Limerick COVID 19 volunteer response up and running: The centre, open from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. daily, set to increase over the coming weeks in line with the anticipated peak period for the COVID-19 pandemic impact here in Ireland.
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UPDATE: Limerick’s COVID-19 volunteer response calls double in ten days
Wednesday, April 8, 2020: The Limerick COVID-19 Community Response has kicked into action this week, with daily calls to the helpline from those most vulnerable to the Coronavirus pandemic almost tripled from its first few days.
Ten days following the launch of the initiative the helpline number is receiving up to 70 calls each day from people looking for support across Limerick city and county. Organisers of the volunteer programme are expecting these numbers to rise considerably next week when a booklet (The Community Call) explaining the service lands in every household around the county.
Speaking today, Anne Rizzo of Limerick City and County Council, who is coordinating the programme, said that they are more than ready for the spike thanks to the incredible groundswell of support from volunteers.
“We’re really thrilled with how things are going so far and in the midst of all, we are going through as a nation, to have a response like this taking flight as it is gives great encouragement and hope. In the first five days of the service we were averaging about 25 calls per day but now we are up to 70 per day and that’s going to grow next week when a booklet arrives to every household dwelling of any sort letting people know of the service and with all the contact details,” she said.
“So far, we have been promoting the service on print, broadcast and online media and on social media and have got great traction on our promotional video but a lot of people who are isolated because of their vulnerability to the virus still may not be aware of the service. The Community Call booklet will do a lot to address that as it will not alone get to the people who may need support but also their loved ones who, in turn, can activate the service on their behalf.”
Anne also said the most common ask of volunteers is the collection of prescriptions. “Yesterday, for example, we had 63 calls and nearly half of them were regarding collection of prescriptions. Five were for groceries and a small number also regarding social isolation; people wanting to be checked in on. There were a number of sign-posting calls, people looking to know about other services and information and these are extremely important also.”
Regarding the volunteer piece, she said: “Through the GAA, FAI and Munster Rugby and local rugby clubs, we have well over 300 volunteers already signed up. But then we have had hundreds of more calls on top of that from volunteers. These include from businesses who are offering their services for free and we are so grateful to these. Some of the offers are specific to what the businesses do themselves but others are just offering their time and their vehicles.
“This is all so encouraging. Limerick people collectively have put their hands up and said they want to help. It says a lot about them. People from all areas of the city and county, from all backgrounds, male and female. We really couldn’t be happier and we are ready now for any spike in activity over the coming weeks and months. Ultimately, we are going to have to protect those most vulnerable to the virus for quite some time yet and we will be here to do that as long as is needed.”
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, [email protected], and the 1800 832 005 freephone helpline. An additional email address is also now available for people needing support [email protected]
With the need for the centre, which operates from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. 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.
Anne Rizzo from 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 Gardai, 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.
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. The peak time for calls is between 9.30 am and 4 pm so far.
Our volunteers are really up for the task and will endeavour 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 services 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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