Emergency plans for helping the vulnerable in Caithness
CAITHNESS councillors are currently receiving twice-daily briefings in what is being called "a national emergency situation" because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Initiatives are being discussed for coordinating home deliveries of essential items to vulnerable people and the message sent out is that it is "crucial that we follow national guidance to help our communities".
Various community groups throughout the county have been posting plans and updates on a Facebook page called Deliver for Caithness (DFC) which aims to help those most in need.
The DFC guidelines state that "if you wish to contribute to a possible community response please get in contact with an EXISTING community group in your area that has the resources to be able to organise/facilitate and in turn effectively roll out the help that is being offered".
The guidelines stress the importance of going through the right agencies "rather than attempting anything yourself".
"Existing groups can engage with the appropriate agencies to ensure everyone stays safe," says DFC administrator Emma Bremner.
Wick and East Caithness councillor Nicola Sinclair said that we are living in "unprecedented times" and "are now operating in a national emergency situation".
She said that all the Caithness councillors are receiving regular briefings and updates on the situation as it develops and how it was "crucial that we follow national guidance to help our communities".
"The First Minister has promised guidance on community resilience by the end of the week, and the council intends to release initial advice for local groups today (Thursday, March 19).
"The focus at the moment is on identifying local groups who will coordinate volunteers on both sides of the county, and voluntary effort will then be focused on identifying vulnerable people, delivering food and providing safe support online and on the phone.
Councillor Sinclair said it was "incredibly heartening" to see so many local businesses and groups coming up with ways to help people at this difficult time.
"The Facebook page Deliver for Caithness has been a source of hope for many and a good place to find information.
"We would just ask on behalf of the statutory agencies that people don’t try to set up delivery services etc themselves or start visiting vulnerable people, as this well-intentioned idea could inadvertently put people at risk.
"Please wait for the formal system to be set up – hopefully in the next few days – and follow national guidance about social distancing and hand washing.
"The best thing everyone can do to help right now is to stay calm, shop sensibly and take care of one another.’
She said that the county's councillors and council staff are working "flat out" to deal with the matter and that anyone wanting to help could volunteer their services with the Red Cross at: redcross.org.uk/reserves