LEADING figures in Darlington have heralded the community spirit that has been displayed in the town over the coronavirus outbreak and believe the crisis could strengthen the community for the future.

Mayor Darlington Nick Wallis, Darlington MP Peter Gibson and Darlington Borough Council leader Heather Scott were speaking as community associations across the borough sought to reach out to self-isolating residents facing issues getting essentials.

In the meantime, community groups and events have moved online, such as Darlington Unlimited, a recently-launched events group for people with learning difficulties and autism, to provide outlets for housebound residents.

Councillor Wallis said while his year as mayor had taught him what a “wonderful, caring place Darlington is”, the covid-19 virus would test residents in ways that could not be anticipated. He said: “We can be confident in the bedrock of the countless decent, thoughtful people to see us through. When normal life returns, we will emerge the stronger from the new bonds we will create, and from the realisation that you cannot measure a person’s worth by their salary or social status, but simply by what they contribute to the well-being of those around them.”

Darlington MP Peter Gibson paid tribute to health and care staff, volunteers and countless groups across the town for the “phenomenal” level of help coming from our community in helping those around them.

He said: “We will need to rebuild after this is over, and I know that we can bounce back and be an even better place, only yesterday I had discussions with organisations who are looking to bring or launch their business here in Darlington. We can be and will be open to welcome new jobs, we can and will see the restoration and expansion of our train station, we can and will see renewal and improvement in our town centre and we will keep up our fight to save Locomotion No 1.”

Both he and Councillor Scott said it was crucial residents heeded the advice to stay at home.

She said: “It is incredible the amount of people coming forward, particularly young people, to offer their assistance. This situation could be of benefit in bringing the community together. It is something we have been trying to do for a long time. It shows generally that the British are nice, kind people. We have to build on the positive.

“We are all in this together. We have to help and support each other, but we must also get the message across that people must stay at home.”