I know how worrying the current COVID-19 outbreak is for the people of Test Valley, writes council leader Phil North in his monthly column in the Advertiser.

At the time of writing the Prime Minister is in intensive care. A clear indication that this virus doesn’t discriminate, and that we need to do everything we can to look after ourselves and each other.

The community response to this pandemic has been phenomenal with groups of people coming together to help those isolating obtain food and medicines.

A big shout out to Andover Self-Isolation Group, Veterans in Action and the ongoing work in all our parishes. The borough council has been helping to coordinate this effort, via our community services partner, Unity and has provided grant funding to help these local groups continue their vital work.

As you can imagine we’re spinning a lot of plates right now.

Prioritising vital services and ensuring the most vulnerable get the help they need. We have already lifted parking charges for the duration of the lockdown period, ensuring those collecting essential supplies for themselves and others can do so speedily and safely.

We’ve announced measures to help support residents with their council tax bills by enabling people to use April and May as their non-payment months and ensured that anyone sleeping in hostel-type accommodation or rough have been moved into other types of accommodation.

This doesn’t mean we have no rough sleepers in Test Valley because for a variety of complex reasons our continued offers of accommodation aren’t always accepted.

However, I really hope that one of the positives that come out of this is that the people who we’ve been struggling to get inside for some time but are now in accommodation because of coronavirus concerns, will stay there.

For local businesses, our revenues department is working flat out to ensure we get grant payments out the door as quickly as possible.

The relevant business rate reliefs have already been applied and we’ve also taken the decision not to collect any of the BID levy until at least September.

Our refuse collections are another key service we are prioritising. At the time of writing, they are still operating fully, including the green bin collections.

If staff are absent, we will be covering with employees from other areas of the environmental service. If there are any changes, we will let you know immediately, but for the time being please put your bins out as normal.

Please be assured that in everything it can, Test Valley is working extremely hard to ensure that the essential services we provide to the community continue.

My huge thanks go to each and every one of our staff for keeping the show on the road.

This is a time where everyone needs to pull together and take care of one another. Please do look after yourselves. Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.