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Coronavirus: Communities rally round to support their most vulnerable residents

In villages around Newmarket, residents and parish councils are already working on measures to help their more vulnerable residents. One such support group of volunteers has been set up in Wickhambrook.

The group’s base will be The Greyhound public house where joint licensee Jack Couzen together with villager Dick Taylor, are co-ordinating efforts to get the whole community to come together to deal with the effects of the disease and the fight against it.

“We had our first meeting on Sunday and we are working on an emergency plan for a network of volunteers who will do shopping for elderly people.

Wickhambrook volunteers Jack Couzens, Mike Lavelle, Dick Taylor , Jo Pask, Julie Little, Anita Harman and Sue McNaughton.
Wickhambrook volunteers Jack Couzens, Mike Lavelle, Dick Taylor , Jo Pask, Julie Little, Anita Harman and Sue McNaughton.

“There are already some over-70s who have chosen to self-isolate as a precaution and we are already helping them.” said Jack. “But we have upwards of 600 people in that age group in the village who might be confined to their homes in a matter of weeks and at this point we need to be ready to work together as a community.”

He said arrangements had been made to bring forward the next edition of the village’s What’s On newsletter, a leaflet drop was planned and window signs, which could be used in case of emergency, were also on the agenda.

“We are talking to the parish councilbecause we would like the support group to come under their umbrella which makes it all more secure.”

Mr Taylor said the group was looking to increase the number of volunteers to spread the load of shopping and other practical help. But he said a potentially long period of isolation was also likely to throw up other needs.

“Isolation has many other connotations. Loneliness can lead to a quite severe psychological burden and stress.

“I don’t want to come over like Winston Churchill but we’re going to need some of the stoicism we showed during the war with people all needing to come together to do their bit,” said Dick, who hopes the Wickhambrook support group model can be made available to other villages in West Suffolk.

Both Jack and Dick have a personal interest in the spread of the virus.

Jack’s parents Paul and Karen, his sister Holly and two-year-old niece, Violet are among the many Brits currently stuck in Spain.

“They travelled out early on Friday morning and by midday the country was in lockdown,” said Jack. “They are staying at their own property in Algorfa, a village about 30 minutes from Alicante and are hopeful of getting home tomorrow.

“Only one person is allowed to go to the shops or the pharmacy and there are police patrols so you have to have a good reason for being out,” he said. “They’re all pretty fed-up with it.”

And while Dick is concerned about the welfare of the Wickhambrook community, he has been warned by his doctor that because he has multiple sclerosis he is himself classified as ‘vulnerable’.