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#Passthepaper craze continues

How are your #passthepaper skills coming along?

Should be plenty of time to practice over the Easter weekend.

To inspire you, here's what the Somerset Gryphons have been doing - taking it up a level with their hockey sticks!

Over to you!

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Fresh appeal for PPE for workers in Avon and Somerset area

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Businesses across the Avon and Somerset police force area are being asked to help support the local efforts in tackling Covid-19.

The Avon and Somerset Local Resilience Forum, which is a partnership of the police, NHS and local councils, has made the appeal.

It is struggling to find a range of key items:

  • Water repellent surgical face masks
  • Non-latex gloves
  • Disposable plastic aprons
  • Eye protection
  • Hand sanitiser (minimum 60% alcohol content)

Chief executive of Somerset County Council and spokesman for the forum, Pat Flaherty, said: "We are aware that supply chains are under significant pressure and that every effort is being made to fix the problem, however, we are very concerned that some of our critical services do not have the supplies they need."

Any businesses that can help are being asked to email: re asked to e-mail

WI groups sing from their gardens

Rodney Stoke and Draycott WI may be socially distancing at the moment, but that has not stopped them from trying to lift each other's spirits.

The group came together this week on their doorsteps and at a safe distance and sang "Jerusalem".

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Rough sleepers moved into temporary accommodation

Homeless man
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Dozens of rough sleepers across Somerset have been moved into temporary accommodation - because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The government has ordered all local authorities to find housing for anyone in their area who was sleeping on the streets.

Somerset West and Taunton Council's moved around 25 people into rooms at a local college campus in Trull and a hotel in Minehead.

Tributes paid to Lord Bath: "Eccentric, kind and fun"

Lord Bath
PA Media

Tributes are being paid to Lord Bath who died on Saturday.

The 87-year-old owner of Longleat Estate, which runs Cheddar Gorge, died after contracting COVID 19.

In tributes on social media, his friends have described Lord Bath as eccentric, kind and fun.

Urgent appeal for PPE from fire service

Fire engines

Avon Fire and Rescue Service has put out an urgent appeal for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Pat Flaherty, from the Local Resilience Forum, said it was "vital" to protect frontline workers.

He said they were aware "national supply chains are under significant pressure" but expressed concern they did not have the supplies they need.

He said: “As we continue to escalate this urgent issue to government through all available channels, we are attempting to source our own supplies locally so that we can continue to deliver critical services.

"As a short-term measure, we are asking local businesses for any support that they can provide with supplies of PPE. If any are able to help, we would urge them to get in touch.”

'Think twice before bonfires' plea

Adam Durbin

BBC News Online

People should "think twice" before having a bonfire in their garden during this weekend's improved weather, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service has said.

The service said it had seen a spike in 999 calls reporting bonfires and was mistakenly called out to "controlled burns" eight times on Friday night.

DSFRS tweeted: "We all need to be more kind and that starts at home.

"Help out your neighbours (and us) and keep your weekend bonfire free".

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Wiltshire firefighters may become temporary ambulance drivers

Ambulance staff in PPE
PA Media

Firefighters in Wiltshire have started working with the county's ambulance service to help them during the pandemic.

Fire staff are being trained to drive ambulances if South Western Ambulance Service has staff shortages over the coming months.

Chief fire officer for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue, Ben Ansell said: "It might be that we reduce some of our fire engines in order to maintain critical emergency ambulances and have firefighters driving them as a crew of two, with a paramedic."

He added that firefighters in Chippenham were also helping ambulance staff by unpacking and assembling masks and respirators - equipment they're well used to working with.

They're also testing the PPE kit to make sure ambulance staff are being properly protected and are confident how to use it.

What to do at the weekend: #stayhome fun

Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley

Digital Journalist

Family at home
Getty Images

Not sure what to do this weekend? It's going to be good weather for most, but it is important that we all #stayhome.

Here are a few things you can do if you have access to a laptop, computer or phone:

Lock down festival has a line up of musicians being streamed all day on Saturday from 14:00 until 23:00 GMT.

Bristol music venue and restaurant, Bambalan, will be hosting an online party with their resident DJ’s from their Facebook page. Tonight from 21:00 GMT.

You can join in with Carnival Fitness for free this Sunday from midday. Follow the registration link on the event page.

If you are looking for some entertainment for children aged 2 years and upwards, Kidstime Live TV is streaming every Saturday from 18.15 GMT presented by Derek and Suzanne.

While Bristol life coach, Nicky, is delivering a free life coaching session called “Dealing with the reality” to help those who are feeling anxious during lock down. The stream starts at 20:30 GMT on Saturday.

Couple at home with dog
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Zooniverse is great for those who want to unleash the scientist and researcher within. A people-powered research platform that allows the public to help scientists with some of the biggest research projects.

Joe Wicks, also known as The Body Coach, continues to hold his increasingly popular daily fitness classes on YouTube.

