Peterborough politicians praise residents response to COVID a year after first cases arrived in city

Leading politicians have praised resident’s response to COVID a year after the first cases arrived in the city.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Friday, 19th March 2021, 9:06 am

The first coronavirus case arrived at Peterborough City Hospital on March 16, with the national lockdown announced a week later.

Since then the city has come together to help battle the crisis - and while Peterborough has been near the top of COVID case rates for the last few weeks and months, there has been praise for the community spirit shown over the last year.

Councillor John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council, said: “I think everyone will remember where they were a year ago on 23 March 2020, when our Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the very first Covid-19 national lockdown.

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The support given to front line workers has been praised
The support given to front line workers has been praised

“Like many, I was shocked by the speed in which Covid-19 took hold and became a global crisis. Indeed, this is the biggest and most destructive crisis that many of us - myself included - have ever experienced.

“The negatives of the last year need no explaining. Thousands have died and thousands more have been affected by the virus, after becoming ill or losing loved ones.

“However, what has really affected me over the past year is the vibrant and strong sense of community that we have here in Peterborough. From our residents who have fought hard to keep infection rates down, to the huge outpouring of volunteers who have helped collect medicine and food for others and transported people for vaccinations. Our community and faith leaders have also more than played their part in reinforcing the need to adhere to social distancing requirements.

“We’ve also had fantastic support both from and to businesses in our city. Thos who are open have overwhelmingly helped us to complete regular Covid-19 tests of their staff, looked at ways they can operate differently and helped staff to self-isolate. Peterborough City Council was one of the first and fastest councils to distribute these Government grants to businesses who have suffered financially.”

Cllr Holdich said while it was hoped there was an end to restrictions coming, there was still work to do in the city.

He said: “We can at last see a way out of this pandemic, with the take up of safe, effective vaccines. We are fighting for the future of our city so that we can come out of lockdown in the best possible place. The two days of action are part of our work to reduce cases so we can all get back to doing the things we miss. 

““We are actively working in hotspot areas, with our Covid-19 marshals and community leaders to ensure key messages are being communicated. But we also want to join with partners and carry out a thorough review of those areas, so no stones are left unturned in our efforts to beat Covid-19. Our officers’ approach is always to engage with communities first and then decided whether further action is needed. 

“It is heartening that virus rates are decreasing in Peterborough, but residents must not get complacent because we are not out of the woods yet. The current lockdown restrictions will be in place for a little while longer. So it is vital that everyone knows the part they must play over the weeks and months ahead.”  

Peterborough MP Paul Bristow said he was positive about the city’s future as we come out the other side of the pandemic.

He said: “This time last year I was trying my best to become as accessible as possible, looking at holding MP surgeries in locations like places of worship, pubs, and I even held a surgery in McDonalds.

“But the pandemic has forced everyone to work differently. In a typical year an average MP communicates with 1,500 constituents, but through social media surgeries and greater need, we have helped well over 5 times that number since my election in December 2019.

“COVID-19 has been tough and we have lost friends and families before their time. However, Peterborough has come together perhaps more than any other City. We have fed rough sleepers, looked after those shielding and the vulnerable, and supported one another. We come in different shapes and sizes, from diverse communities and cultures, and even speak different languages - but we are one City!

“As we near the end of the pandemic (hopefully), our infection rate remains higher than the national average. But other than now and right at the start of the pandemic, our City has consistently had infection rates below the national average. For a densely populated City with many people working in factories, retail and hospitality, this is a remarkable achievement. For this Peterborough City Council deserves credit.

“I do wish the City Council would be more flexible in supporting Peterborough businesses who might not strictly meet all support criteria. This is definitely the spirit of the Government’s Additional Restrictions Grant.

“But I remain incredibly positive for our City’s potential. 2021/22/23 can be our time where we make decisions guaranteeing our future health, wealth and happiness. We have £16 million for our new university and research super hub bringing highly paid jobs back to our City Centre, £23 million Towns Fund money for regeneration plans, and we are at the top of the list when it comes to Government levelling up money. We have plenty to be positive about and we should look to the future with confidence.”

North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara said a year after facing ‘an unknown terror’ it was pleasing to see ‘light at the end of the tunnel.

He said: “At this time last year, we as a nation, and the world too, were faced with an unknown terror. Nothing of this sort had happened in our lifetime before and there was huge concern as to how to proceed in the face of this unprecedented crisis.

“The national lockdown underlined the very serious nature of the situation and we as a community shared the anxiety and concern as local people became ill with COVID-19. Sadly, many have since died and my thoughts and prayers go out to their families and loved ones.

“Despite the uncertainty and enormous task that lay ahead, much praise is due to the Peterborough and Cambridgeshire Health services, Peterborough City Council and so many other local organisations as well as key workers and volunteers. It has been a time when we as a community have pulled together.

“The impact on the community and heavy cost to the economy is clear.

“There is however, light at the end of the tunnel now that we have a vaccine.

“Our community is resilient and with the roadmap out of lockdown we can look forward to the reopening of shops, businesses, hospitality and much more.

“The past 12 months have changed our way of life in many ways, including how we work. It is clear that in the future there will be more working from home and certainly greater use of technology in our dealings with each other.

“I continue to have great faith in our community and as ever I am grateful to all those who worked so incredibly hard in these unprecedented times.

“During this pandemic we have seen a considerable amount of community spirit, a willingness to care and look after our neighbours. As we move forward, I very much hope that caring instinct will continue.”