Two Walsall coronavirus deaths confirmed as last borough council meeting held
Two people from Walsall have died from coronavirus with more than a dozen cases confirmed, public health bosses have confirmed.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust announced earlier this week that a woman in her 80s had died after testing positive for coronavirus but Walsall Council’s director of public health revealed last night that two people in the borough have died.
In the last public Walsall Council meeting for at least two months, the Covid-19 crisis dominated the agenda as authority bosses discussed the increased response in the town.
The council will launch a single community telephone number imminently to ensure people in the borough get the support they need during the crisis.
Services affected so far include the closure of leisure centres with staff being redeployed elsewhere in the authority, while schools will close on Friday for children apart from the most vulnerable and those whose parents are classed as key workers.
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Some less front-line or emergency functions of departments such as children’s services will also cease while announcements on facilities such as libraries is expected imminently.
Stephen Gunther, director of public health at the authority, said: “As of today, we have 13 confirmed cases in the borough and sadly two deaths.
“We have stepped up our response. We now have a strategic, tactical and operational response which is being led by executive directors.
“Our main aim is to maintain the welfare of our community, mitigating the long-term impacts of Covid-19 to Walsall.”
According to the latest Public Health England figures 14 people in the borough have now tested positive for the virus, although the true number of cases is likely to be much higher due to people with mild symptoms not being tested.
Meanwhile the first death in Sandwell was announced on Wednesday along with three more deaths in Wolverhampton, one in Dudley, and two in Birmingham.
Mr Gunther added the seven objectives of their plan to tackle coronavirus included making sure critical and essential services provided by the council continued to be provided while the most vulnerable residents – both adults and children – were protected.
The authority will also be working closely with health partners, mobilising community assets, mitigating the economic impact on the town, getting the right messages out and also thinking about the recovery phase when that comes.
Councillor Garry Perry, portfolio holder for community leisure and culture, said the authority has also implemented its new ‘resilient communities’ model, launched last year as part of the Walsall Proud Programme, to help tackle the crisis.
He said the community action response was already having a positive impact in the town.
Councillor Perry said: “We are here to support the community, we are not going to stand by.
“If there is anything positive about this situation it is really showing us what are communities are both willing to do and how they are very quickly coming together.
“We thought we were already aware of what was out there in Walsall but what we are seeing is new groups flourishing, neighbourliness is becoming really important again and that is the spirit of Britain and also the type of spirit that is going to get us through this horrific time period.”
On Wednesday, Walsall Council leader Mike Bird also announced local authority meetings were suspended until May when the full annual general meeting will take place.
Any crucial executive decisions that have to be made in the meantime will be taken by Councillor Bird and senior officers.
He said: “We need to calm the situation down, stop the panic people are trying to spread.
“It will be a test of our mettle, but I’m sure everything we do will take the communities with us. We are on top of the situation and we are here to help the people.”
He added: “My thanks go to all of the staff at Walsall Council for working over and above the expectations. They are doing a great job.”
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