Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Life on isolation island

Rathlin children Image copyright Grobler family
Image caption Freyja, six, and Jago, three, on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland's only inhabited off-shore island

"It's a very strange time, we would normally see hundreds of people coming over from all over the world, but with the lockdown, we are not taking any chances."

Clyde Grobler lives on Rathlin Island with his partner Sarah and children Freyja and Jago.

Rathlin is Northern Ireland's only inhabited off-shore island and it's famous for its seabirds.

Mr Grobler, originally from South Africa, met Armagh-born Sarah on the island and they moved there nine years ago.

The family are adjusting to life under lockdown, but their new normal is different again to that on the mainland.

Image caption The island boasts many species of wildlife - many unique to Rathlin

Mr Grobler works on the Rathlin ferry, a vital service transporting and delivering supplies to the island's 150 inhabitants.

It is now running on a "bare-bone schedule" making just two-runs a day to Ballycastle for supplies, with the crew taking every precaution to minimise the spread of the virus, such as wearing personal protective equipment.

"Fortunately, we have no cases yet on Rathlin and we have been in a full lockdown now for over two weeks, so the only way for the virus to get here is through the ferry crew and cargo, which consists mostly of groceries and essentials," Mr Grobler said.

"We as a crew are being very vigilant so as not to bring it over because a large amount of our population would be high-risk and that is not taking into account the challenges put on us through our location."

Image copyright Clyde Grobler
Image caption Stockpiling is actually a sensible thing on Rathlin

The crew, which alternates weekly, takes orders from the island's residents and then delivers the shopping to those in isolation.

There's a nurse on the island 24/7.

One will be on duty for two weeks and then another will take over the post for two weeks, while the other is in isolation at home.

"We have procedures put in place with the ferry company that if we have any cases of Covid-19, we can safely get those people to the help that they need, while minimising the spread of it on the island," Mr Grobler said.

More tranquil than ever

He said the harbour, once a hive of activity, is much quieter, with many limiting their contact with each other.

The island would usually welcome travellers from all over the world during these summer months.

However, because of the lockdown, the remote island is even more tranquil than usual.

"The puffins haven't arrived yet but I'm sure they'll probably enjoy a bit of peace and quiet," Mr Grobler added.

He praised the Rathlin community, who have "pulled together" during these difficult times.

"Everybody in our wee community can be looked after, it doesn't take a lot for everyone to be cared for," he added.

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