Suffolk Has Really Shown What It’s Made Of During The Last Year

Cllr Matthew Hicks, Chairman of Suffolk’s Local Outbreak Engagement Board and Leader of Suffolk County Council gives a quick reflection on the past year for Suffolk following the official anniversary of the Covid-19 pandemic hitting our shores:

The last 12 months has certainly proved to be an extraordinary period in our history. On this day 12 months ago, the Prime Minister appeared in front of the nation in an early evening broadcast to affirm our fears that the coronavirus pandemic was spreading at an alarming rate and we would be entering a period of national lockdown, our first of three as we now know, calling for us all to Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

We have all experienced so many changes and challenges over the last 12 months, it’s difficult to fully convey the impact that Covid-19 has had on the way we live, work and socialise.

On a personal level, I was able to welcome my mother to come and live with me and my partner throughout the first lockdown, to ensure she received the support and care she needed and of course provide companionship and contact as part of a ‘bubble’. However I am also very aware of the loneliness and isolation that the virus caused for many people across Suffolk during 2020/2021 and ensuring everybody continued to get access to local services and the right kind of support they needed has been at the forefront of my mind and all of those who lead Suffolk’s public service organisations as we drew together our resources to work closely. 

As Suffolk residents we have all shown our mettle. Everybody knows somebody who has been touched by this terrible virus. Mercifully the vast majority have gone on to make a full recovery but in many tragic cases people have lost family members and friends before their time. Dedicated staff working in social care, health, police, district, county, borough, town and parish councils, the voluntary and community sector, businesses and the wider public sector have been inspirational and integral to how we have faced up to this pandemic as a community. Demonstrating such community spirit, adaptability and resilience is what Suffolk does well and this has been proven once again.

Many public services stepped up to change the way people receive care and support at incredible speed. Bespoke services to provide financial support, groceries and advice moved quickly to contact vulnerable people and connect volunteers. Suffolk set up the ‘Home But Not Alone’ phone service, taking over 13,000 calls from those needing help and during the course of the year, supplying local foodbanks with over 140,700kg of food through FairShare. This in turn supported the distribution of over 957 food packages to some of Suffolk’s most vulnerable residents.

As the majority of us temporarily lost the ability to meet in person, Suffolk adapted towards the use of digital technology. Our Children’s support services and schools began to embrace the use of online learning and develop personalised digital services to ensure that young people and their families continued to receive the important support delivered by experienced staff in health, care and education. Suffolk’s public services worked closely to source and supply over five million items of personal protection equipment, providing care homes, social workers, educators and other commercial organisations in Suffolk with the means to continue supporting people and serving customers. 

We have seen a number of our High Street brands call time during 2020/2021. Local businesses across Suffolk have been particularly hit by the dramatic reduction in customer demand and loss of visitors to the area. To help reduce this impact, over 15,000 businesses shared some £178 million following the first lockdown to cover expenses, staffing and adaptations to embrace a new way of working. I’m sure we are all looking forward to the moment we can share a freshly prepared meal in one of Suffolk’s excellent restaurants or share a drink and socialise in our local pub or bar. As a result of playing your part and sticking with it throughout 2020/2021, I hope such moments are not too far in the future.

We are now in the midst of an incredible social movement, as the mass vaccination programme continues at speed. The UK has now passed the point where over half of the population has taken up the offer to receive their first jab and to add to this incredible achievement, this past Sunday some 874,000 injections were administered in one day, that’s a phenomenal rate of 27 every second. I hope this offers us all a great deal of comfort that there is an end in sight, thanks to the commitment and perseverance of our communities and local organisations pulling together.

What I take away from the last 12 months is the true sense of community, resilience and understanding that everyone in Suffolk has shown time and time again to adapt to changing circumstances and to protect our families, friends and neighbours from this terrible virus. 

Thank you for all you have done. What we have achieved together must be recognised as a great achievement. I hope that 2021 offers us all a great deal more joy and success as the year develops.

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