The Limerick COVID-19 Community Response group established to coordinate the volunteer effort to support the elderly and those with underlying conditions during the novel Coronavirus crisis has stated it is hugely encouraged by the reaction to the initiative.
The service is up and running, with the trend showing that collection and drop off of shopping and prescriptions are set to be the most common tasks performed.
Established on Friday and based at the Munster GAA headquarters - home also of Limerick GAA - contact has been growing incrementally by the day across both the volunteer email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, and the 1800 832 005 freephone helpline. An additional email address is also now available for people needing support email@example.com.
With the need for the centre, which operates from 8am to 8pm daily, set to increase over the coming weeks in line with the anticipated peak period for the COVID-19 pandemic impact here in Ireland, organisers of the initiative say that they have been heartened by the level of activity and welcome for the service already.
Speaking today, Anne Rizzo, Limerick City and County Council, which is leading the response alongside an Garda Síochána and the HSE and backed by up to 40 sporting, community and religious groups across the city and county, expressed confidence with regard to the centre’s readiness for peak demand.
“We’ve been hugely encouraged by the response. We’ve had people contacting us on our volunteer email address and on our helpline, just offering their support. We’ve also had plenty of initial calls from people who need the service. These have been resolved either at the centre itself or by our volunteers on the ground. Given it has been pulled together so quickly, the system is working well.”
Inspector Andrew Lacey, Limerick Gardaí, which has two garda sergeants in place at the centre at all times, said that in excess of 350 volunteers have been made available via the Limerick GAA club network and 55 volunteers have already put themselves forward for work at the call centre.
As of last evening, Tuesday, a total of 135 calls were logged by volunteers, with the numbers rising incrementally each day. Approximately 21% have been dealt with by operational Gardaí in the Division with 79% either completed by volunteers on the ground or dealt with by call centre staff.
“It’s been a really good start. We have volunteers stepping forward and we have increasing numbers of calls from people that need the service. Most of them are in the city and we certainly want the message to go out that we are there for people in the city and people across the county. We have a volunteer network that reaches into every corner of the county, with people ready and really happy to help.
“So far, the calls mostly relate to shopping and prescription collection for the elderly and vulnerable, with signposting of services and general advice of the new government regulations and other related matters also prominent. Peak time for calls between 9.30am and 4pm so far. Our volunteers are really up for the task and will endeavor to assist in any way they can or, at the very least, point callers in the direction of those who can help. A lot of callers made contact with us to say they were delighted we are here, that they don’t need us just yet, but may do in the coming weeks.
“The objective for us now is to make sure we deal with all queries that come in but also that awareness of the service grows so we are asking people to make sure that they pass on our information and contact details to those living alone or in isolation due to Coronavirus. We are also very keen that this is a success as the better it works the more people will be able to stay in isolation and hopefully minimise the spread of the virus and the impact on frontline services trying to cope with that.”
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