Coronavrius: Sunderland council chief tells city "we will get through this if we work together"

The chief executive of Sunderland City Council is urging residents to come together and support each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 11:26 am

Patrick Melia said the values that he believes Sunderland people share will be what will get the city through the challenges that lie ahead, as the country tries to limit the impact of COVID-19.

He said: “These are unprecedented times.

“As the situation with coronavirus unfolds before the world’s eyes, we face a crisis of unparalleled proportions and one that we all hope we will never have to overcome again as a global community.

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Patrick Melia, Sunderland City Council Chief Executive.

“It is in times of adversity that we fall back on our values as a city. Sunderland has been built on a spirit of resilience. Of communities coming together to support each other. Of kindness. Of care.

“And a can-do attitude that has pulled us through all-but the most perilous of times as a community. It is these values – that we live and breathe - that will pull us through this uncertain time, stronger and closer than ever before.”

Mr Melia said the council’s main priority is to make sure that residents – in particular, vulnerable people in the city – and businesses are prioritised.

He added: “There is no escaping the fact that the effects of COVID-19 will be wide-ranging and enormously challenging for all corners of the country – Sunderland included.

“Many companies will have to take difficult decisions, and we will have to – collectively – work hard to regroup and recover together. That is what we will do. It is what Sunderland has always done as a city.

“Nobody and no business is immune from the impact of global events such as this, but we know that there are people and companies that are particularly vulnerable, and it is incumbent on us all to rally together and support them through this time.

“All we can do at this time is to think on our feet and be agile enough as a council to respond to this rapidly-developing situation - to find new ways of delivering services to people across the city. And we will do that. Our priorities are clear.

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“The health and wellbeing of our people is paramount. We are doing everything we can to support our friends in the NHS to deliver the world-class care they do – and to ensure that any resident who does contract this virus has the best chance of making a full recovery.

“We will be doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable and at-risk families, directing services to support them through what we know is a worrying time.

“But, of course, everyone has a role to play in this and you can help us by following Government advice – wash your hands often, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze and, please, follow guidance on self-isolation if you or a family member has symptoms.

“The council is rallying together with other organisations on the front-line of service delivery to ensure care and support is directed in the right way.

“We will be working with partners to deliver the best care we can in the community. We know that many voluntary sector organisations and groups are already mobilised and we will support them as a council – as an extended service across the city – to support some of the most vulnerable, unwell and at-risk people across Sunderland.

“Our partners do fantastic work year-round, but during times like this, they absolutely come into their own and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude now more than ever.

“We know that for many businesses, this is a worrying and uncertain time too. We are working with partners across the region to ensure that the Government’s promise of support for companies that may be under strain as a result of this pandemic is delivered as quickly and effectively as possible.

“We are looking at new ways of dispersing our team to ensure that – should members of council staff become unwell – others can step in and support. The team are doing an incredible job of keeping the city running smoothly. It’s been humbling to see how people have come together to help each other.

“Crises like this show who the real heroes are in our community – health workers and hospital staff, shop workers, public services like the emergency services, who carry on delivering warm, empathetic support when I am sure their instinct is to stay close to their family. On behalf of the city, we must say a huge thank you to everyone who is pulling together to keep Sunderland in the best shape possible.

“I know many people and businesses in Sunderland will be worried and uncertain. We are doing everything we possibly can to keep everyone safe, well-informed, and to minimise disruption to vital services, while keeping our own team safe.

“There is no doubt we will face challenges. But we will get through this if we work together, support each other and step up to all that lies ahead – as a council we will do everything we possibly can to ensure Sunderland comes through this in the strongest possible position.

“The key thing we must do is to look out for each other – to follow the advice given by UK Government - and to support those that need it the most. These are challenging times for everyone, but by working together, we can get though it.”

For information about coronavirus, visit and follow @SunderlandUK on social media for regular updates.