Council staff in Devon have been abused and accused of spreading coronavirus while supporting vulnerable people, the leader of the county authority has revealed.
John Hart says that hundreds of workers are operating as ‘another emergency service’ during the virus crisis.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the way staff have responded to the crisis in so many different ways over the past few weeks,” he said.
“We are in direct contact with the police over the small minority of ignorant people who have been abusing our staff and accusing them of spreading the virus while they are working to support some of our most vulnerable people, who may well have no-one else to help them.
“We will not tolerate this type of behaviour and we will not hesitate to support the police in prosecuting them.”
Hundreds of extremely vulnerable people have been contacted as part of a ‘shielding’ effort to ensure everyone who has to stay home for 12 weeks receives essential food, medicine and additional care.
Councillor Hart added: “Team Devon is on the front line of the battle against this virus.
“This has been a huge out-of-normal-hours effort by everyone involved and provisions have now arrived in Devon ready for immediate distribution by our district colleagues.
“It is just one example of how we are supporting NHS staff in their valiant efforts to control this deadly disease.”
Work is also under way to convert the Hampton at Hilton hotel in Exeter to provide temporary beds for people being discharged from hospital to free-up ward space for more intensive care facilities.
Cllr Hart added: “The county council is working closely with our hospitals to ensure that anyone who can be cared for in their own homes, in residential homes or in these temporary facilities, can be safely discharged with proper support.
“We are currently working on a number of other, similar options around Devon in case existing care home capacity becomes insufficient and we are supporting our care staff directly by strongly lobbying the Government to ensure they have all the protective equipment they so badly need to continue their vital work supporting their elderly and vulnerable clients.”
Cllr Hart also praised headteachers and staff at around 160 schools across Devon who are working over the Easter holidays to provide care and support for the children of key workers.
He said: “This is just another excellent example of real dedication on the part of the people of Devon in helping to keep the services available for those who need it.
“We are also working with the district, town and parish councils in a way that I can only call Team Devon.
“There is a tremendous community spirit existing across Devon to support those who need help, be they young or old and especially the vulnerable.”
“I said some weeks ago that Devon County Council would do whatever it takes to help our residents through this crisis and these are examples of what we are doing.
“But none of it would be properly effective without the dedication and spirit of our staff and I want to pay tribute to that.”