As we move into the Adjustment Phase of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic, we reflect on the work that has been done so far to attempt to control the virus in Ceredigion.
We recognise that our geographical location and sparse population have provided us with distinct advantages in relation to the control of the virus. Within this context we have put in place a number of strategies which seek to consolidate our advantages and actively try to suppress the virus, rather than simply limit and manage its proliferation through the county.
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the 72,000 residents of Ceredigion who have adhered heroically to the challenges set by lockdown. We thank the residents of the county for following guidance so rigidly and diligently, ensuring that the number who have been infected by the coronavirus has been kept relatively low, currently at 54.
From the outset, Ceredigion County Council’s priority was to protect its population and to minimise the number of the population who would contract the coronavirus and the number of deaths from it. At the beginning, Public Health Wales projections indicated a reasonable worst case scenario of 600 deaths in the County and this was not acceptable to us.
The first steps were to get Ceredigion down to its core population, which meant working with tourism sector and the Universities to close their facilities in a controlled and safe manner. We are grateful to the businesses and caravan parks who worked with us to close temporarily. These steps meant that the population was reduced by 35,000, which gave the NHS every opportunity to cope.
Prior to the official lockdown, we closed the doors to our care homes. We worked closely with the private care homes to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable people. Our ICT Team established video conferencing facilities in the homes to enable the residents to speak with their loved ones on a regular basis.
A Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Hub was set up to coordinate the equipment for services within the county. This ensured that this critical element of the coronavirus response was undertaken to keep frontline workers and service users safe. Staff within the Hub have shown dedication and commitment to ensure the safety of frontline and key workers.
During these hard and unprecedented times, grants have been available by Welsh Government to businesses. £25.8 million has been allocated during the coronavirus period to Ceredigion businesses who are vital to the economy of the county, and we encourage those that have not applied to do so before the cut-off date of 30 June 2020.
Since the temporary closure of many of our businesses, many have transformed overnight to provide delivery services which has been invaluable in enabling those that are vulnerable to remain in the safety of their own homes. Businesses have also been supported and advised by the Public Protection team in order to ensure compliance with social distancing requirements and new regulations.
The medically vulnerable and those shielding in Ceredigion were contacted by telephone to ensure food and medication was delivered and to ensure their safety. The Council provides weekly food boxes sourced locally to over 950 of our most vulnerable citizens and Council staff contact over 2,500 individuals that are shielding on a regular basis. Support has been provided to keep the homeless from the streets and in temporary accommodation.
In addition, individuals and groups volunteered throughout Ceredigion delivering food and medicine to those shielding, offering support and a socially distanced smile. The incredible work that they have done and continue to do is an absolute credit to each and every one of them.
Childcare for children of frontline service workers has been provided across the county whilst continuing to provide resources and support to pupils learning from home. In addition to this, a number of our staff across all secondary schools in Ceredigion have been busy producing face-shields for emergency and care service staff.
The Council has continued to provide many of its frontline services, many of which have been supported by staff from other services who volunteered to be re-deployed. Their willingness to assist has been essential in maintaining these services, including waste management, supporting our residential care homes and the Childcare Hubs.
An in-house contact tracing system was developed by the Council at the beginning of April, bringing together a team of staff with skillsets in environmental health tracing, data protection, human resources and ICT data systems. Built around a questionnaire, the data management system was informed by our Environmental Health Officers who have experience of tracking and tracing other outbreaks such as legionella and food poisoning and research based upon was happening elsewhere internationally. At the time, numbers of cases were low, and as a result we have been able to follow up on all cases notified since its implementation.
We also recognise our support services which you don’t often hear about. These have ensured that employees are able to work safely and effectively from home. There has also been a great deal of activity in ensuring that residents and businesses have been receiving key messages in a timely manner through the Council website, on social media and by working in partnership with the local press.
From the outset, Ceredigion County Council has worked in close conjunction with the Hywel Dda University Health Board, Dyfed-Powys Police, Aberystwyth University, businesses and numerous voluntary and charitable groups to ensure effective collaboration and communication, both before and during the lockdown.
We once again extend our thanks to all our staff who have adapted to the new way of working and who have worked hard to support the residents and communities of Ceredigion over the last 3 months or so.
We believe that the combination of all of these interventions, as well as many other contributing factors, have played a part in supporting our residents in Ceredigion and may have contributed to the current low number of cases in the county.
It has and continues to be a team effort, and the Coronavirus has shown what a team we have in Ceredigion.
Our focus now is upon managing the adjustment phase and the long term resilience of Ceredigion in conjunction with all of our partners, whilst continuing to be vigilant in order to limit any future outbreaks. Work is ongoing to plan for the next phase, with the county’s economy a priority. We are working towards a time when we can restart services and open businesses, but only when it’s safe to do so for the residents of Ceredigion.
Further information relating to the Council’s Adjustment Phase is available here.
Correct as of 25.06.2020