Coronavirus: Officials in Eastbourne outline plans and issue advice

Official bodies in Eastbourne have outlined their plans and offered advice surrounding the global coronavirus outbreak.

Wednesday, 11th March 2020, 4:35 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 9:47 am

Eastbourne Chamber of Commerce, East Sussex College Group and Eastbourne Foodbank all shared their plans today (Wednesday, March 11) as to how they are going tackle issues concerning the virus, which includes taking care of ‘at risk’ elderly residents, a possible closure of college campuses and a call to stop panic bulk-buying.

Christina Ewbank at the chamber said, “There is a danger of overreacting, we need to focus on the people who are most at risk. We have outlined elderly residents over 70 as the most vulnerable.

“We have heard of one person who started a WhatsApp group to help elderly neighbours to make sure they are okay, to get their shopping in and if their public transport has stopped then to offer a lift.

“We need to make sure the elderly can self-isolate but feel less on their own and still part of the community. The residents of Eastbourne need to look around and see who is vulnerable, who needs assistance and then help them.”

She said the chamber is organising a webinar session with businesses to discuss their plans and concerns.

Eastbourne Foodbank highlighted panic bulk-buying as a cause for concern as their clients are unable to afford to do this and could miss out on vital necessities.

Foodbank operations manager Vanessa Britton said, “People who are currently bulk-buying should be more mindful of our vulnerable clients who can’t afford to bulk-buy. They are living hand-to-mouth and do not have the resources to do a weekly shop. When all the hysteria is gone, hopefully, people will donate some of their spare toilet roll to the Foodbank.

Vanessa Britton at Eastbourne Foodbank (Photo by Jon Rigby)

“We haven’t noticed a drop in donations due to the virus - they have certainly decreased since Christmas but not significantly in the last couple of weeks. Up until last Friday (March 6) we were still getting toilet rolls, although, I did notice that a donation made at Tesco in Langney had ‘disappeared’ when the drivers emptied the collection basket today.

“If certain items dip extremely low we shall put a call out on social media asking people to possibly drop donations off straight to our warehouse rather than via our collection baskets, or use the solid relationships we have with local supermarkets to ask for additional allowances.

“Currently, we are giving a bar of soap or liquid soap in each food package issued and have made our volunteers aware of the government’s advice about hand washing and hygiene - we are mindful not to stoke any potential panic while reassuring our volunteers. We have also supplied anti-bacterial liquid soap to our outlets and extra supplies to our busiest site in Grove Road.

“We are currently drawing up a plan for how best to continue our service if the virus takes hold in Eastbourne. We are considering a range of practical options to manage expectations and demands of both our food provision and advocacy services.

“This needs to be coupled with the operational challenges of working with a volunteer-based organisation of mainly older retirees and the resource constraints of a charity. We would like to thank the people of Eastbourne for their continued generosity and support.”

An East Sussex College Group spokesperson said it is taking the situation ‘very seriously’ and is implementing a ‘measured response in line with government advice’.

The spokesperson said, “We continue to monitor this changing situation on a constant basis. To ensure everyone has access to the most up to date information, we have launched a new web page, which will be our main communication channel. This draws on advice from key government agencies.

“The web page will link to the latest daily updates from Public Health England and provide the most current information for staff and students.

“We are also adapting our existing business continuity plan this week, which will include measures to ensure we provide staff and students with access to work from home.

“If we were to enter a different phase of containment at a national level, including the potential closure of campuses, we would deploy all the measures above and send text messages to all staff, students under 18 and their parents and carers, directing everyone to the web page.

“In addition, coronavirus information posters are up around the college campuses and hand sanitisers at each main entrance.”

A DGH spokesperson said they, and the rest of the NHS, are ‘well-equipped’ to deal with ‘new infectious diseases’ and that currently there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in East Sussex.

The spokesperson said, “Currently all areas of the hospital and community services are open and operating as usual. We have in place measures to ensure the safety of all patients and our staff.

“The latest information on symptoms of coronavirus, and areas where recent travel may have resulted in a high risk of exposure, can be found on the NHS website.

“We are following national guidelines in terms of our response to coronavirus. The government is taking a four-phased approach to tackling the virus, which is to: ‘contain, delay, mitigate, and research’.

“This approach is the result of continuous consultation with the chief medical officer for England. The approach is to try to contain this virus, however, the more we can delay the peak of the spread to the summer, the better the NHS will be able to manage.

“If members of the public suspect they have coronavirus, if they have been to an affected country, or if they have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus they should not come into the hospital or visit their GP or pharmacy. Instead they should phone NHS 111.

Everyone is being reminded to follow Public Health England’s advice, which is always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue and wash your hands, or use a sanitiser gel. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.”

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