By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
At last, the COVID rate in the Bay is falling after peaking at record levels.
Whilst the rest of the country’s figures were spiralling, we somehow managed to come through the worst of the crisis with relatively low figures.
But in the last month, the pendulum swung and it was the South West that was reporting the brunt of it, with Devon and Cornwall worst hit.
Here in the Bay, the cases rose above the 650 per one hundred thousand mark, and there were fears that as the holiday season reached its busiest that the figures would rise still higher.
However, through sheer determination and the cautious actions of our communities, we appear to be back on top of it, with the figures going in the right direction. Down.
By the end of the weekend we had fewer than 400 cases here per one hundred thousand people, 261 fewer than the week before, but still worryingly considerably higher than the national average of 284
Vaccinations are clearly having an effect, leading to fewer hospitalisations and less severe symptoms, but we are not out of the woods yet. Fourteen per cent of the Bay’s adult population have yet to have their first vaccination and 23 per cent their second.
All of which means the Torbay Community Helpline continues to receive calls from worried people who need support – so far more than 6,750 people have reached out to our call handlers and we are talking to new people every week.
Some people have now returned to their daily lives, albeit living a ‘new normal’, but others remain ultra-cautious and we are aware of many that have chosen to self-isolate until the worst has passed.
On the one hand, the majority of tourists are returning home which means that the streets, shops and hospitality venues will be quieter, reducing the risk of transmission. But on the other hand, the schools are reopening and unvaccinated youngsters will be mixing again.
Mental health and financial issues remain the main concern of callers to the Helpline and quite often, perhaps not surprisingly, it is a mixture of the two.
Our triage services for both finance and mental health are at the heart of much of our work through the Helpline and that is why we will continue to need volunteers for a long, long time.
We need specialist befrienders, those with a background in counselling, to help those with mental health problems to make phone calls to help them through their dark times.
The vaccination centres at the Riviera Centre in Torquay and the Scala Hall in Brixham continue to operate and there are still thousands of people across the Bay who have yet to complete the first round of jabs.
We are still awaiting a decision on whether younger people will be vaccinated and there is also the prospect of a third top-up jab to be delivered alongside seasonal flu jabs, all of which means we need a veritable army of volunteers to help with marshalling.
At the peak of the crisis, we had more than 1,600 volunteers coming forward to support their friends, neighbours, relatives and even strangers, but inevitably without lockdowns many of them have had to return to work and can no longer help.
The next few months are going to be critical in this long-running battle against the virus because whilst we are getting close to getting it under control, we are not there yet and Winter brings with it, its own challenges.
In many ways, the focus of this fight has been to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed and apart from a few dodgy weeks recently, here in the Bay, we have mainly succeeded.
Tomorrow is Emergency Services Day, a good time to remember the incredibly hard work done by so many people who work for our NHS over the last eighteen months. It is also a time to remember that they still need our help.
No matter how dedicated the NHS could not have coped with this virus without the help of the thousands of fantastic volunteers who have worked alongside them throughout.
So many of our volunteers are right to be proud of what has been achieved through turbulent times and the majority have enjoyed every minute of it.
We still need them and we need more. Could you be one of them – one of the many that are making such a massive difference? If so, please ring the Helpline on 01803 446022, or use the online form at bit.ly/torbayhelpline