Councils Face 'Unprecedented Challenge' From Covid 19

Measures are being put in place to maintain public services.

Welsh Councils are working with the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to make sure precautions and measures are in place so key public services can be maintained during the Covid 19 outbreak.

A letter from Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething and head of the Welsh Local Government Association Councillor Andrew Morgan, has been sent to all local authority leaders - which describes councils facing an 'unprecedented challenge' in the coming weeks and months.

Dear Leader,
We are writing jointly following yesterday's meeting of all local authority leaders to co-ordinate our response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
We face an unprecedented challenge in dealing with the social and economic impact of this event, which is now highly likely to have a significant effect on every community in Wales over the coming weeks and months. 
Events are moving rapidly, and therefore this is a time for concerted and co-ordinated action by all of us as leaders. Protecting our people and communities must be our absolute focus, and we must ensure that the vital public services that people depend on every day are maintained, even in what may be very difficult circumstances for us all.
You will have seen that the UK as a whole has now moved from the containment phase to the delay phase. The latest advice and guidance can be found at www.gov.wales/coronavirus which includes links to the Public Health Wales site which is regularly updated. 
We would request that this link is shared with your staff and through your communications channels as widely as possible so public awareness is maximised, and that those delivering services are kept fully up to date with the changing implications for them.
Responding to an event of this scale will clearly have financial implications for every public body. Welsh Government officials are in active discussions with the UK Treasury about how the UK as a whole meets the exceptional funding demands placed on services by the outbreak. 
We have had assurances that additional funding will be made available to tackle this crisis and we are working across Welsh Government and with colleagues in UK Government to ensure we accurately assess the possible economic impact on public services, businesses and individuals.  Close engagement with all local authorities in Wales will be critical in terms of making accurate assessments of this impact on an ongoing basis, particularly in areas such social care.
In the meantime, you should take all necessary steps to plan to respond to the reasonable worst case scenario, including committing funding.
The Welsh NHS will play a central role in dealing with the virus, particularly for some of the most vulnerable in our society. The measures which have been announced today in relation to NHS treatment will mean that the service can act now to prepare before the peak, and operate at maximum capacity as cases increase. Some of the measures will have implications for local government services, and we will work though these in partnership.
Based on current scientific advice and modelling, we do not believe that closing schools or childcare settings would have sufficient impact on delaying the spread of the virus to outweigh the substantial impact on the public and private sector workforce. To have any impact, closures would need to last for a number of months, and children and young people would in any case come together during this period of closure.
Likewise, scientific advice indicates that mass gatherings do not represent a significant risk of spreading the virus.  However, our public services need to focus all their resources on responding to the impact of the virus and we must allow our staff to do that.  
At times like these, our strong community tradition in Wales is a huge asset. We must engage closely with community and third sector organisations across the nation so that their important contribution can be maximised.
There are undoubtedly significant challenges ahead, but our collective response to them must be calm, co-ordinated and with the shared goal of protecting the health and well-being of the Welsh public through this testing period.

Yours sincerely
Vaughan Gething, Health Minister and Councillor Andrew Morgan, WLGA Leader

Councils and central government are working together united in responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, which is likely to have significant implications for services as the UK moves from the ‘containment’ to the ‘delay’ phase.

All sectors – public, private and voluntary - are likely to be impacted by the spread of the virus, not least due to loss of staff through self-isolation and sickness absences.

Local government is supporting the work of Local Resilience Forums who are co-ordinating the emergency response to the outbreak which is developing at a rapid pace.

Social care and public health alongside partners in the health sector, and in Welsh and UK governments, are playing a vital role in influencing the spread of the virus which is likely to impact on every service area.

Councillor Andrew Morgan (Rhondda Cynon Taf), WLGA Leader said: "I know many residents will feel confused and anxious as the COVID-19 situation continues to rapidly unfold; I would like to reassure them that councils and partners from other sectors are working closely with Public Health Wales and Welsh and UK Governments to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions and measures to ensure that key services are maintained.

"I’d like to thank all our committed local government staff who are – and will be as always – working very hard to try and stem the impact of the virus on our essential local services.  

"We are closely monitoring the situation and are prepared to issue any measures to protect the public, especially those who are more vulnerable to the disease particularly in social care and residential home settings.”

"Should anyone have any concerns or would like any further information, I would advise residents to visit the Public Health Wales website which is being updated regularly with all the latest information."

More from Local