Fifty-eight days ago all of our lives changed forever. Fifty-eight days ago the UK entered a lockdown to protect us from the transmission of the coronavirus. And since then, we have all faced challenges, fear and uncertainty. So I want to start by acknowledging and thanking all our staff and residents for the sacrifices they have made and to pay tribute to those who are no longer with us.

The scale of this crisis and the scale of response that we have delivered is vast. We already had robust plans in place to respond to a pandemic situation and were able to respond rapidly to keep our staff and customers safe. Within 24 hours we took steps to adjust our ways of working and ensuring our most essential services kept going. In just over a week we set up a new Community Hub to provide support and assistance to our residents who were in need and couldn’t get help elsewhere.

To date we have handled nearly 2,000 calls to the helpline, and have distributed over 550 food parcels to vulnerable residents, with many more distributed by other groups across the city. We’ve supported the local economy, distributing grant funding to over 2,500 local small businesses. We’ve redeployed staff across the council and been able to reinstate some temporarily suspended services like the collection of green waste and kerbside glass recycling in a matter of weeks. Our unsung heroes across the city have been working tirelessly to keep our city going and will continue to do so.

There is still a lot of uncertainty ahead, but as a council we are looking to the future and developing plans to support our residents and city to recover, rebuild and renew. But although the government set out plans for reducing lockdown measures last week, we must still maintain social distancing and take the necessary precautions as we adapt our lives. I know that this will be hard for all of us, and the pain of these ongoing measures will be weighing heavily on us all especially with the absence of friends and family who are not nearby.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and the theme this year is kindness. I am proud to see that across Southampton we have seen kindness prevailing as people come together to support one another and their communities in these uncertain times. We have seen voluntary groups coming together to help their communities, neighbours and friends, checking in on one another and helping with things like shopping for those who can’t get out and about.

Our Community Hub has been helping those in most need, businesses have donated PPE and food, and the whole city has been celebrating our key workers every Thursday evening from their doorsteps and workplaces. Although we are socially distancing, Southampton has come together with resolution and determination, and with kindness, to face this challenge.

Fifty-eight days ago our lives changed forever. But I know that however uncertain the future may look and whatever challenges it might bring, we will face it together, as community, with that same resolve, determination and kindness, to become a greener, fairer and healthier city.

Cllr Chris Hammond

Leader of Southampton City Council