the outbreak.

A Facebook page launched on Friday – Vale of Leven Coronavirus Help and Assistance – racked up 6,000 members by Monday and had more than 600 posts.

David Keown, who started the page, said its aim is to “give help and assistance to folks locally who are affected by Covid-19 coronavirus”.

He said: “I am amazed by the speed at which it has grown. Thanks all who have given advice and assistance.”

Martin Docherty-Hughes, Dumbarton and the Vale’s MP, has urged the public to be vigilant “during these worrying times” and he urged people not to panic buy so that others aren’t left without daily essentials.

Food bank bosses have spoken of their uncertainty and fear around the virus outbreak but vowed to keep services going as long as they can.

West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare said they are worried for their mostly elderly volunteers, donation levels and particularly the increased hardship families face if schools are closed.

They had planned for 200 brunch packs for the Easter school break, but don’t know if suppliers will meet that order.

And with pupils home, families will need to meet meal needs and costs normally helped within schools.

Clair Coyle, trustee at the charity, said: “It’s a bit of a nightmare. It’s so unknown.

“At this point, we are trying to stay open as long as possible. We are concerned a lot of our volunteers are older people. So we are taking things day by day and trying to provide as much of a full service as we can.

“We are really concerned about donations and may have to look at other ways for people to drop off food.”

The foodshare scheme brought in new infection control measures two weeks ago and asked those using their services to be patient as things might take a little longer.

They urgently need canned goods, quick cook meals, soups and complete meals to meet expected demand.

Ms Coyle added: “We are extremely worried about schools closing because that greatly increases costs for families each week. The parents we support are going to be so worried. Nobody knows what they’re supposed to be doing. Many families have already exhausted the three crisis grants they can get in a year.”

Food For Thought, which runs its operations from St Augustine’s Community Hall in Dumbarton, posted their finalised plans via Facebook to comply with national health advice whilst also being able to service the community.

Their statement reads: “The team will work remotely and the office will not be open to the public apart from between the hours of 10am and 11am each day. Emergency food aid referrals can be made from agencies by calling 01389 734514 or by emailing Individuals who are referred for Emergency Food Aid will be able to collect food the next day between 10am and 11am at our office in Dumbarton High Street, community lunches on a Wednesday and Thursday are now closed.”

Meanwhile, mass gatherings of more than 500 people could be off for up to four months due to the pandemic – a move that is set to hit major events across Dumbarton and the Vale.

The Scottish Government has called for this action to free up emergency services, including police and ambulance crews, to deal with coronavirus.

The 2020 Glasgow Kiltwalk, which finishes in Balloch, has been postponed due to the outbreak. The event, which was set to take place on April 26, will be rescheduled for a later date. More than 10,000 participants registered to take part.

Jackie Baillie, Dumbarton MSP, has also raised the concerns on behalf of local GPs who she said contacted her expressing their worry that not enough was being done to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

She said local GPs believe that isolation measures should be instituted across Scotland with immediate effect or there will be a huge spike in the number of cases and deaths within weeks.

Ms Baillie added: “I have taken the necessary measures with my own office in order to help control the spread of the virus. I have suspended face to face constituency surgeries but will be available to help constituents over the phone or by email.”

Brucehill Pharmacy in Dumbarton, managed by TLC Pharmacy, has closed its doors to the public and will now be operating a “doorbell ring” policy.

Patients who need medication and prescription will have to ring their doorbell, confirm their name and will receive the package through a small opening to prevent as much interaction as possible.

Brendan Semple, superintendent pharmacist at TLC Pharmacy head office, said: “We want to try to reduce the risk to our pharmacists and for our patients. We will have precautions in place for our drivers who need to drop off medication for the patients who need to self-isolate.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned Scotland faces an “unprecedented situation” and a “very challenging” few months.

Thousands are also facing the prospect of having to work from home if the precautions are upgraded.