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Generosity in the midst of chaos as greed prompted by fear over Covid-19 spreads across Fenland

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Fear over the current outbreak of Covid-19 has spread across Fenland forcing events to be cancelled, and shop shelves emptied as people panic-buy items from soap to tinned tomatoes.

But in the midst of the furore of queues outside supermarkets and the selfishness of some shoppers, who have stock piled stashes of toilet paper and hand sanitiser, come stories of caring and generosity.

Local boss Anthony Winterbourne has put his distillery business on hold to produce hand sanitiser for those in dire need due to underlying health issues.

Anthony, who runs Fen Spirits, a small family-owned distillery in Mile Tree Lane, Wisbech has started producing hand sanitiser using a surplus supply of its alcohol.

The move came after he was contacted by a woman who had a kidney transplant asking him to make her some because she couldn't get any hand sanitiser locally.

After a bit of research he found distilleries abroad had been making it and so started production mixing alcohol with a hand lotion to prevent to help keep the skin from drying.

He explained: "Basically it needs to be 60 per cent proof alcohol, the stuff I have been using is 65 per cent proof. It is easy enough to make. The basic message to wash your hands with soap and water is still the best method, but obviously when people are mobile it is not always easy to do that, so hand sanitiser is the alternative."

Anthony posted news of his new production on Facebook and found himself with a queue of people in dire need of hand sanitiser because of health issues.

The elderly and those with underlying health issues are considered most at risk from the coronavirus, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Anthony, who is unsure how many bottles and containers he has filled, said: "It is not about how much I'm giving away - that is not why I'm doing this. With all the panic buying at the moment there is an awful lot of people that we don't hear about who are scared and vulnerable and they can't get what they need because people have been greedy.

"I put a Facebook post out on Friday saying that we've got some and my word the response has been incredible. We had two people turn up on Friday dealing with chemotherapy patients, it's snow-balled all over the weekend. We've posted a lot out, but we've also asked people to come and collect it and bring their own pots for us to fill.

"I've put my business on hold to do this, I'm not interested in making money, there are bigger problems out there than money and greed. It is disgusting how people have been panic buying and stock piling without thinking about others."

He is hoping other local distilleries will follow his lead and help those most in need.

Local people are also setting up online support groups via Facebook.

Facebook user Rebecca Garry was the first launching the March and Surrounding Coronavirus Support Group on Monday morning allowing people to offer help to those within the local community who are in need. People have been using the page to appeal for items, while others have posted offering everything from baby milk to nappies.

While the Chatteris Coronavirus Group was set up hours later by Alan Gowler offering much the same help.

Meanwhile two major events are among the latest casualties of the outbreak. This year's Pride in Fenland Awards ceremony, which was due to take place tonight (Wednesday) has been postponed until later this summer.

Councillor Susan Wallwork, Fenland's portfolio holder for communities, which runs the event with support from the Citizen said: "It is with great regret that we have taken this decision as we look forward to honouring the fantastic work across the district by the nominees. However, given the current national backdrop it is a

sensible precaution to take."

While organisers of March Summer Festival, which was due to take place on June 14 have taken the "hardest decision" to cancel this year's event altogether.

In a Facebook statement on Monday they said: "Based on the latest advice, we have decided to cancel this year's festival in the interest of staff and public safety.

"Some may feel we are being pre-emptive but we owe it to all the participants, performers, suppliers and you the public to be aware of the situation."

Bus operator Stagecoach has announced it is stepping up cleaning of its vehicles. In a statement the company said: "The communities we serve are important to us and during this COVID-19 crisis, while possible, we want to make sure we’re able to continue to safely connect you to the people and places that mean the most.

We’re enhancing the cleaning of our vehicles to make sure that every hand grip, pole and ticket machine (and anything else that’s touchable and grabbable) are thoroughly cleaned. We’re handing out hand sanitiser to our frontline staff and are encouraging our teams to wash their hands for a minimum of 20 seconds while belting out a song of their choice.

"We care about our customers and our team and want to remind everyone that we’re in this together."

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