By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
The sun is out, the streets are crowded, and there are smiles back on faces – it would be easy to think that the long-running COVID crisis is well and truly over.
But sadly, that is not entirely the case, and we face a whole bunch of problems going forward that we will need to resolve before we can sit back and breathe that much-anticipated sigh of relief.
COVID is still present in our communities and whilst it is not necessarily wreaking the havoc it did at the height of the pandemic, it is still disrupting lives. Torbay hospital is also warning that some routine operations may have to be cancelled.
GP services also remain under enormous pressure because as well as dealing with everyday maladies, they are also staffing the vaccine centres and some are being hit by the so-called pingdemic.
Vaccination numbers appear to have all but stalled at around 85% for the first jab and 74% for the second and there is a big push to convince younger people that the vaccines are safe and essential not just for their own health but for their families and friends.
We will not be safe until we can nudge the uptake of vaccines to nearer 100% before we get to the end of Summer when there is the potential for the virus to take hold again.
We are also losing volunteers across the board because many now have the opportunity to return to work, but they are never more needed than they are today.
Mental health issues remain a growing problem. We need specialist befrienders – someone with a background in counselling or similar to support them, particularly as we expect things to worsen before they get better.
We need vaccination centre marshals to ensure the rollout continues unhindered and bookings at the centres at the Brixham Rugby Club and the Riviera Centre in Torquay now stretch out to December to accommodate the remaining unvaccinated and the planned flu and vaccination top-ups due from September.
We also need volunteers to staff the Torbay Community Helpline that is still receiving a steady stream of calls from people who need help for a whole myriad of problems from mental health to financial support, from food to housing to add to the 6,600 who have already been in touch.
At the height of the crisis, we had more than 1400 volunteers, all prepared to go the extra mile for their friends, neighbours and even strangers, but those numbers are dwindling and so we need to ask again – can you help, even for just a few hours a week?
None of the work is onerous, but it is no less essential for all that. There are hundreds if not thousands of people in the Bay who need our continued support and are still suffering from the fallout that the last 17 months has brought.
To a man and a woman our volunteers, even those that have been forced to leave us report that they have enjoyed, if enjoyed is the right word, being able to help others.
Some of those have stood in the pouring rain outside the vaccination centres, others have staffed the phones and dozens more have been available to lend a listening ear to those in danger of becoming lonely or isolated.
Our specialist befrienders have filled a gap that more traditional mental health support services have been unable to stretch to, given that they were underfunded even before this crisis began.
We have said many times in this column that we are all in this together and that is as true today as it ever has been. Just because the crisis appears over for you, double vaccinated and enjoying newfound freedoms, it is not for everyone.
There are plenty of people out there that still need our help and we have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the people of Torbay are truly #Torbaykind. If you were to choose where you would live during a pandemic, because of the resilience of our communities and the amazing people that make them up, it would be here.
So again, we ask that if you can spare a few hours to help out in any way, please contact the Helpline on 01803 446022 or use the online form – bit.ly/torbayhelpline.