This is a very different sort of crisis to any that our region, indeed our nation and the world has faced within a generation or more. The news and messages coming from the Government are unprecedented and the things we are being asked to do as individuals can sometimes go against our own natural instincts.
They certainly have for me. I will usually approach a challenge by isolating a problem and seeking to overcome it, while carrying on with the rest of the business at hand. That’s not possible with a virus that passes unseen amongst us. The isolation required is actually for ourselves, and that means changing the way that business as usual is done.
This isn’t easy, in fact it may even seem a little overwhelming, but it’s vital that we do, because the only way we will tackle this crisis is through a collective determination to do the right thing. In this case, that means listening to the advice from the NHS and the Government and staying at home unless it’s absolutely essential.
This advice is based on the very best scientific and medical advice available and is aimed at doing three incredibly important things: Saving lives, protecting the most vulnerable and supporting the NHS so it can help those that need it most.
I know staying home may feel counter-intuitive for many (me included), especially if you’re the sort of person who steps forward in a crisis to say ‘I can help’. But this really is the part we can all play in tackling this pandemic.
I’d also like to reassure you that all levels of Government are doing everything within their power to tackle the pandemic and mitigate its impacts. The Government has announced an unprecedented package of measures to protect peoples’ jobs and incomes, making sure that renters and mortgage payers can keep a roof over their heads, support businesses to make sure that people have jobs to go back to once this crisis is over, and make sure that essential services are able to continue operating and doing their vital jobs to keep the country running.
Our NHS, emergency services and council teams across the region are doing an incredible job in tackling the very front-line impacts this crisis is having on many people. My team at the Combined Authority are leading the support for businesses in our region. The team at the West of England Growth Hub are providing a local point of contact to share the latest advice from the Government, signposting them to those who can help, directing those businesses that are offering their services to help tackle the crisis to the right people in Government and feeding back information on what’s happening in the West of England to the very heart of the national response, so we can make sure your voice is being heard and acted upon.
We are also working closely with our transport operators, colleges and partner councils to make sure we’re doing everything we possibly can to minimise disruption.
Lastly, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has stepped forward from the West of England in our nation’s hour of need. Across the region, volunteer groups springing up to help the vulnerable and those more in need than themselves, really going above and beyond. Our businesses are also stepping forward, ready, willing and able to contribute whatever they can to the national effort. Whether that’s our transport operators that are keeping the region moving, manufacturers that are helping make much needed ventilators, letting their people be local volunteers to help the most vulnerable or even, as I heard yesterday, offering up their supplies of disposable gloves to the NHS. You truly are the very best that our region has to offer.
The last week has brought out the best in the vast majority of people, in the West of England and the country more widely. I would like to focus on that, rather than the selfish actions of a few. This crisis will end, and we can recover strongly with a new found sense of community, pulling together for the good of the region and the country as a whole. Let’s make that the lasting legacy of this crisis.
Tim Bowles is the Mayor of the West of England