HOW LIVERPOOL IS HELPING THE PLIGHT TO SURVIVE COVID-19 CRISIS

by Roz Lloyd
7th April 2020

LIVERPOOL CITY REGION IS KNOWN FOR ITS ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT, TEAMWORK AND ‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER’ MENTALITY.

This new pandemic is demonstrating how Liverpool is ‘pulling it out of the bag’ and tackling the plight to survive COVID-19, globally and locally, not just our health and life sciences community but also local businesses and communities. Here’s just a few of the amazing variety of contributions from this place we call home.

 

Academics, medics and students collaborate with groundbreaking innovations

Our world-class Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) is leading the way in research into how COVID-19 can be identified quicker, therefore reducing the numbers of people infected. Dr Emily Adams said: “These tests could be a game-changer for diagnosis and follow-up of patients both in hospital and in the community, allowing us to detect cases early and isolate patients and their families rapidly.” 

Prototypes are being sent to global world-leading labs and will be manufactured in the UK and in Senegal. LSTM have been awarded special funding and are working with scientists and businesses all around the globe. 

LSTM, the University of Liverpool (UoL), and the NHS have united to redirect the majority of Liverpool’s research efforts to COVID-19. This programme is supported by approximately £1 million in pump priming from the institutions, over 200 researchers, and underpinned by equipment and laboratory space across the Liverpool City Region. The Health Protection Research Unit in Emerging Zoonotic Infections and the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Diseases Research are working to deliver an ambitious and innovative programme of work. 

The Centre for Genomic Research at the UoL has a world-leading reputation in genomic analysis of infectious disease. They are studying the genetic formation of the virus, and Professor Darby, who co-directs the university’s Centre for Genomic Research said: “By reading the genetic code of thousands of viruses we can track how the virus is spreading through a population. This evidence will help Public Health England guide policy decisions. This information is also incredibly useful in evaluating how effective new drugs or control measures are.” Professor Hiscox, said: “In our lab we have worked for many years on coronaviruses, and so have been able to respond quickly to SARS-CoV-2.” 

UoL has received a £5 million from Medical Research Council to establish and utilise the Outbreak Laboratory at Liverpool which is a unique UK National resource enabling collection, distribution and analysis of thousands of specimens at high containment levels to ensure public safety. Professor Semple and a team of specially trained scientists and technicians can support this research in Liverpool’s high-level Biological Safety Laboratories. They will collect samples and data from 1,300 COVID-19 patients in the UK. The results will provide real-time information about the virus and disease which should help to control the outbreak and improve treatment for patients.  

 

And that’s just the science!

It’s not just the university’s professors and lecturers working on a solution, more than 230 final-year medical students have volunteered to help the NHS tackle the COVID-19 crisis. Students, just a few months away from becoming qualified doctors will use their skills to support patient care. Dr Rob Jones, Clinical Sub-Dean for Aintree University Hospital NHS Trust, said: “The students only have 2-3 months of their training to complete. They’re highly-skilled, highly-competent young individuals and I have a great amount of faith in them.” Student Priya Bijut said: “If we’re not volunteering, we’ll just be sat at home. So, it’s better that we’re out there working, getting the experience we need and helping the NHS.”

Also at UoL, the School of Architecture (the world’s oldest RIBA accredited school), led by Dr Kate Black, have designed a protective face shield, and are now producing 150 3D printed visors per day! They have shared the CAD files with other sites across the UK to increase production of PPE where needed.   

 

Myriad of others are helping the medical crisis in their own way.

Liverpool’s costume makers are helping with the need for more PPE for the NHS by making scrubs. The initiative set up by costume designer Caroline McCall came about when she was chatting to a costume supervisor when a project they were working on came to a halt because of the pandemic. She said “we were aware of the many and varied talents within the film industry that would not be in use at this time. When we realised there was a lack of PPE, including scrubs, we contacted health professionals to see how and if we could help.” Liverpool is lucky to be part of this initiative due to our prolific film and TV links in the city.  

A crowdfunding campaign to help get PPE onto the front lines has been set up by DoES Liverpool, and has raised over £10,000 in 48 hours but they’re not done yet! They are working with hospitals to produce effective, low-cost visors, with design approval from medical staff. The designs enable them to accelerate production using laser cutters (x10 faster than 3D Printing), they have the production facilities and the broad network of makers in their community, to really ramp up the supply of PPE items. Visit the CrowdFunder here.

Supporting the NHS to do their job, the Port of Liverpool has guaranteed that all medical and pharmaceutical imports will be fast-tracked with the gates remaining open 24/7 for all priority boxes. Their committed team of stevedores, operations and customer service workers are focussed on getting cargo to the place they are needed most.

 

It’s not just the medical impact of the disease, Liverpool businesses who will suffer as a result of self-isolation, lockdown and #staysafestayhome are being imaginative, creative and collaborating with others to ensure they still have some cash flow to see them through. 

