In this blog the Leader pays tribute to NHS staff, key workers and partners, and talks about providing vital services to our residents and the most vulnerable members of our community.

At the end of an unprecedented week for our city, the country and many, many countries around the world, I wanted to say an enormous thank you to everyone.

To council employees and elected members, each and every one, playing their part in enabling the council to respond as best it possibly can to this crisis. 

To our partner agencies giving their all individually and to the vital, collaborative effort across the city of Sunderland. 

To our absolutely heroic NHS colleagues.

To the delivery drivers, supermarket and other essential shop and service-providing staff. 

To the incredible voluntary and community groups working right in the heart of neighbourhoods and communities. 

And to all the Sunderland businesses, many finding themselves in the most worrying of circumstances, playing their part all the same, offering up anything they can think of - premises, vehicles, equipment - to help with this fight. 

Inevitably, many of us are going to look back on this time with sadness and quite probably disbelief, but I know we will also look back with tremendous pride on our city and its people, the inspiring and humbling acts of kindness and the fact everyone pulled together to get through it.

For our part, as a council providing vital services to our residents and particularly the most vulnerable members of our community, we have robust plans in place to keep services and support going in an emergency situation.

These have swung into action and colleagues are working tirelessly to keep critical services operating at the front line, backed up by all that needs to happen behind the scenes. 

With a pandemic like this, the challenges are much increased compared with other emergency incidents because it affects our workforce directly, and significant numbers of our people and their families may become ill themselves.

So first and foremost, our priority since the planning for this crisis began, has been safeguarding our employees' health, ensuring they're following the right advice to take care of themselves and their families and households, and that those who are most vulnerable to this virus are taking all the necessary precautions.

This means we can be prepared to redeploy teams where necessary to keep critical health and social care and environmental services going, and any other service that must continue in order to keep our residents safe and supported. 

It will mean however that we have to suspend some non-essential services but our priority has to be delivering those services that safeguard people from difficulty, suffering and hardship wherever we can.

My heart goes out to those who've already suffered illness and loss at the hands of this dreadful pandemic and my thanks go once again to everyone who's provided care and support to those in need.

Moving into next week and beyond, we're going to need more people to help us make sure that the vulnerable members of our community are looked after, so in the coming days, a leaflet will be coming to every household in the city asking those who are vulnerable to let us know what support they need, and those who can offer their help to tell us what support they can give.

I know the kind, generous and community spirited people of Sunderland will step straight up, just as the vast majority have followed all the advice on preventing the spread of the disease. 

We must protect the NHS from being overwhelmed by unmanageable infection levels and all do our bit by staying indoors.  When we do go out for essential purposes, including providing the additional care and support we're going to be asking for, it's vitally important to practice safe social distancing.

Please don't take part in social gatherings or congregate in groups beyond the members of your household. If we all follow the rules and guidelines it genuinely will make a big difference to how quickly we get over the worst of this crisis.

We will get through this and emerge the stronger for it in time as a city, if we all work together and look after one another. Thank you again for all your efforts and take very good care.

Cllr Graeme Miller
Leader