The word crisis is not one I use often, or lightly, but the necessary and rapid response to the coronavirus means that life has changed, temporarily, for everyone as we grapple with this.
Our ‘new normal’ means that many households and businesses are facing a crisis. But Government assistance, a co-ordinated public services response and community togetherness (even if it isn’t physical togetherness) will make us all safer and help us get through the next few weeks and months.
With that in mind I thought I’d use this blog to offer some practical advice to residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
1. Listen to the medical experts
Firstly, I think it is vitally important that we all make an effort to adhere more closely to medical advice. On Friday the Local Resilience Forum, a group made up of councils, local authorities and emergency services, declared a major incident. This in itself is not something to worry about, it just means that they are all working together and ramping up their efforts to mitigate against the effects of the pandemic.
The lead agency in this situation is Public Health England. It has issued very clear guidance on social distancing and what you should do if you exhibit symptoms of Covid-19 infection. It is worth checking the website www.gov.uk/coronavirus regularly for the latest advice, then sticking to it. The strategy has been to avoid a spike in cases that would exceed our hospitals’ capacity, and we can all play our part in helping to achieve this. There are far too many people ignoring the advice, posing a threat to not only themselves but also to society’s more vulnerable members. For 80% of those infected symptoms will be mild, but in a very few cases they can be severe, even the young and fit.
2. Please stop panic buying
I was heartened to see supermarket delivery drivers on the Government’s list of key workers last week, meaning they can use our schools for childcare. The list perhaps reset some people’s view of who is important in society, and I’d like to praise those making the efforts to ensure that vital supplies will continue to make it to our shops. Please bear in mind that the stores will only have supplies for us all if we buy sensibly and only for what we need.
Temporary shortages are only happening because some people are ignoring this advice. This impacts on those who cannot afford to bulk buy and those who can only shop for what they can carry. Next time you are tempted to stock up on Andrex please spare them a thought.
3. If you need police help, ask for it
Devon and Cornwall Police has made extraordinary efforts in the past week to reshape itself so it can maintain its frontline service. Officers have been pulled off projects to go back on the frontline, 40 student officers were trained in three days to answer 999 calls to give the contact centre some resilience, and command structures have been set up to enable the force to respond quickly to a rapidly changing situation. The result is that the police are still there to investigate crimes and attend incidents and in many ways the force is operating entirely normally. Overall crime levels are actually down for this month in comparison to the last two Marchs, and anyone who thinks this situation is a licence to commit crime will be sorely disappointed. Of course, in an emergency call 999, in a non-emergency always ‘click before you call’ by filling out the form at devon-cornwall.police.uk/contact/contact-forms/101-non-emergency/ or using the live webchat service on the force website (devon-cornwall.police.uk), if you need to call 101 do so. Information on crime can be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or at crimestoppers-uk.org.
4. If you have been a victim of crime – see what help is on offer
One of my roles is to commission services for victims of crime, this is delivered in the force area via the Victim Care Unit, a team of experts who can tap into a vast array of organisations which deliver a range of specialist services. They can offer practical and emotional support to victims of crime, dramatically reducing its impact on society. The unit certainly isn’t closed for business. I have seconded staff from my office to ensure it can still help victims through this difficult time and last week launched a 24-hour Victim Support webchat service to add resilience through these challenging times. Visit victimcaredevonandcornwall.org.uk or call 01392 475900 for help.
5. Get involved
Social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t make contact with someone in your community who might need help. I’ve been inspired by many of the efforts on social media to keep morale up and communities together. If you are worried about a neighbour who needs to self-isolate it is perfectly OK to have a ‘socially distanced’ doorstep chat and to help pick up groceries or a prescription for them as long hygiene precautions are taken. A regular email or call will help to reduce loneliness and remind them that we are all in this together.