My letter to Bristol

Today marks a significant day for Bristol.

Twelve months ago, Bristol registered its first confirmed case of COVID-19 as the city began its response to the pandemic that has swept the globe.

Since Wednesday 3 March 2020, your efforts to protect lives, help the vulnerable, limit the spread of the virus and support one and other has been a source of city pride.

During that time over half a million tests have been taken with 29,500 positive cases being recorded.

This pandemic has affected our lives in different ways and tested every feature of our city from business to education, to transport to even elections.  It has been extremely challenging for all of us, but hit our most vulnerable communities hardest. We know that the underlying drivers of inequality will worsen. But we will do all we can to win support to protect jobs and urge government to front-load investment in green infrastructure to generate jobs and decarbonise the economy.

Despite these challenges we have faced, Bristol has responded and is rebuilding. Through a One City approach we are working together to organise the city to take challenges on. We have an incredible voluntary sector that has rallied around to support our most vulnerable residents. Through Can Do Bristol we’ve had 4,000 people pledge to help in their communities, and around 3,000 vulnerable residents have been supported with things like befriending, collecting shopping and prescriptions and dog walking.

We are all missing out on the things we love, and many of us have lost people we love as well. Sadly, 563 people in Bristol have tragically lost their lives to this virus over the last year. Each and every one of them will be remembered and to everyone who is grieving, I send my deepest condolences. I thank the faith leaders across the city for coming forward to reach out and support those would have had to face loss alone.

Our community testing programme over the last twelve months has seen over half a million tests taken, through rapid testing at workplaces and symptomatic testing at established Local Testing Sites. Now, as we look ahead to cautiously easing out of national lockdown restrictions from Monday 8 March, I ask you to be patient.

I know many people are looking forward to the coming months where national restrictions will begin to ease, particularly those who have sadly been unable to work and all of us who are desperate to see friends and family.

The speed of the roll-out of the national vaccination programme is an incredible testament to our NHS and healthcare colleagues and provides an important vision of hope for us. I’m pleased to see that over 100,000 people in Bristol alone have already had one dose of the vaccination. We will continue to support healthcare colleagues in this successful role out.

However, we must not throw twelve months of effort away now. We want this unlocking to be for the final time, no more lockdowns and no further restrictions. Achieving this is our personal responsibility. It is the actions of the individual that will determine whether this truly is the last lockdown needed.

We must take each step of this roadmap to easing restrictions one at a time, and only once the data and the impact of unlocking tells us it’s safe to do so, take another step to getting back to what we love.

If you need support, know that we are here for you. Our We Are Bristol helpline is open seven days a week on 0800 691 0184.

Thank you for all you are doing and have done over the last year – we will get through this together.