Communal lounges in sheltered housing units have now reopened in North Ayrshire for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The lounges have remained closed since March last year with council chiefs emphasising a cautious approach to protect residents from Covid-19.

But, having closely monitored the ongoing data, it is now felt that the communal lounges can safely re-open.

Cllr Jim Montgomerie, said: “We know how much residents enjoy each other’s company and have been looking forward to the opportunity to meet again in larger groups.

“We have been considering how to safely re-open the communal lounges for some time and have been keeping a close eye on the instances of COVID-19 and the impact it is having both locally and nationally.

“We believe that it is now the right time to re-open the communal lounges, giving our residents the opportunity to meet in group settings.”

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely but hope that the residents can enjoy being with their neighbours once again.”

North Ayrshire’s Older People’s Champion, Councillor Jimmy Miller, said: “This is a day I know our residents will have been looking forward to for a long time.

“The pandemic has been difficult for everyone but the re-opening of the lounges will make a world of difference for our residents, being able to spend time with their

neighbours and reuniting with friends.”

Councillor Miller is visiting a number of sheltered housing units, including Bonnie Lesley Court and Bill Smith Court, and hopes to make his way round more in the coming weeks and months.

A number of steps are being taken in preparation for re-opening. All lounges will be thoroughly cleaned prior to reopening and then regularly thereafter, with cleaning staff paying particular attention to surfaces and touch points such as door and window handles.

The layout of furniture within each lounge will be considered to ensure social distancing can be maintained. Hand sanitiser and cleaning materials will also be available within each lounge.

A register for residents and visitors will also be placed at the entrance to each lounge and anyone using the communal area must wear a face covering unless exempt.

North Ayrshire Council has written to all sheltered housing tenants to give them notice of the lounges re-opening and offer advice. This will be followed up with a welfare telephone call to answer any questions that tenants may have.