Today marks one year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Scotland – and what a year it has been.

On March 1 2020, the Scottish Government announced the first case of the virus after reports of outbreaks worldwide, and since then, no corner of the world has been exempt from the devastating impact it has had on daily life – not least here in Ayrshire.

On March 23, the country entered a national lockdown, with a ‘stay at home’ message imposed advising people only to leave the house for essential purposes. Exercise was limited to once a day and workers were advised to work from home.

READ MORE: ‘The worst time of my life’: Ardrossan care worker on COVID ordeal

Schools closed to all pupils, apart from the children of key workers and vulnerable children and remained shut until after the summer holidays in August.

All restaurants, cafes, pubs and cinemas closed and there were increased requirements for social distancing and the use of face coverings which accompanied stricter measures for the more vulnerable.

All social events were banned and public gatherings of two or more people, excluding households or for essential work-related purposes, were prohibited, while communal places such as libraries and playgrounds had to close.

Although measures were introduced to contain spread of the virus, many people in Ayrshire quickly began to feel the real-life effects of its contagion.

READ MORE: 'A window to the world': Ayrshire walking group attracts 19,000 members in lockdown

To date, 15,376 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Ayrshire and Arran.

East Ayrshire accounts for the majority of positive cases reported, with 5,798 since the outbreak began. North Ayrshire has seen 5,687 test positive, while South Ayrshire has noted 3,826 positive cases.

Unfortunately, as we now know, many instances of contracting coronavirus resulted in fatalities and, tragically, 671 people in Ayrshire and Arran have died as a result of the disease.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Ayrshire: Remembering the lives lost in 2020

This includes 262 people in North Ayrshire, 193 in South Ayrshire and 215 in East Ayrshire.

Each death represents a unique individual and throughout the past year, we have paid tribute to some of the people whose lives were taken by COVID-19, such as a much-loved music teacher and internationally-recognised composer from Ayr, a special couple from Ardrossan who died just days apart and a highly-regarded Irvine chef whose friends say ‘loved life’.

However, despite the heartbreaking losses many of us have endured, there have been breaks in the clouds which have provided residents with vital solace, support and reassurance during such uncertain and testing times.

In East Ayrshire, for example, a Cumnock-based charity volunteered day and night for six months straight to ensure that vulnerable people had access to hot meals, an Ayr gym went on a mission to transform lives through COVID and people across the county walked, ran and cycled thousands of miles in aid of charities such as Ayrshire Hospice and Ayrshire Cancer Support, giving them a financial boost after their own fundraising efforts were and continue to be seriously hampered by the health crisis. 

There has even been a mystery bear based in the Three Towns which has brought a smile to the faces of many children and adults alike.

Indeed, as many local bodies rallied to support those in need, and good-will gestures sky-rocketed in the knowledge that social isolation would also be on the up, a strong sense of community was felt across Ayrshire. It is undoubtedly one aspect of the ‘new normal’ which is sure to be welcomed in life after lockdown.

And there are brighter days to come yet, thanks to the vaccine rollout which began in Ayrshire on December 8, 2020.

READ MORE: More than 40 per cent of Ayrshire population have had first dose of vaccine 

New figures show that nearly half of Ayrshire has been vaccinated, making NHS Ayrshire and Arran the fourth furthest along with its vaccination programme in Scotland. The health board has long since reported a "really positive" atmosphere in vaccination centres with "so much enthusiasm and gratitude from members of the public".

Last week, too, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined Ayrshire's route map out of lockdown, which included a further return of pupils to classrooms on March 15 and the reopening of the hospitality sector on April 26 - a move that will come as welcome relief to people in Ayrshire and beyond as they look to re-establish some balance in their lives again, all while remembering the year that changed them forever.