Laura’s Little Bakery first put a shout out on Twitter for support as orders had been cancelled and she couldn’t see a way to maintain her business. So Laura teamed up with a local taxi driver, Paul to offer a brand new delivery service. Her orders are now back on track and Paul continues to stay in employment. Laura said: “The last week has been one I’ll never forget. It’s been the most humbling experience of my life and it has really brought the very best out in people. I’m just doing a very small part to help other small businesses, and of course, my driver Paul, to carry on as best we can in extremely difficult and worrying times. It’s fight or flight, and I’m a fighter.”

Many independents face a similar situation. This was identified by Dave Critchley, Executive Head Chef of Lu Ban Restaurant Group, and others, who have now set up LIDS – Liverpool Independent Food Delivery Service. Dave said: “It was a big shock to the system, we saw a rapid decline in business, someone had to do something. This spurred the launch of LIDS which aims to keep independent suppliers in business during lockdown.” So you can still get your favourite produce from Liverpool Jam Co, Liverpool Cheese Co, McKuhen’s Butchers, and many more, from the comfort and safety of your own home. From Edge Lane to Woolton Village LIDS will get you what you need, helping businesses continue to supply the city and keep people in employment. With long waits on delivery slots from the big supermarkets, now is the time to support local.

 

There are companies who are going about their regular business with new intensity

Making sure we have milk for our brew every morning, Mortons Dairies have seen a dramatic increase in subscribers and volumes of items, allowing customers to stay at home (they sell so much more than milk now you know!). Julian Harrison, Joint Managing Director said: “Our staff are going above and beyond the call of duty. We’ve been spurred on by the number of people in our communities, especially those who are vulnerable or key workers, who have sent us kind messages during this difficult period. If we can do a good job supporting our communities, hopefully they will stay with us and continue to support us, a family owned business after this crisis is over.”   

Another local business who has seen demand sky-rocket is hand gel manufacturer, Assist Hygiene, who have production going from 100,000 bottles per week to 160,000 each day, thanks to the commitment from the staff to increase the operations. Nick Jones, general manager, said: “the phones have been ringing non-stop. Obviously it’s good for us as a business, but we are just trying to help people prevent the spread of it. In terms of orders, we have just gone off the chart. As you can imagine, like any business, we have only got so much capacity, we have had to ramp up manufacturing but have been able to fulfil every order so far.”

Due to the lockdown, Faye Hart, a Liverpool yoga and pilates instructor, can no longer go out to teach her classes, which include classes in schools and at Marie Curie Hospice, and has meant a complete loss of income. Faye knows it’s more important than ever to do exercise, so has set herself up to teach online, reaching out to existing clients but also aiming to attract new clients using social media channels. Faye said, “it’s been a big learning curve, but I’m persevering and getting my head around this new platform, which I know I am lucky to have. I hope the social media posts can keep my clients connected, and inspire people to get motivated to exercise and to find mindfulness in these crazy times.” 

 

Looking for what you can do to play your part in Liverpool versus COVID-19

A call to arms has been announced by Liverpool City Council for people to join their volunteer programme. They were overwhelmed with the response as within a few days over 3,000 volunteers signed up to help people in need, showing the passion and dedication of the people of Liverpool wanting to support others during this crisis. They have also set up many dedicated website pages and social media channels for information on COVID-19 for residents and businesses.

To connect communities, Culture Liverpool has updated their website to keep you active, engaged and connected. From free learning resources and workouts, to virtual tours and bedroom gigs – our new website is here to keep Liverpool active, connected and engaged at home.

Claire McColgan MBE, Director of Culture Liverpool, said: ‘we are working on what practical ideas and support we can offer, as well as starting to develop a framework for recovery. We need to be ready for when this is over to start writing the next chapter of Liverpool’s renaissance.’

Many Liverpool arts organisations are streaming content to bring culture into the home, and World Museum Liverpool has gone one step further. Working with Liverpool John Moores University’s (LJMU) immersive arts department, the team has created a virtual tour of the World Cultures gallery for you to explore without leaving the house. Be a tourist in Liverpool and experience one of the city’s greatest cultural assets – risk-free. Emma Martin, senior curator at World Museum, says: “Through the use of this emerging immersive technology you can catch up on history, natural science and anthropology by exploring the museum’s extensive collections.”

Peter Woodbridge, LJMU Programme Leader for Immersive Arts said: “It’s great that our students and staff can help museums to get some of their spaces online using immersive technologies. Learning doesn’t have to stop outside of the official designated environments, and it’s brilliant to see the museum working out ways to engage with people not able to visit the venue.” There are many other venues offering virtual tours, go to Visit Liverpool for the list.

 

Hopefully this leaves you inspired and proud to be Liverpool, with a positive mindset that we are doing all we can to help the global and local communities survive. Just these few case studies show the power of people when we come together during a time of crisis, helping others and thinking outside the box. 

Stay safe.

Roz Lloyd
Roz Lloyd
Marketing Manager
7th April 2020

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