Main image: Volunteer Andy Parker helping to pack emergency food parcels.
Bristol City Council has been providing emergency food parcels for those most at risk if they catch the coronavirus who have been told to “shield.’
Over a million people in the UK most at risk of serious illness have received letters telling them to practice an extreme form of isolation for at least 12 weeks – to “shield” them from the worst of the coronavirus outbreak.
These vulnerable groups include organ transplant recipients, some cancer patients and people with severe lung conditions as well as people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women with heart conditions.
A delivery of emergency goods from central government for these groups was received at City Hall on Saturday morning (28 March) – before being packed into individual bags by council workers and volunteers to be distributed by local taxi drivers.
The council phoned over 300 people who are being shielded – and found 53 of these had no food and support.
They then contacted those who had registered on the council’s volunteering website, Can Do Bristol, to come and pack emergency food parcels.
Following a call for help during the pandemic, nearly 3,000 people had already signed up on the website – and 75 were available to help pack food on Saturday. Bags and trollies to transport the food were supplied by Tesco.
Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, said: “Protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities from the threat of the coronavirus outbreak is the responsibility of everyone.
“Working in partnership with central Government and local volunteers we are doing all we can to shield the most at-risk people though making sure they have food and support…”
Andy Parker, a Climate Change researcher at the University of Bristol, was one of the volunteers packing food parcels at City Hall.
He said: “This is an unprecedented crisis and like so many other people I want to lend a hand. I would absolutely encourage other people to volunteer. It’s a real chance to do something positive.
“The council have made sure everything is sterile and provided gloves, so all volunteers and the people we are helping will be safe.”
Bristol City Council is also working with local organisations, including St Mungo’s and Julian Trust, to house homeless people and other vulnerable groups in accommodation that allows them to self-isolate. They will also receive the food, support and the medicines they need.
Shielding is a measure being used during the pandemic to protect people who are extremely vulnerable to serious illness by restricting interaction with others.
These individuals have been advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least three months.
Those who have been told to shield have been asked to register if they need support at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable or by calling 0800 0288 327.