A letter to all residents in connection with the coronavirus outbreak – issued 18 March 2020
Dear South Gloucestershire resident,
You will no doubt share our concerns regarding the outbreak of COVID-19. As the Leader and Chief Executive of South Gloucestershire Council we wanted to write to you to reassure you that we are working tirelessly to take all necessary steps possible to ensure that we can sustain essential front-line services and have robust business continuity plans in place to support our most vulnerable residents.
We recognise that this is a long message, which you may have received more than once. We are using various channels to try to reach as many local residents as we can; as I am sure you will agree, at this time, the priority is to share current, accurate information quickly.
In anticipation of increased staff absence due to illness or self-isolation, we are reviewing how we deliver services, whether we can deliver support in different ways and which non-essential services will need to be scaled back or suspended.
Our aim is to provide council services as comprehensively as possible for as long as possible but our priority as you will understand, has to be on social care support for the most vulnerable.
For the latest update on changes to service as a result of coronavirus please visit www.southglos.gov.uk/servicedisruption. This is a fast-evolving situation and information may be updated daily.
In line with guidance from Public Health England, our staff are taking pragmatic steps to ensure we can support you in a safe manner:
- wherever possible, we are making phone or skype calls instead of conducting face to face appointments/home visits
- maintaining rigorous hand-hygiene
- using personal protective equipment where required.
How you can help
You will appreciate that this is an unprecedented situation and we know many people are keen to support those less fortunate than themselves in their community.
As a council we recognise the wonderful and spontaneous community spirit demonstrated by the various groups that are emerging for volunteers who want to help their neighbours and those most vulnerable to periods of self-isolation. We are working to produce a directory of all of those groups, so that potential volunteers can direct their efforts, and those in need know where to go to ask for help.
That understanding of the help that is already out there will also help us map where there may be gaps so that we can direct our resources to help those people who are most isolated.
Many of these groups are keen to hear from people who can volunteer their time and skills so please do consider whether you are able to get involved.
Wherever possible, you should turn to your family, friends, neighbours and others who are known to you first for assistance. Please think carefully before responding to unsolicited offers of help – unfortunately the council is not able to regulate individual volunteers.
Minimising the risks of spreading the virus
We would ask you to take some simple steps to help us minimise the risks of spreading the virus:
- Our call centres remain open and we ask you to contact us either online or by phone rather than face to face https://www.southglos.gov.uk/contactus
- Only come into council buildings if absolutely necessary (please note that some of our buildings will be closed to public access in the coming days)
- If you are unwell do not enter any public buildings, but self-isolate in line with PHE/NHS guidance www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance
What should we be doing as individuals to protect ourselves and our families?
This is of course, a worrying time for us all, but as individuals we have a responsibility to follow the guidance provided by Public Health England, the NHS and Central Government to take appropriate steps to help prevent the spread of the virus for as long as possible. This can make a major difference at a local and national level, especially in protecting those that are most vulnerable at this time.
As per the current advice, the most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves remains:
- washing your hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water
- making sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in a bin and wash your hands
- avoid touching your hands to your face as much as possible, especially to your eyes, mouth or nose and
- remaining calm but vigilant
Additionally, everyone can help support the UK’s response by:
- using NHS 111, pharmacies and GPs responsibly (use online services first if a non-emergency) and going to hospital and visiting GPs only when you really need to. This is further explained on the NHS website: When to go to A&E
- being understanding of the pressures the health and social care systems are under, and receptive to changes that may be needed to the provision of care to you and your family. Use online services wherever possible.
- accepting and adhering to the advice for managing COVID-19; for most people this will be self-isolation at home and simple over-the-counter medicines
- purchasing goods responsibly and not stockpiling
- reducing the impact and spread of misinformation by relying on information from trusted sources, such as that on www.nhs.uk and www.gov.uk
- ensuring you and your family look after your general health and wellbeing in order to help reduce the pressure on the NHS. The NHS Every Mind Matters website has some really simple useful tips and advice to support good mental health – http://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters
- find ways to check on elderly or vulnerable family, friends and neighbours – whilst observing guidance around self-isolation
- considering volunteering opportunities which you may be able to support.
Keeping you informed
If you would like to be kept in touch with news from the council by email, sign up here
For the latest information, guidance and advice visit the NHS website.
For information relating to council services, schools, care homes, businesses, communities and voluntary sector organisations, public transport and public open spaces during the coronavirus update and much more please visit the council website at www.southglos.gov.uk/coronavirus and continue to monitor our social media channels – www.facebook.com/sgloscouncil
If you have no access to online sources, our contact centre can be reached on 01454 868009 and will be able to help you with any specific queries regarding council services.
Finally, thank you for your continued understanding. We have every confidence that thanks to the heart-warming community spirit which you have already shown we will support each other through these difficult times.