AMID increasing fear and uncertainty over the spread of coronavirus, the local community is pulling together in an effort to ensure that those most at risk from the infection are cared for.
Community groups, organisations, sporting clubs and locals have all come together to extend a helping hand to the most vulnerable members of the community with the pandemic also forcing the unprecedented closure of public facilities, public houses, restaurants and cinemas and the cancellation of countless planned events and functions.
According to medical experts, those over the age of 70 and anyone with underlying health conditions are most at risk from the virus and are being advised to stay at home as much as possible.
In the midst of the mounting chaos, local groups have mobilised to ensure vulnerable individuals are not forgotten about by offering help with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and running essential errands.
At the time of going to press yesterday (Tuesday), the number of people who had contracted COVID-19 in Northern Ireland was confirmed as 62.
Over the weekend the power of social media came to the fore as a number of local people united via a new Facebook page – Need Something? I Have It! – which has almost 3,000 members.
The aim of the group is to foster the goodwill and community spirit of townsfolk who are wiling to help in whatever way they can in the town and surrounding areas.
Melmount Community Forum and the local Community and Rescue Service are also accepting donations of small items that may assist older residents through the situation. Collection points have been set-up at the Forum’s Ballycolman premises and the adjoining shop.
Ivan Barr said: “With the current panic buying our more senior residents are finding it hard to get the very basics needed to see them through this unfortunate situation... Please think of your older neighbours at this difficult time.”
Meanwhile Strabane Community Project confirmed that while it has closed its Luncheon Club due to the risks associated with COVID-19, it will continue to deliver essential supplies to older people.
“As this is a lifeline to members and families we will continue to deliver meals on a daily basis to all Luncheon Club members’ homes along with additional deliveries of milk, bread, newspapers, prescription collections etc and any other supplies that are need.
“Strabane Community Project are offering this service to all older people within our community”, a spokesperson said.
The much-valued group said it is monitoring the situation and is currently putting into place emergency responses to continue its vital services to older people at risk of isolation and in need of food supplies.
SCP’s office remains open and can be contacted between the hours of 9.30am to 3.30pm, Monday to Friday, on 02871 883102.
Strabane independent councillor Raymond Barr has also urged people to come together for the good of all.
“There are tough times ahead no doubt and I have no doubt the civic pride and community spirit which Strabane is famous for will come to the fore.
“I would ask everyone to unite in a concerted effort to help the vulnerable and disadvantaged get through this time,” he said
“Maybe it won’t be as bad as feared. That would be a bonus but we have to take it as it is regardless of our personal opinions.
“There are a lot of worried people out there; not everyone can afford to stock up on essentials like medicines, children’s nappies and food, and really, is it right a mother should be sitting with no essentials to feed or look after her children while a neighbour is sitting with three months supply?”
He added: “It’s a time to look out for each other and possibly consider the setting up of groups that can liaise with statutory and voluntary bodies.
“It’s a time to put all differences, political and otherwise aside and work together to get through this.”
Meanwhile, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, councillor Michaela Boyle has pleaded with people who are panic buying from shops, leaving shelves empty for basic essentials such as hand sanitizers, toilet roll, bread and pasta, to think about others.
Local supermarkets have been stripped of pasta, toilet paper and canned food and even nappies have been difficult to come by in recent days.
“I would appeal to everyone who is frantically out there buying supplies of whatever goods it is. Please be mindful there are others less fortunate. Please purchase an extra item or two or three and drop them off at your nearest food bank
“Our food banks will need replenished. If you know someone or a family in your community that may need help during this awful crisis reach out to help them,” she said.