Audible has 300 free audio books in six different languages that you can get stuck into.

Carol Vorderman is holding online maths classes for children aged 4-11 on her website The Maths Factor.

The National Theatre is streaming free, full-length plays every Thursday on YouTube. Plan your watching for next week.

Zoos all over the world are providing live animal webcams if you fancy taking a trip to the zoo with the family in the living room.

And if you've time leftover after all that lot you might just have to eat cake?

Community hospitals shut wards to free up resources for coronavirus patients

Daniel Mumby

Local Democracy Reporter

Wellington Community Hospital

Inpatient wards at two of Somerset’s community hospitals have been shut to free up beds for coronavirus patients.

The Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has confirmed that beds at Shepton Mallet and Wellington community hospitals would be freed up by closing inpatient wards, with the beds being transported to five other community hospitals, including Burnham-on-Sea, Minehead, West Mendip, Williton and Wincanton.

They will reopen once the coronavirus pandemic has passed.

The CCG is also working with Somerset County Council and care providers to secure more care beds and bring old care homes back into use.

A spokeswoman said: “We are temporarily consolidating the beds in our community hospitals onto fewer hospital sites, which will enable us to open more beds with a smaller number of colleagues overall.

“These changes are solely in response to the Covid-19 outbreak and are temporary."

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health looking for volunteers

If you want to help the NHS during the coronavirus crisis, Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership is looking for volunteers.

See details below if you want to register:

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West NHS advise how to tackle misinformation

North Bristol NHS is trying to tackle the adverse effects of misinformation during the coronavirus outbreak.

The trust has begun tweeting links to trusted sources of local care and health information in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

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Merlin helicopters to help NHS fight coronavirus

Chris Quevatre

BBC News Online

Helicopters usually used to hunt down submarines have been reassigned to help the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Three Merlin helicopters from 820 Naval Air Squadron at RNAS Culdrose will provide "round-the-clock assistance to the NHS" and ambulance service, acting as "flying ambulances and transporters, flying supplies and personnel".

They will cover a population of more than 4.5 million people across Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Bristol, Somerset, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands.

Merlin heliopter
RNAS Culdrose

RNAS Yeovilton helicopters join fight against virus

Wildcat from RNAS Yeovilton
RNAS Yeovilton

The government has been giving more details of how helicopters based at RNAS Yeovilton will be used to help in the fight against the virus.

Earlier this week Leonardo announced that three of its Wildcats would be operating out of the base.

Cabinet minister, Michael Gove, said: "These helicopter facilities are being set up to support medical transport across Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

"The task force is also available for general support such as moving equipment and personnel to where they are needed."

Appeal for care workers across Somerset

Somerset’s local authorities want care workers to come forward and "play a vital role in tackling coronavirus pressures".

Hospitals, councils and care providers are working together to increase the number of medically-well people who can be discharged home or to a residential care home, freeing up more hospital beds.

They have funded 60 additional beds in care homes, as well as bringing 40 beds in a redundant care home back into use, to create the increased capacity.

"This will be happening quickly and safely in the coming days," they say, "and many of those leaving hospital will need care support, either at home or in a care home.

"More carers, across the sector, are needed to help. They are looking for "people who have ideally worked in care settings before and have retired or moved into different fields".

More information about the paid roles available is here.

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A sporting gesture to help raise funds

England and former Somerset cricketer, Jos Buttler, has put the shirt he wore in last summer's World Cup final victory up for auction to raise money to fight coronavirus.

The former county wicketkeeper is auctioning the shirt on eBay to support two specialist heart and lung centres dealing with the coronavirus response.

The shirt is signed by all the players from the England World Cup squad.

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Letter of appreciation to police for 'working their socks off'

Staff at Yeovil police station say it's "lovely" to be recognised for keeping everyone safe.

They were really touched when they received this letter from Lottie and Louis.

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'Predatory and manipulative' former Bridgwater PC barred

Police officer's jacket
Getty Images

A "predatory and manipulative" former police constable has been barred from serving in the force again following a misconduct hearing.

Ed Farrow, who was based in Bridgwater, Somerset, resigned before he could be dismissed for "inappropriate sexual relationships with vulnerable people".

Avon and Somerset Police said there was "no room in policing for officers who abuse their position".

The allegations were found to be proven in a misconduct hearing.

BBC Somerset giving helpful advice for coronavirus distancing

Always the first to educate, inform and entertain...

Here, the BBC Somerset team even give lessons in social distance dancing.

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National park thanks people for staying away

Tarr Steps
Getty Images

Exmoor National Park Authority has thanked people for following government advice and largely staying away from the beauty spot over the weekend.

National Park rangers worked with police officers from Somerset and Devon to offer information and advice to a small number of walkers, just a week after huge crowds were seen at national parks, prompting concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

“We’re extremely grateful to everyone for foregoing their visits to the national park over the weekend and until restrictions lift," said access and recreation manager Dan Barnett.

