Businesses in Peeblesshire have been hit hard by fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

This week, reporter Hilary Scott spoke to traders who are coming to terms with the prospect of difficult times ahead.

“NEVER has shop local been more important” – the words of a Peeblesshire businessman feeling the bite of the virus that is crippling hoteliers, restaurants, shops, and various trades. The list is endless. The more people I speak to, the more it brings into sharp focus the economic danger the virus imposes.

If you are lucky enough to avoid contracting coronavirus, the chances are you’re already feeling its symptoms in a different way.

In Peeblesshire the fears are very real and visible. The phrase ‘self-isolation’ is repeated worldwide, but locally business owners are calling it a “death sentence” to their livelihoods.

Bustling cafés and tearooms filled with locals enjoying a cuppa and freshly baked scones are no more. Tradesmen at the bakeries waiting on their breakfast rolls would normally spill out onto the pavements. Those queues have diminished. And sightings of residents darting in and out of High Street shops are few and far between.

One businesswoman likened the situation to the band on the Titanic playing as the ship sank. Suzi Litster runs Ramblers Coffee Shop in Peebles and has diabetes. She’s been told that as she is high risk she shouldn’t be working, but says she has no choice.

“I’m absolutely heartbroken. It’s had a huge impact on my business and on many other businesses in the town. It’s a huge worry; we still have to pay the lease, wages and suppliers. We have no option but to stay open and take the necessary precautions.”

The virus is having a domino effect. Flights are cancelled which means transport to airports is no longer needed.

One business feeling the backlash of this is M&D Taxis. Danielle Stennett told us: “At the minute my drivers are still working the same hours. But with the amount of cancellations of airport runs, reducing the hours may be the only way our little company will survive this.”

Many out-of-school activity clubs have closed their doors. Cheryl Scougal of Red Button Drama Arts said all clubs are stopping until further notice. She said: “As one of the many self-employed in this area, this summer is going to be tough.”

Alex Wallis, who runs baby sensory classes throughout the Borders, fears her business will go under.

“The safety of our mums and babies is imperative to us but it’s a little scary not knowing when it will end. Our new term has opened for booking but numbers are significantly lower than usual and, with such uncertainty, we don’t know when we’ll be up and running again.

“I still have insurance, franchise fees, and other outgoings to find from somewhere. There’s a real possibility I may not have a business at the end of it all.”

Holidays are on hold, and this means families will not be jetting off and requiring the services of a pet sitter. Jane Melrose told us: “No-one is going on holiday for the foreseeable future so all my bookings are cancelled and if people are working from home they don’t need their dogs walked, or their horses mucked out. It’s going to be a tough few months for so many people in so many ways.”

With the elderly at high risk and staying home, the impact is being felt by cleaners, with some saying their work disappeared overnight.

There aren’t as many bottoms in beds in guest houses and hotels. Steve Davies from Caddon View Hotel in Innerleithen said they have received a lot of cancellations and postponements and new bookings have “dropped off a cliff”.

He added: “We have rearranged seating in Café Sitooterie so there is a two-metre exclusion. We also have seats in the garden and we’re getting a few brave souls.”

Michael Gallagher runs Haystoun Financial & Property Services in Peebles and he is open for business. “We have the benefit of being able to conduct meetings via video conferencing or via the telephone if necessary. We are in the process of expanding and were looking at opening new offices in different towns but we have put that on hold for a few months.”

On the high street, Gustafs Studio and Gallery is missing the cha-ching sound of the cash register opening.

Owner Carol Anne Long said: “We have had another zero sales day. Saturday was our worst-ever Saturday. Considering I sell gifts and Mother’s Day is coming up, it’s a disaster.”

The Scottish Government has announced an £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of coronavirus.

To apply, firms can contact the business coronavirus helpline on 0300 303 0660.