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Leading Through the Pandemic

Episode 7 of our Covid-19 Reflections podcast series has landed and in this instalment Mick Ord speaks to two people who exercised huge responsibility during Covid.

The leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council Louise Gittins remembers following the development of the virus in January 2020.

“I remember in the very early days that I was quite scared,” she says. “It was starting to dawn on me the enormity of my role as council leader in keeping everyone safe. It was the fear of the unknown. I was overwhelmed but very much up for the challenge to do the best we could.

“By February it was clear something was going to happen so we were preparing ourselves.”

But Professor Ian Ashworth, the Director of Public Health in Cheshire at the time, recalls his frustrations around his inability to prepare effectively due to the unwillingness from national government to allow local leaders to lead.

Every single community had people volunteering to look out for each other and went over and above.

“The biggest thing that surprised me was that the information coming to local areas took a lot longer from a national level,” he says. “We were ready to go with community response with shielding lists and who we would need to get food out to. It was really frustrating.

“We were left to fend for ourselves. We were hearing from our independent care homes who couldn’t get hold of PPE and it felt like we could have been doing a lot more if we’d have been given the resources we needed early.”

But Gittins remembers how the community pulled together to plug the gap that the government left wide open.

"People set up food banks and people came together to make sure everyone was protected. Every single community had people volunteering to look out for each other and went over and above.

“When I look back, that’s the thing that will stay with me. And that has continued, that sense of community. A lot of those new groups have continued.”

Covid-19 Reflections is the creative manifestation of that community response. Residents and communities have joined together to reflect on this time and preserve their thoughts for future generations.

Listen to Episode 7 of the Covid-19 Reflections podcast here.

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