Community approach will outlast the coronavirus
AS AUSTRALIA moves into the next phase of handling coronavirus, Bellingen's Pandemic Response Group is already one step ahead.
The community was quick to open a Covid-19 testing clinic before the State Government had even established one.
Now they have forward planned to the end of June, but expect to remain operational even beyond coronavirus.
The Pandemic Response Group is facilitated by council and supported by five groups that formed to tackle coronavirus.
They include the Business Support Network, which helps businesses navigate the Federal Government's grants and payments.
The Clinical Action Group runs the Covid-19 clinic, manned by a rotation of local doctors, and tests about 20 people a day.
Another arm, the Neighbourhood Care Network, comprises a web of volunteers who assist members of the community.
Volunteer co-ordinators now support 80 per cent of the shire's dwellings, with 548 people registered to receive some level help.
"The support they offer varies. Some ring because they need their scripts picked up, or their groceries delivered or need help with IT so they can Skype with their grandchildren," Bellingen Shire Council deputy general manager corporate and community Michelle McFadyen said.
"They are doing some amazing things like afternoon drinks where people sit at the end of their driveway and one person takes their turn to walk up the street."
The Pandemic Response Group has also established a website and a Connection Centre (6655 1211) for referral and support.
Ms McFadyen said the feedback from Bellingen shire residents was that of great relief knowing support was out here.
"They feel supported, knowing somebody has got this, even though they might not need it - just knowing what our community has done," she said.
She said the response group wanted to continue post Covid-19.
"This is setting us up for future crises, like bushfires or floods and things like the call centre can be stood up or stood down when needed and the website repurposed.
"It's all there ready to go."