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NO MATTER what has been thrown at Scottie Road, - from the German Luftwaffe to Margaret Thatcher - the heartbeat of the community has never stopped. Solidarity among residents has always prevailed in the face of evil.

And we are now up against one of the biggest threats to our community in our history: COVID-19.

The disease was first identified in Wuhan, China, last December, before spreading like wildfire across the world. At the time of writing this article, 108,692 people had tested positive in the UK. There are currently 1,028 cases in Liverpool and 215 confirmed deaths. With the UK in lockdown, we spoke to several key workers and businesses about their concerns during this uncertain time.

THE elderly are among those most susceptible to COVID-19, which means that for anyone working in nursing homes, the duties and risks involved are more daunting than ever. And that is particularly true when residents are unable to comprehend how much of a threat coronavirus is.

Vicky Feeney, who works at the Eldonian House Care Centre, admits she is under “extreme pressure”. Vicky adds: “Working in an EMI care home in the midst of a global pandemic is like – have you ever heard the saying? – ’Wrap them up in cotton wool’.

“Well, we’re having a bloody good try,” adds the mother-of-three, who explains that her main concern is the lack of testing among staff and residents.

“We have no testing facility in place,” she tells us. “It is causing a massive strain on the workplace as staff are having to self-isolate. When working in a care home, it is not possible to self-isolate the residents as they don’t understand the concept of COVID-19. My concerns for myself don’t differ from my family, my colleagues or the residents. I’m concerned for everyone that I’m in contact with – as I’m working on the frontline.

“If staff who are off (self-isolating) were to be tested, and found to be virus-free, it would relieve the strain on the workplace which is currently under extreme pressure. As we know, things are only getting worse. We need the government to follow through on their promises concerning testing to help key workers all over the country.”

“We need more protection and workers need testing,” says our source. “That way we wouldn’t have to worry about coming home to our families. “I can’t understand how this still isn’t happening, every day it worsens. To say we are working under pressure is a massive understatement, and the only thing we’ve had for protection in the past two weeks is gloves and aprons.”

The government faces mounting scrutiny over their delays in organising ventilators, personal protective equipment and wide-scale testing. Recent findings from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control suggest the UK could overtake Italy and Spain for coronavirus deaths. And, arguably, the government’s failings have contributed to this.

A local NHS staff member working on the frontline, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Scottie Press that the government is failing key workers. Reports indicate that just 2,800 people – out of half a million frontline staff – have been tested in England. And although one million respiratory face masks are set to be delivered to the NHS, our source argues there is not enough protective equipment.

“We need more protection and workers need testing,” says our source. “That way we wouldn’t have to worry about coming home to our families.
“I can’t understand how this still isn’t happening, every day it worsens. To say we are working under pressure is a massive understatement, and the only thing we’ve had for protection in the past two weeks is gloves and aprons.”

Although conditions are abysmal, our source said they are “immensely proud” to work for the NHS and the solidarity of people in the community is a “massive boost” to morale. On Thursday, Scottie Roaders headed to their gardens, windows and balconies to applaud healthcare workers as part of the nationwide Clap for Carers initiative.

MP Kim Johnson

Kim Johnson, MP for Riverside, agrees that community values are more important than ever and has seen districts in her constituency, including Kirkdale, coming together to combat challenges presented by COVID-19. She says communication is essential and that people need to “look out for each other” so no one is left behind.

“There are people with no friends or family who are reliant on carers,” says Kim, who has previously worked in adult social services. “I know the level of the vulnerability out there. Communication is key so no one falls through the cracks.

“It’s about that community spirt. I think that’s what Liverpool is famous for, in the face of adversity we come together.”

Kim also echoed concerns that the government is not providing enough support, adding that their guidance is inconsistent and contradictory with regard to who is eligible to be furloughed and who can access 80% of their wages. She also called out the hypocrisy of Tories who clap for frontline workers yet seemingly refuse to acknowledge the part their party has played in underfunding the NHS.

“This government, on a daily basis, talks about all the ramping up,” she continues. “Ultimately, what we have got is a National Health Service that was brought to its knees because of 10 years of austerity. The government hasn’t recognised that.

