By City Council Deputy Leader Cllr Sally Longford

[This article was written last week before the Government lockdown and appeared in today’s Nottingham Post]

When I took over responsibility for Emergency Planning last year it all seemed quite other worldly, on reflection you could say I drew the short straw.

At my first briefing with the Officers I wanted to talk about flooding, but was told “it’s not flooding that keeps me awake at night, it’s a flu pandemic”. For the first few meetings it all seemed fairly theoretical, I wish it still was. Behind the scenes they are always working to prepare for difficult times, and they meet regularly with their opposite numbers across the county in the Local Resilience Forum, something I must admit I’d never heard of. Sometimes they hold practice exercises to see if the plans work.

What I learnt during those few months was that this tiny team have plans for all sorts of emergencies, some of which had never occurred to me, and so, in January, they dusted off the Pandemic Flu Plan, and leapt into action.

Over the next few weeks all that preparatory work is going to be thoroughly tested. The main concern from a Council perspective is whether we can continue to provide the most vital services, to protect children and elderly and vulnerable people.

It might seem like most of the preparation for Covid-19 is happening in the supermarkets, someone must have food stacked up to the ceiling around their house, but it certainly isn’t me! However, there is a lot of planning going on across the city, so that when the number of people becoming ill rises the NHS can respond and vulnerable people can be kept safe.

The Government is telling us a lot of what we have to do and we are already having to move people from what would normally be their day job to help, partly because quite a few staff are already off sick or self isolating. Lots of new tasks are being created, finding extra beds for non-critical patients, additional parking spaces for health workers, trying to get enough protective gear for our care workers when there’s an international shortage, as well as supporting local business in these really uncertain times.

Everyone is getting anxious, from people with underlying health conditions worrying if they will fall victim to the virus, to parents wondering how they are going to cope with children possibly off school for months, workers unsure about how they will pay their bills and small businesses wondering if they can continue. But it is really heartening to hear from so many people and organisations wanting to help. We have 700 voluntary organisations in the City and we know they will be vital in helping to keep people safe.

So what can you do to ease us all through this? The easiest thing of all is to be neighbourly, even if you have never spoken to them before, just offer support, if they are ill or self isolating could you do some shopping, collect a prescription or just be on the end of the phone?

You could support local businesses, some of them are really struggling and worried about the future.

If you come into contact with a key worker, still doing their job under increasingly difficult conditions, thank them and give them a smile. They are dedicated people, often not very well paid, and would really appreciate a friendly word.

And, stop nabbing all the tea off the supermarket shelves, I’m going to need a cuppa over the next few weeks!