Bristol’s businesses are ramping up precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and local elections have been postponed.
Mayor Marvin Rees has issued a statement to assure the public that the city is prepared for the significant challenge posed by the pandemic affecting countries around the world.
Advice for individuals is to wash hands regularly and anyone with a persistent cough or fever must self-isolate for at least seven days and call NHS 111 rather than visit a doctor or hospital.
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The number of cases in Bristol confirmed by Public Health England on Friday, March 13 was three, but health bosses expect the number to rise and are focusing on slowing the rate at which the virus is spreading.
Businesses and organisations across the city are stepping up to do their bit. The Friska café chains have moved to a card-only payment system, halted the use of the loyalty app and will only be serving drinks in disposable cups, not accepting re-use, in a bid to protect people.
In a statement on social media, the company said: “We’re facing a period of national uncertainty and what’s needed is decisive, confident and clear action. From tomorrow you may notice a few changes at Friska in response to COVID-19.”
The city’s libraries are also taking precautions. All staff will be wearing gloves, surfaces and books are regularly cleaned and toys, colouring pens and musical instruments have been removed to protect users from the spread of germs.
In line with national guidelines, many events – including Bristol Film Festival at the time of writing – are still going ahead. But cancellations are beginning to mount, with Gloucestershire County Cricket Club’s pre-season training camp in La Manga cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
While supermarkets limit sales of items such as hand sanitiser, organisations and charities are urging others to think of the most vulnerable in society.
Kay Libby, co-chief executive of Age UK Bristol, said: “We’d encourage people to stay connected and to think of the older people in your community. Ring round to check how people are feeling and ask if there is anything you can help with, for example dropping some shopping off by the door, or talking through over the phone how to access online support if someone is less confident using the internet.”
Darren Jones, the MP for Bristol North West, is working to coordinate offers of help after constituents volunteered their support.
On Friday, it was confirmed by central government that all local elections will be postponed for a year. This affects the Bristol mayoral and local council elections, as well as the regional police and crime commissioner election.
The University of Bristol is suspending classroom teaching from March 18, according to Epigram student newspaper. Although the university is still open.
Meanwhile, some sectors in the city are already feeling the strain.
Raphael Herzog, chair of the Bristol Hoteliers Association (BHA), said the outbreak is having “a massive impact” on all its members.
“Many conferences – which the smaller hotels are not able to accommodate – are being cancelled because people fear they will be more at risk from the virus, and there are many guest cancellations, too,” said Herzog.
“Across the BHA membership, it is estimated that coronavirus-related cancellations will have cost at least £2 million altogether, although it could quite easily be double this by the time all the data is studied, just for March and April.
“You don’t need to be an expert economist to see that those kind of decreases are simply not sustainable unless more support is forthcoming.”
Anyone who has recently been to one of the affected areas, or who us feeling unwell should call the NHS 111 or use the online service. Do not go to a doctor or hospital.
For further advice, visit: www.nhs.uk/coronavirus.
Main photo by Ruby Lopez