The Covid-19 pandemic is not the first devastating viral outbreak Cumbria’s police and commissioner has seen first-hand.

Before becoming the county’s PCC, Peter McCall had a 34-year career as a British Army officer, retiring with the rank of colonel.

One of his final missions was to fight an unseen enemy – the devastating Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

As the deputy commander of the British military contingent responding to the Ebola crisis, Mr McCall led Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force personnel in its efforts to help the west African country pull itself back from the brink of utter catastrophe as a result of the deadly virus.

On the ground from October 2014 until April 2015, at the height of the outbreak’s intensity, Mr McCall today remembers the battle that the international team fighting the virus had to go through to get the outbreak under control.

Despite the many differences in both viruses – Ebola has a significantly higher death rate than Covid-19 – the strategies used to fight both are remarkably similar.

And most crucially, Mr McCall explained, fighting both Ebola and Covid-19 requires the community to accept its responsibilities to one another.

“Here there is easily enough information. There is not really an excuse for not playing your part,” Mr McCall said.

Mr McCall acknowledged that younger people in particularly are naturally disposed to feeling “bomb-proof".

“We know with Covid-19 that younger people are less likely to be seriously affected. But this is not about you, it’s about your mother, your father, your grandparents,” Mr McCall said.

“If not for yourself, play your part for them.”

As a highly experienced soldier, Mr McCall said his military training prepared him well to “focus on the job at hand”.

But as a commanding officer, he said he felt it was his duty to look out for the welfare of those under him.

As such, he was “terrified” that someone under his command would end up contracting Ebola.

“Unlike in a traditional war, here we couldn’t see the enemy,” he said.

“We had to be very strict about PPE, to the extent that in civilian life it might be considered over the top. But that’s how we saved lives.”

One other key lesson Mr McCall took away from his time in Sierra Leone was that fighting an outbreak can involve a “bumpy road to zero". “In other words," he went on, "we quite quickly got the numbers very low, but we were prepared to expect small outbreaks that we would then have to clamp down on.”