Since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China in November 2019, Covid-19 has rapidly escalated from an epidemic to a global pandemic. With the disease moving at an exponential rate, governments have been pushed to extreme measures to contain the virus, placing many of us in a scenario that would’ve been unimaginable just a few weeks ago.
As lockdowns are being imposed across the world from Paris to Manila, ‘quarantine’ has become the new normal. Yet even under enforced social distancing and amid all the fear and uncertainty, we have seen people come together in beautiful ways – from Italians singing from their balconies, to these heartwarming stories from inside makeshift quarantine centres in the US.
While it’s heartening that in times of crisis, human goodness is still able to shine through, many of us may wish to help but simply don’t know how to. In fact, there is much that we can do to support one another and help the most vulnerable in our communities – and you don’t even have to leave the house.
Join a mutual aid group
Over the past week, more than 200 “mutual aid” groups have been established in the UK, with tens of thousands of volunteers rallying together to help out those self-isolating who are most vulnerable with shopping, dog walking and picking up prescriptions. As well as practical support, the groups are offering phone service to help combat loneliness and boost morale. Find your local mutual aid group here or register your own.
Get connected to your local food bank
In addition to kindness, the events over the past month have also illuminated the not-so-appealing side of human nature – namely greed, selfishness and obsessive toilet roll collecting. We’ve witnessed the chaos in supermarkets across the world as people started to panic buy and stockpile en masse (not to mention the people profiteering off the panic).
There are approximately 14 million people living in poverty in the UK. Across the country, elderly and vulnerable people rely on food banks and community centres for nourishing food. Many children also rely on free school meals. But with Covid-19, these people are being pushed further into social isolation, with schools closing and food banks struggling.
As supermarket shelves go empty due to stockpiling, it’s important to donate whatever you can spare to your local food bank (get in touch with them directly to find out what they need). If you are isolating and unable to leave your house, you can also make a donation online.
Support small and local businesses
Small businesses are experiencing intense financial pressure right now. If you’re able to, consider supporting them in any way you can; that might be pre-paying for a meal at a local restaurant, buying gift cards for future use or ordering take out. The same goes for authors, musicians and artists who are facing cancelled book tours and concerts. You can help by purchasing local authors’ books online, and buying music or merchandise on Bandcamp or directly through the artists’ websites.
Check in regularly with friends and family
Self-isolation essentially means cutting yourself off from the rest of the world, so it’s inevitable that this will have an impact on our mental wellbeing. This is a reminder to take care of yourself, be kind and stay positive. Reach out to friends and where you can, limit the time you spend on social media and news sites. Come up with alternative ways of socialising (try apps like Zoom or Houseparty).
Also, think about others who might be feeling particularly lonely and isolated at this time: older people, people with disabilities, people with depression and those who live alone. Something as simple as sending a text message to someone to let them know you’re there if they need anything, can go a long way.
And finally, STAY AT HOME
Social distancing is one of the most effective things we can do to slow the spread of Covid-19. Not everybody has the luxury of being able to work from home, but by staying in we can drop the transmission rate, lessen the burden on our health service and in the process, help prevent more deaths. As the UK is poised to go into lockdown, there is a strong possibility we could be at home quite a bit over the coming days and weeks. If you’re daunted by the prospect, try switching off for a while. Make art, write a letter, keep a quarantine diary, phone a friend, learn a new skill, or read a book. Use this time to reflect and reevaluate what’s important in your life.