The coronavirus has touched all our lives these past 12 months. As you can see in the video above, and in the new infographic we have created to capture some of the numbers behind it all, it has been an extraordinary year.
COVID-19 has taken a terrible toll on our borough, like it has across the country and, indeed, the globe. Death and serious illness have stalked our streets. Grief and struggle have become all too familiar to families, businesses, charities. Very little has been immune to its effects.
Yet, it has also brought out the best in many of us: With the community uniting to reach out a helping hand to those in worse need.
It has now, on 18 March, been exactly a year since the prime minister first announced restrictions on daily life would be needed – and the local response began. And the first lockdown then began on 23 March 2020.
Coming together to support those in need
This first lockdown was characterised locally by a surge of people coming together to get each other through the crisis.
Ealing Together was formed by a coalition of 78 local organisations, charities and residents, co-ordinated by Ealing Council. The work that was carried out was inspirational – and included help from 1,468 volunteers.
It led to 13,786 emergency food parcels being delivered to vulnerable people and 10,612 phone calls taken by the specially created Ealing Together helpline. In addition, the council made another 32,390 calls out to vulnerable residents to offer help. All kinds of support was provided to people who needed it. Voluntary sector groups also had a helping hand, with 62 of them being awarded emergency grants.
From PPE to helping business
Right from the onset of the pandemic, the council was at the forefront of trying to get protective gear (PPE) out to local frontline staff – key workers and care workers – and it managed to source and hand out more than 2.3million items of PPE despite the national shortage.
More than 450 people were given safe places to stay to avoid rough sleeping; and 3,500 key workers were given free parking permits to help them get to patients and places of work during the crisis.
Over the course of the year, meanwhile, more than a million hours of home care was provided by council services for more than 1,800 vulnerable residents; the council handed out a £2million COVID-19 hardship fund, and made available £29.1million of council tax support, to help low-income and struggling families; while £99.45million of grants was distributed to more than 14,000 local businesses and 2,766 traders received £59.1million in business rates relief to help get them through the worst of the economic nightmare presented by the pandemic.
Vaccines, testing and keeping going
Some of the more recent headlines, and rightly so, have centred on the impressive vaccination programme – and more than 100,000 vaccines have been administered in our borough alone.
Over the past year, more than 158,000 COVID-19 tests have been carried out on local people – a third of whom were not showing any symptoms when tested. Meanwhile, 1,816 test and trace cases were phoned by the council, after the national system could not reach them; and 1,693 letters were delivered by the council to test and trace cases who could not be contacted by phone.
To help those low-income households where someone tested positive for coronavirus, who could not afford to take time off work, 902 self-isolation payments were made – to a total value of £451,000.
All 96 of the state schools in the borough were kept open during the three lockdowns for eligible children of key workers and vulnerable families. And £906,815 worth of free school meals and vouchers were issued by the council during the school holidays to help low-income households feed their children.
‘I hope Ealing Together will leave a lasting legacy’
Leader of the council Julian Bell said: “This has been a year unlike any other and COVID-19 has placed huge demands on all of us. It has shone a light on the very best in our communities, and at the same time taken a huge personal and financial toll on many residents. Personally, I have had a number of painful conversations with friends who have lost family members to COVID-19, including those in the prime of their life in their 40s. And, I want to again offer my deepest condolences to those in the borough who have lost loved ones to this terrible disease.
“Councils led the way in the COVID-19 response and the value of what we do was clear to see over the last 12 months. As was the importance of community efforts and teamwork, and the enormous heart of our residents. The infographic cannot capture all of that sweat, smiles, tears and compassion – but it does lay out in bare numbers some of the sheer effort involved. We all came together, and I hope Ealing Together will leave a lasting legacy of people uniting for the greater good so that something good can come of this awful year. I believe it will, because the evidence is still all around us.
“Now, as the vaccination programme starts to really make inroads, with more than 100,000 local people having had a jab, I hope everyone will continue to follow the hands, face, space guidance and keep each other safe to give the vaccination programme a chance to be completed without another surge of cases. We know COVID is a killer and we cannot relax.”