Dorset

Coronavirus: Sherborne support group set up to help vulnerable

Sherborne Abbey
Image caption Sherborne Viral Kindness aims to assist people who are self-isolating during the pandemic

A community group has been set up to help support a town's vulnerable people and businesses during the coronavirus outbreak.

Sherborne Viral Kindness is one of a number of groups nationwide that aim to assist those who are self-isolating.

It was created by several independent traders in the Dorset abbey town and also aims to keep local shops "afloat".

Services will include home food deliveries, as well as street "co-ordinators" offering dog-walking.

Image copyright Sherborne Viral Kindness
Image caption The Cross Keys and Kafe Fontana are two of the local businesses involved

Organiser Jules Bradburn said: "We started asking for volunteers at 9 o'clock this morning and have already had more than 60 people offering to help.

"Each co-ordinator will be responsible for a street, or in some cases one of the outlying villages.

"They will exchange contact numbers with their neighbours and offer services such as book and medicine deliveries, dog-walking, or they'll be there in case that person just needs a chat."

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She said the local businesses involved, including cafes and pubs, were aiming to carry out twice-daily deliveries of items including ready meals, fruit and vegetables, and sandwiches.

"We want to encourage people to shop local to keep local businesses afloat and supported during these uncertain times."

She added it was hoped leftover food could also be supplied to the local food bank.

"It's about joined-up thinking and the whole community coming together, and everyone being able to access what they need."

Image copyright Sherborne Viral Kindness
Image caption Other deliveries on offer include newspapers, wine, cakes and flowers

Sadie Wilkins, who has an underlying heart condition, said the service was "something positive amid a grim outlook".

"When I inevitably do go into isolation, not having to open the door and a delivery of goods being made to my door - like a fairy godmother - can't be anything but positive.

"It will also be comforting to know I could talk to a co-ordinator and check my neighbours are all right."

Katy - not her real name, who lives in the neighbouring village, Milborne Port, said the group was a "brilliant idea".

Her husband has an underlying medical condition and she said she had "absolutely agonised long and hard about how we were going to cope".

"Everybody has got to play their part in this," she added.

On Monday, the prime minister said everyone in the UK should avoid "non-essential" travel and contact with others to fight coronavirus.

He said people should work from home where possible, as part of a range of stringent new measures.

Pregnant women, people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions should consider the advice "particularly important", he said.

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