Package pile-up as 70 postal workers self-isolate in central Devon

Image shows Ashburton Post Office with a pile pf parcels, following postal worker staff shortages.
Photo courtesy of Ashburton resident Sharon Cummings

The image above shows the growing backlog of undelivered parcels at Ashburton Post Office and library as a consequence of covid-related staff shortages, with 70 of the 100 sorting office and delivery staff self-isolating following Covid-19 notification ‘pings’. Deliveries in a number of areas in Teignbridge and the South Hams are similarly affected.

Ashburton Post Office is a bit of a beacon when it comes to community service and was given an award during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The post office was a finalist in the Local Hero category at the Post Office’s ‘We’re Stronger Together’ regional awards for the South West region.

Stuart Rogers, who runs the post office alongside his wife Jackie, is once again exhibiting dedication to his local community by working over the weekend to clear the mountain. Residents are being asked to keep an eye on Facebook messenger for notification of a parcel awaiting their collection. A team of trusted volunteers have been making hand deliveries round town, whilst local community driver (for Ashleigh community cab) Charlie Dennis has been getting parcels out to those on the outskirts of the town.

Stuart Rogers and Sarah Parker-Khan. Photo by the author

Town Councillor Sarah Parker-Khan has been helping out over the weekend. She praised the team effort and community spirit that has typifies this Dartmoor town’s can-do ethos ( we covered its innovative free school meals voucher system last autumn).

Clearing the local backlog will free up the postman to concentrate on getting mail out to the remoter areas. Stuart expects to have to keep the new regime in place for the next few days until staffing levels return to normal. He just wants to be sure that people get their packages and that the local postie is not overwhelmed.

Postal workers have been rather taken for granted over the past eighteen months , like those also on the frontline in retail or public transport. Do remember to thank your postman if you see him or her! Many rural areas and online shops would have been even harder hit without them.

As to ‘pings’…well, these are are very much in the news right now, with Sunak and Johnson initially deciding to bypass the self-isolation obligation resulting from health and social care minister Sajid Javid’s covid re-infection. Their tone-deaf response has since been corrected, with both men committing to conform to the same rules as everyone else. A Twitter hashtag #PingingIsForPlebs is currently trending…

Unfortunately, it appears a more serious legacy of the fiasco is that many people are electing to delete the notification app from their phone on the basis that it’s better not to know about possible contact with a covid-sufferer and have to self-isolate. This comes at a time when more than half a million people were told to self-isolate in the first week of July alone. App deletions combined with so-called ‘freedom day’ at the same time as Delta variant cases are increasing apace make for a rather gloomy outlook for a genuine end to the pandemic.

Thank goodness for rays of hope from caring, community-minded people!