Working public holidays is never easy at the best of times, but I hope that the support and gratitude from the general public, particularly on social media, will have helped lift the spirits of NHS staff, carers, social workers, police officers, supermarket staff, refuse collectors and the many others I could mention.
Many of our schools were open on Good Friday and Easter Monday too, supporting the children of key workers and vulnerable children - as they have been throughout the Easter holidays. It is so important these children are able to attend school to support them and their families.
Thank you also to everyone who stayed at home and heeded the vital message to slow the spread of the disease and protect our NHS. You all supported our frontline staff by doing so.
That is the single biggest thing we can all do at the moment, to reduce the number of deaths and give our NHS the chance to help everyone who needs it, whether it’s those fighting the Coronavirus or other illnesses.
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You may have heard that we now have a hub in place which is helping people across our city who are affected as a result of the virus.
The Peterborough Local Community Resilience Group (CRG) has been set up to support those who are vulnerable and in need of help and support, but are not classed as being high risk (shielded). It includes representatives from the public, private, voluntary, independent and faith sectors. Those who are highest risk and therefore identified as shielded are being supported by the countywide co- ordination hub.
So far almost 250 vulnerable people who are self-isolating or have underlying health conditions have been in touch asking for help, with many needing assistance to source food supplies or to collect medicine, for support around benefits, or because they feel lonely.
The hub is working closely with the voluntary sector, community organisations and support groups across the city to help those vulnerable people who have asked for help. Our ward councillors are also supporting the local effort and I will be asking them to let us know what support is in place on their own patch for people to access.
There is a tremendous amount of work taking place every day, by both the Peterborough hub and the county-wide hub. Whether it’s supporting vulnerable people to access food or contacting many thousands of people each week to check they are ok, it’s all helping to keep our residents safe, well and connected.
We are asking people to use their own networks if they can – friends, family and neighbours. If this is not possible and you need help and support, please get in touch with the Peterborough hub by visiting www.peterborough.gov.uk/coronavirus or by calling (01733 747474). The hub is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.
As I mentioned last week, many council staff are now working differently to help keep essential services running. Some have been redeployed into our Local Community Resilience Group to support in ways I have mentioned above, whereas others are being used to support those services which we have to continue running and indeed may be busier at this time, such as support for the elderly and vulnerable in their own homes.
Three members of staff have also been trained to step into roles at the Crematorium should any existing staff become sick. It’s services such as this which we have to continue to provide – much like bin collections and support for those in housing difficulty – and which we have plans in place to ensure that they can continue.
Whilst many people celebrated Easter at the weekend, members of our Sikh community celebrated their New Year and the festival of Baisakhi on Monday. I am told that many of our Sikh residents took part in online family gatherings to celebrate.
The community is well known for helping those in need in our city, including operating the Guru Nanak free kitchen which serves hot meals to anyone who comes through the temple doors.
They have been feeding people who are homeless for the past five years, but they have gone one step further during the social distancing by serving food to other vulnerable residents as part of our COVID-19 support hub.
Many other faiths, charities and organisations – and individual residents for that matter – are lending a hand at this incredibly difficult time.
I have always said that we have a fantastic sense of community spirit in our city. We saw it last year when hundreds of Thomas Cook staff were made redundant in the kindness from organisations and individuals that ensued, and we are seeing it again now.