FROM the start of the coronavirus outbreak, 14,200 residents in west Cheshire have been forced to shield themselves.

Described as clinically extremely vulnerable, this group has been following the difficult but important health advice and shielding themselves at home.

In some cases, people have been isolating within a household away from family members.

But an army of volunteers have formed groups within communities to ensure that vulnerable people can still access essential food supplies and medicines.

And Cllr Louise Gittins, leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council, has paid tribute to these volunteers for going above and beyond to provide support.

“I’d like to express my gratitude to everyone who has been involved in supporting shielded residents,” she said.

“Many teams have stepped out of their normal roles to deliver our shielding response and provide support and comfort.

“Residents have expressed their gratitude to the people delivering items, to officers checking in with them on the phone, on our social media platforms and in writing to the council.

"The collective shielding response has supported people living alone and in isolation, with life-threatening conditions, living in financial hardship and in difficult living conditions.

“They’ve supported anxious residents, expectant mums and bereaved spouses, and their compassion and general desire to help has been well received and valued by residents.

"As a community we must all be vigilant about a potential second wave of infection.

“We must continue to follow the guidance that remains in place for all our safety – respect social distancing, wear face coverings on public transport, in shops and takeaways and wash our hands regularly.

“If necessary, if the risk rises again, we will need to provide further advice to medically vulnerable people.”

Content for the first 60 emergency food boxes was supplied by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with all food since then either purchased by the council or with generous donations from local companies.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service delivered more than 1,100 emergency food parcels from the council’s new food hub, with more boxes delivered to vulnerable homeless people who were shielding.

At its peak, the virtual hub involved 48 redeployed council staff, working either full or part-time.

Over the coming weeks these teams will continue to help people as they start to adjust to the end of shielding and continued relaxation of lockdown.