I don’t think anyone would disagree that the COVID pandemic is a crisis for the world, the country and for us locally. Sadly the number of cases is rising again and the government has announced a renewed clampdown on what we can do. While cases in Cheltenham are higher than a few weeks ago they are still comparatively low thanks to the hard work and cooperation of so many people. Realistically we will only solve this when we get an effective vaccine.
However on Saturday night we added an emergency to this. A suspected gas leak in Granville Street led to the evacuation of over 100 people from nearby houses. While the ‘blue light’ services took the lead in tackling the problem on the frontline, the council had the role of setting up a rest centre for anyone who would otherwise be on the streets until allowed back into their houses.
Personally I was concentrating more on Match of the Day than the local news so the first I was aware there was a problem was a phone call about 11pm. While that’s not an easy time to set up a rest centre I was impressed how quickly things swung into action thanks to a combination of staff from Cheltenham Trust, the council and volunteers. Of the identified rest centre sites in town, the Leisure At Cheltenham site was the nearest so was used for this. Previously unused camp beds stored on site were quickly taken out and assembled.
An added complication of COVID was having to keep a number of people with symptoms and awaiting test results separate from those being shielded and both of those groups separate from everyone else. This main group also had to remain in their household ‘bubbles’.
Fortunately by about 1am the police confirmed that everyone at the leisure centre could go home. So apart from tidying up and repacking all the camp beds on Sunday morning it was emergency over!