Successfully dealing with an early COVID case on Mull

Successfully dealing with an early COVID case on Mull and the prevention of contagion

This is a letter from a real family who, thanks to their rapid and sensible action, together with an equally rapid and expert response from the health care teams dealt with and contained an infection with the corona virus.

Co-existing with Coronavirus on Mull

Dealing with the unknown can be very scary especially when it concerns your health. Everybody is currently feeling vulnerable especially the ill and elderly. The stress surrounding the virus is reasonable, but, can be unhelpful and throw away comments can heighten stress and make it harder to deal with the virus effectively. Debate is healthy, and we share the same concerns as others.

The process of finding out a family member had the virus

Our family member returned to Mull late on Saturday 7 March. They hadn’t been to any countries on the NHS list. On the Monday evening a cold seemed to be coming on so they self-isolated. Having heard so much on the news about the virus we both did some research. The country they visited was listed on Iceland’s website but not others. We both consulted doctors on the Tuesday and because of the information available at the time, and as the country was not on the UK list, we were free to move around.  However, the family member continued to self -isolate and hadn’t been out and about since their return on Saturday night. The whole family isolated from Tuesday afternoon as we are conscious we live in a small community with a number of elderly members. NHS Scotland undertook further research and eventually decided to test. The family member had already called anyone he had been in contact with on the Saturday.  So far no one else has contracted the virus. The positive test result came through on Saturday and everyone involved was surprised and we were shocked.

Medical help and support the family have had

  • Daily calls from doctors
  • Calls to other family members to reassure and advise them
  • Frequent calls from the Department of Infectious Diseases in Inverness
  • Calls from Public Health
  • Delivery of antibiotics in case needed & thermometer

Please note the phone calls were lengthy and comprehensive both assessing the condition of the patient to establish they could remain at home to explaining to family members how they could safely help the patient. They have apologised for the frequency of the calls but they proved reassuring and initial stress levels have subsided.

Lessons Learned

Deep Clean

The immediate and understandable reaction is to deep clean. New information is coming out continually about viral survival rates and we are learing all the time. Cleanliness and rigorous hygiene will certainly help but do not provide the sole solution.


The way the case was reported was open to mis-interpretation, no one in the school had coronavirus.
Why was the disclosure on the BBC News website, who released that information and said it was linked to Corona virus.

Inaccuracies like this can fuel fear so great care is required in what is said and to whom, especially the media

What really helped us ?

  • Following medical advice immediately
  • Fluids and foods that you would eat when you have the flu
  • Keeping your distance, 3 out of 4 in our family are still well
  • Separate washing facilities
  • Isolation from the ill person *
  • Humour also helps even more than toilet roll

Self- isolation meant the following to us:

The patient slept in a room of their own and had their own dedicated toilet. Contact was extremely limited and using Whats App was very useful. I imagine baby monitors could also prove quick useful or walkie talkies. No visitors were allowed into the house. Door handles were cleaned inside and out and locked so that post was left outside. There was no sharing of household items and all plates and cups were put through the dishwasher. The patient didn’t eat much in the early days, it was lots of drinks that they required. So, we left the items in the room until the patient could put them in the dishwasher. All household surfaces were wiped down regularly and we did not put out our green bin which was due for collection. It does not contain any of the patient’s tissues, but we didn’t want to risk anyone else getting ill.


  • I would just like to say a huge thanks to all the medical staff at the surgery, particularly Dr Chuma,

who agreed with our concerns and phoned Public Health  to ask them to  test, and all the other specialist doctors and staff who supported us . To Julie and her team at the Pharmacy who always work so hard to help this community.

  • To Tricia Evans, Dervaig Primary School, Head Teacher, for her support and kindness
  • To Dr Erik Jespersen who wanted to protect us and phoned regularly to offer support and help. He acted on our concerns and offered support to the teachers as well.  He visited Mull first thing to calm the situation.
  • To all the people who have helped us, you know who you are, and to those who have sent messages of support and left things on the doorstep

What now

Eventually when you are well at some point you will need to leave the house again, we were apprehensive about it and we decided to wait an extra week longer than is generally advised. We live on a small island and not only are we aware that there are vulnerable people in our community, we also know some of them and we wanted to be sensible. Please know we were very apprehensive about it and discussed it with Public Health before coming to a mutual decision. Someone said they would like more testing, but the dead virus can be in your body for weeks after you are infected and no longer contagious and give a false result. You could also be tested and be negative, and then after the test you could meet a person with the virus. Testing can thus be counter-intuitive, so my advice is, please don’t draw vital resources services away from the fight against the virus unless it is necessary.

We have limited medical staff, ambulances etc. I urge you to let them do what they do best and not to overburden them, so they can focus help to where it is needed most. Finally, I believe most of you know who I am, and I also know that people we have never met, or have had contact with, have symptoms. I was about to identify my family when a medical professional said that there are people who will have it, who will want to protect their privacy. As someone has already said this is not an individual illness, everyone needs to feel they can ask for help if they need it, but If only it was as simple as holding up your hand and saying it’s me, we would have nothing to worry about. Fear could assist the spread, it is better to ask for help, follow advice and share information.

Above all community spirit and kindness Mull is famous for goes a long way to aiding recovery. Watching Mull’s response to this virus unfold so rapidly, and the community spirit shown is heart-warming, inspiring and really reassuring. If we can help in anyway, we would like to, and we do understand that some may be reluctant to take us up on that, but there are many ways of doing so without meeting others!

It is worthy of note that no medical professionals had to visit our house for the patient to recover. Care and advice was administered at a safe distance over the phone. Technology can be the source of a lot of frustration, but it was key to a safe recovery in this case, and it kept the many medical professionals involved free from risk and well to help others.

We are very grateful for the support we received, and to all those who are mobilising to help others on Mull. We would when the time is appropriate, welcome contact from our Local Education Authority, Councillor and or MSP.  In the meantime we can take heart that people are not trying to return shopping to Waitrose and other supermarkets. Hopefully this is a start to a change in attitudes as people adjust to the current situation.