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Bristol’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Bristol’s response to coronavirus (COVID-19)

What the council and other groups and organisations have done to help communities, businesses and individuals affected by coronavirus in Bristol.

City leadership

  • Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees and the council’s Cabinet have been communicating regularly with citizens through local media, video updates, Facebook Live, email newsletters, the council website and the Mayor’s Blog.
  • To make sure we can continue our democratic processes while social distancing, we ran council meetings and other democratic meetings online and streamed them on YouTube. Citizens could take part remotely and submit questions online.
  • Bristol works with city partners as part of the Bristol One City plan. This means city organisations have been used to working together on priority issues, an approach that has been vital during coronavirus and as we plan how the city recovers. Our commitment to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals has been central this approach.

Support for the community

  • The people of Bristol quickly offered support to vulnerable people in our communities, including businesses offering time and resources. We ran an appeal for volunteers on the CanDoBristol website and connected them with 23 community and volunteer organisations to help respond to more than 3,000 requests for support.
  • We launched a recruitment campaign for emergency foster carers with a fast track system to enable applicants to become emergency foster carers within 5 weeks, subject to assessment, safeguarding checks and approval.
  • We used information from our databases and national lists of ‘shielded people’ to contact vulnerable people and find out what support they needed, such as emergency food parcels, medicine collection and befriending services, and redeployed council staff to provide that support.
  • We launched a phone line and email address for people to contact if they were experiencing hardship or were unable to leave the house because they were self isolating or shielding. We provided food parcels or matched people with volunteers to help them.
  • We produced posters to help businesses and shopkeepers communicate social distancing advice to their customers.
  • Bristol Ageing Better launched a new support hub for older people and their families.
  • In April, 220 University of Bristol medical students qualified early in a virtual qualification ceremony, so they could join the NHS early as junior doctors to help patients with COVID-19.
  • Bristol’s Black South West Network supported BAME led businesses, organisations and communities by giving advice and guidance, and collected data to produce a report on the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities with recommendations for addressing gaps in the support available.
  • We worked with community organisations to set up temporary food banks in areas where they were most needed.
  • Bristol based social enterprise 91 Ways to Build a Global City have provided food parcels for black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and given information about other support. In the long term, they’ll work with BAME communities to improve their health, using learning from the pandemic about underlying health issues within these communities and the disproportionate impact of the crisis on BAME people.
  • Our Going for Gold food sustainability network shared guidance on reducing food waste and shopping locally during the lockdown, as well as inspiring stories on how communities were supporting people who needed help to access food. They also produced a map showing the locations of some supermarkets, food shops and pharmacies.
  • Bristol Food Network ran a #BristolFoodKind campaign to encourage people at home to grow food, cook food and support local businesses.
  • Members of Bristol’s independent restaurant community formed the Bristol Food Union , in which chefs who were unable to work led projects to provide food for frontline workers, young people leaving care and homeless people living in temporary accommodation.  

A safe place to stay for rough sleepers and vehicle dwellers

  • We worked with local hotels to set up emergency accommodation for rough sleepers, including those with no recourse to public funds, so they had a safe and clean space to sleep. It also provided income for hotels that had had to close to the public.
  • We set up two temporary van sites for people who live in vans or other vehicles, so they can social distance and access health and sanitation facilities.

Businesses, jobs and economic recovery

  • We quadrupled the size of the team responsible for business grants and other benefits, meaning we could process applications quickly and proactively contact eligible businesses. As of 27 May 2020, we'd paid £83,565,000 in grants to 6561 businesses.
  • Our Ways2Work website promotes job vacancies to the public and support agencies.
  • Bristol-based production company Rubber Republic put together a short film showing how small businesses are changing how they operate to keep people safe and fed during the lockdown.
  • The Lockdown Economy created an online directory of independent businesses still trading during coronavirus.
  • Many Community Learning courses have moved online, giving people the chance to develop English, Maths and employability skills.
  • The University of Bristol launched an internship scheme that will fund internships for 100 of their students and recent graduates at local small and medium enterprises in Bristol that are dealing with challenges brought about by coronavirus.
  • Business West are providing free advice to businesses with podcasts, clinics, webinars and regular updates and guides on government support to help them recover from the pandemic.

Getting around the city

  • We plan to change how people get around the city during and after coronavirus, including:
    • turning part of the city centre into a pedestrian-only zone
    • restricting a major vehicle route for vehicles through the city centre
    • widening pavements to help physical distancing and improve cycle routes 

Science and environment

  • The University of the West of England is hosting a 300 bed temporary Nightingale hospital on its Frenchay campus and produced essential goods such as specialist disinfectant and protective visors for frontline staff.
  • A team from the University of Bristol’s School of Chemistry is producing World Health Organisation (WHO) standard hand sanitiser for key workers throughout the city. The team has so far produced more than 2,500 litres of hand sanitiser, which was distributed to Bristol key workers such as the emergency services, postal workers, waste management operatives and transport staff.
  • The University of Bristol is contributing to research on vaccine trials, understanding how the virus spreads and new test methods, as well as research to understand the impact on society, including domestic violence, poverty and the economy.
  • Bristol’s Festival of Nature asked citizens to take part in a City Nature Challenge, photographing wildlife in gardens and local parks and uploading them to their website, as the lockdown meant more people were spending time at home and in their local areas. These were added to the region’s conservation records to help understand the effect of the lockdown on wildlife and inform future environmental decision making.

Young people

  • We launched #WeAreBristol Kids, an online hub for Bristol’s children with fun and educational resources for children and parents
  • Wesport provided resources to keep young people active at home.
  • The Stories at Home initiative provides books for vulnerable families during lockdown.

Art and culture

  • Visit Bristol: Bristol from home enables anyone to ‘visit’ Bristol and enjoy its creative spirit from home. It was rated in the top 12 virtual tourism campaigns in the world by Rough Guides.
  • The Bristol Culture and Creative Industries team, which deals with our museums and archives,  is collecting objects and oral histories to act as a permanent record of this time in the city’s history. These include letters between neighbours, window rainbows, photos, and pairs of fabric hearts made for people in intensive care and their families.
  • We produced a new film as part of our #WeAreBristol campaign. City of Hope was made in collaboration with Bristol poet Vanessa Kisuule and aims to remind citizens of the rich and varied communities and cultures that make Bristol special, while they were unable to meet in person.
  • The Bristol Slapstick Festival launched Laughter in Lockdown on their YouTube channel, sharing a decade’s worth of previously unseen comedy footage.
  • Belly Laughs at Home was a live streamed Bristol based comedy show that raised money for local charities.
  • The BFI NETWORK and Bristol-based Watershed and Encounters launched #shortitout, which invited filmmakers of every age and experience level to create and submit 90 second films during lockdown. It was delivered with partners BAFTA, BBC and Channel 4, encouraged creativity and storytelling, and provided opportunities to hone filmmaking skills and connect with peers.

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