He added: "The importance of these places for people’s health and well being cannot be underestimated and we fully appreciate the sacrifice many are making to protect fellow citizens."

Lovely card delivered to South Western Ambulance staff

Well done Millie, Kyla and Pippa for sending this card - it's a real hoot!

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Urgent plea for protective gear for care workers

Care workers across north Somerset are having to work without personal protective equipment due to supplies "drying up", a council has said.

North Somerset Council is appealing to schools, colleges and businesses to help "bridge the gap" until new stocks reach the South West at the beginning of April.

Councillor Mike Bell said: "We need basic items such as masks, disposable gloves, aprons and hand sanitiser.

"Please, if you have them stored away, and don't have an immediate care-related need, get in touch. You will help save lives."

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'Don't break the rules' warns police chief

Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset police force, Andy Marsh, has asked people to "pull together, not pull apart" this weekend, as they enforce stricter powers on movement.

Speaking on @BBCWorldatOne this afternoon, Ch Cons Marsh said officers had already been speaking to members of the public who were gathering at "honey spots" around the region, clarifying that travelling by car to any of the hotspots was not something the Covid-19 restrictions allowed for.

"These people are getting out and congregating in large numbers... using ticket machines... places like Weston-super-Mare seafront and Exmoor are popular destinations.

"The vast majority of people are doing their very best to really limit interactions."

He said police would not hesitate to use the law to make sure the rules were followed.

"The point is to stop the NHS from being overwhelmed. That would cause unprecedented pressures on our police force as well."

"All of our available officers are going to be out and about in the community, explaining to people why they need to stay at home and not break the rules" this weekend, he said.

New police recruits will reinforce #stayhome rules

Avon and Somerset Police have fast-tracked a class of new PC apprentices to bolster their numbers.

Many of the 59 recruits will reinforce efforts to ensure we all stay at home in the fight to control Covid-19.

Ch Const Andy Marsh said: "Our Special Constabulary colleagues are giving even more of their time to support frontline policing.

And now, our latest Police Constable Degree Apprentice students are joining their patrol colleagues from Monday, three weeks ahead of schedule, to provide us with extra resilience."

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'Do not drive to exercise' say police #stayhome

Police officers on patrol in Avon and Somerset and also South Gloucestershire have been posting leaflets on the cars of people who appear to be using them when they shouldn't be under lockdown rules.

The fliers clarify that people should not be driving to another location to enjoy their one exercise period each day.

Police notice
Avon and Somerset police

'Minority has self-entitled attitude' flouting lockdown rules

Chief Constable Andy Marsh and generic shot of police officers

New laws come into force today, giving the police powers to fine those who don't co-operate with the lockdown.

Chief Constable Andy Marsh of Avon and Somerset Police said: "Certainly yesterday I felt that it was much quieter on the streets, so we are talking about a tiny minority of people who think they know best and have a self-entitled attitude.

"We've had one or two instances, a handful of incidents, where there's been coughs in officers' faces, they've been spat at, that sort of thing but let me praise the public - they are doing their very best to follow what must be very taxing rules in very taxing circumstances."

"We're out there engaging, explaining and encouraging and what we're finding is the vast majority of people are receptive.

Avon and Somerset Police closes majority of enquiry offices

Avon and Somerset Police has closed the majority of its offices, and has urged the public to report issues online instead.

The four offices remaining in operation from 8am-8pm (weekdays) and 9am-5pm (weekends) are:

  • Bridewell Police Station, Bristol
  • Patchway Police Centre, South Gloucestershire
  • Bridgwater Police Centre, Somerset
  • Yeovil Police Station, Somerset

The force has said the 101 and 999 numbers remain open, but that 999 should only be used in an emergency, and 101 should only be used if people are unable to make an online enquiry.

Somerset English home-school network reaches thousands

A Somerset English teacher, has set up a Facebook group for parents needing "help, guidance and support" as they home school.

Hannah Rowden was unable to continue teaching the children of key workers during the coronavirus outbreak because of her and her family's health problems.

"I'm immunosuppressed and my youngest son has been admitted to hospital twice with respiratory problems resulting from viral exacerbated asthma, so I've been forced to educate my children at home due to a high risk capacity."

She created the Facebook group last week, to help others that might be in a similar situation, and quickly found she had more than 1500 followers.

It's open to all and available here:

Facebook banner pictures for the group

'Please do not visit Burnham-on-Sea'

A Somerset seaside town is hoping to discourage people from visiting it during the coronavirus outbreak by renaming its social media account.

Burnham-on-Sea's chamber of trade has temporarily renamed its twitter page to 'Please do not visit Burnham-on-Sea'.

It follows local MP James Heappey's appeal for caravan owners to stay away from Burnham.

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