“They have to take that on board. They are to blame for the situation that the NHS is in now.

“It’s under-resourced, there are staff shortages. As much as they are congratulating frontline staff, they need to acknowledge that the same workers haven’t had an increase in wages in the last 10 years or enough investment in the sector to make sure it is fit for purpose. It makes me very angry.”

It’s not only the NHS facing shortages of PPE. Delivery drivers have emerged as unlikely heroes during the current crisis, and are in demand more than ever before. But due to a global shortage of face masks, it can be extremely risky for those delivering food orders as it involves face-to-face interactions. John Walley, who works for the Chicken Shack, is taking extra precautions.

“I find it hard to get hold of them and it is essential for the job I’m doing,” he says. And John doesn’t think people are taking the crisis as seriously as they should. “Some people look at me funny for driving around with a mask on,” he says. “But, at the end of the day, you can’t be too careful. I’m always using hand sanitiser and changing my clothes when I go home.”

Alan Kelly from Vauxhall Law Centre

Kirkdale councillor Malcolm Kennedy, currently stuck in Madrid, worries about the pandemic’s impact on the economy. His concerns come after seeing the tourism industry shaken in Spain, which relies on tourism for 11% of its GDP.

Liverpool’s tourism brings in £3.3billion a year and provides 38,000 jobs. If this was to collapse, the local economy could be plunged into crisis.

“My biggest fear is the danger to the economy,” he says. “I don’t think the problems will disappear. Will people who had jobs still have jobs?
“At the moment, the authorities are just trying to make sure not too many people are getting ill, to limit the numbers going to hospitals. After this, we are going to be in an economic crisis that we are not really paying too much attention to just now. We are just doing what has to be done.”

Pauline Connolly, Chief Executive of the Vauxhall Neighbourhood Centre (VNC), takes a more optimistic outlook on the current situation and believes it will eventually lead to a more tolerant society where class barriers are broken down. She also hopes it will encourage locals to visit community centres.

“Look at the likes of Boris Johnson and Prince Charles getting COVID-19,” she says. “It doesn’t matter how much money you’ve got, or what class you are. If coronavirus comes for you, you get it and that’s it. We will look at equality different now and more people will start coming together and to community centres. It will be a much better society.

“You realise now what is important. It’s not about the best Nike trainers, it’s about keeping your family safe, keeping your community safe and it’s about helping others,” adds Pauline. “There will be a lot more respect for the NHS, the milkman, the postman, the corner shop, the ASDA and other workers who are putting their lives on the line for us.”

The VNC houses several organisations, including the Scottie Press. It is also home to the Vauxhall Law Centre (VLC), which has provided free legal advice and representation for Scottie Roaders for almost 50 years. Despite the threat of coronavirus, Alan Kelly, a fundraiser at VLC, says staff continue to provide support for the community.

But he worries that some problems are going under the radar.

“A lot of people who come into the law centre come in to get forms filled in, and there’s a variety of reasons for this,” he explains. “Quite a lot of people can’t fill them in themselves, because they haven’t got the literacy skills, so it’s hard to do this over the phone.

“With things like universal credit, you can only put in for it online. Now we all know people who just haven’t got facilities at home, or the capability of doing anything online. So there’s a lot of problems out there that probably aren’t coming through at the moment.”

Alan added that lines are quiet at the moment, but he expects an influx in enquiries in the next five weeks, which is when those who have applied for Universal Credit will know if they have been successful or not. The current situation, he says, is the “calm before the storm”.

So if YOU are seeking help with issues regarding welfare benefits, debt or housing, contact the VLC via their landline on 0151 482 2540 or email advice@vauxhalllawcentre.org.uk.

The first review of the current UK lockdown happened on Thursday, April 16 which announced a further 3 weeks of precautions. But England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jenny Harries, says it could take up to “two or three months” before restrictions are lifted. Whatever happens during the next few weeks, or maybe months, the only certainty is that we will pull through this together. So stay safe and stay strong.

If Hitler couldn’t destroy Scottie Road, neither will COVID-19.