Barnsley leader tackles coronavirus with help from twinned German town

The leader of Barnsley council has found coronavirus help from an unlikely source. Credit: ITV News

For Barnsley's leader, tackling coronavirus has been a lonely battle.

With cases still much higher than elsewhere, Sir Stephen Houghton even fears there might be another lockdown as was enforced in Leicester.

But while the government only recently offered details of test results to help the council, throughout the pandemic he's been getting advice - and some practical help - from an unlikely source in Germany.

Every other week Sir Stephen chats over video link to the mayor of German town Schwabisch Gmund, Richard Arnold, who's been sharing his coronavirus-tackling tips.

He inspired Sir Stephen to promote the wearing of face coverings in public, in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus in his hard-hit town.

"This idea of community face coverings, I have to say, I stole from the Germans," he told ITV News providing hand-outs to locals in the town centre.

At one stage, Schwabisch Gmund even sent over much-needed PPE to help when supplies ran low in Barnsley.

German mayor Richard Arnold on sending PPE to Barnsley:

"I asked Stephen how I could help. The city of Schwabisch Gmund feels very, very close to Barnsley," Mr Arnold said.

"We love Barnsley, we love the people there and the citizens and the council agreed to help immediately and send some of the masks and the PPE."

They've also exchanged personalised masks with their cities symbols.

Unlike in Germany, Barnsley still has no app to help fight the disease.

We went to visit the twin town's Mayor Richard Arnold to ask he thought they'd done so much better in reducing cases.

Mr Arnold lauded Germany's coronavirus app and questioned why the UK had not worked with European neighbours in order to get one up and running.

"It's growing, people are believing in it now and I think once we've reached 60% [of the population], we could then say we can control, when you go outside, when you meet people, you could mingle in crowds because the app will show you whether there is someone positive or not."

Barnsley and Schwabisch Gmund leaders discuss the coronavirus app:

He told me he was surprised there was no testing early on in Barnsley.

He said: "Here we organised the testing and we did this - in a way where you go to fast food restaurants - we developed this kind of fast-track testing so we could test a lot of people who felt not very well."

Germans were also given very strict rules and lots of guidance on how to behave at the start of the pandemic.

He says he believes that gave them confidence whereas his impression was in Britain everything was very confused an uncertain.

"Psychologically it was very important but also medically it was very important," he added.