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THE massive impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has left Blandford reeling and transformed everyday life in this area and throughout the world.

Commercial and social life has ground to a virtual standstill, with long-planned events postponed or cancelled and businesses struggling amid economic turmoil and worrying predictions of what may lie ahead.

The sense of foreboding as the progress of the virus began to dominate the news agenda world-wide soared to new heights when the World Health Organisation officially declared it a global pandemic on March 11.

By mid-March, as Forum Focus went to press, there had been no confirmed cases in the area, but people were anxious to try and to minimise the spread of the disease.

In local shops, as elsewhere, there was a rush of sales of hand sanitiser and evidence of panic buying of toilet rolls, pasta, eggs, paracetamol and other items, but a noticeable reduction in footfall in many shops.

Limits were imposed on the number of purchases per customer by supermarkets which experienced an exceptional demand for home deliveries.

Holiday and business plans for many were called off. Flights were halted to and from many countries, and there were fears for relatives trapped abroad.

The Town Museum, Tourist Information Centre and Fashion Museum and a number of other shops and businesses closed, and events planned for April were cancelled in advance of the lockdown announced by government on March 23, when all but essential services were told to close in a bid to protect the NHS from an unmanageable escalation in the number of cases requiring hospital admission.

Everyone was told to stay at home and socially distance if they went out for food shopping, essential work or limited exercise.

Many people turned to social media to offer help to the vulnerable housebound by doing their shopping, collect medications at pharmacies which restricted the number of people attending, posting mail or just giving them a friendly phone call, and Blandford Group Surgery urged patients to use their eConsult system for routine matters.

Teddy Rocks Festival director Tom Newton announced the postponement of the festival, scheduled for May 1 to 3, to September 18 to 20, Roger Carter, chairman of the Blandford Commemoration Group, announced the postponement of the VE75th exhibition in the Corn Exchange the same weekend, the Georgian Fayre announced the cancellation of its event as part of the VE75th weekend on May 8, and the Hidden Gardens team announced its postponement until June next year.