Two days ago the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the public that they could 'lose loved ones before their time' to Covid-19. This was before unveiling that his government would enact very little preventative measures against the virus, ignoring the steps taken by other countries such as Ireland and Italy.
Since the dawn on the virus early this year, the world has been embroiled in a growing sense of panic. Italy, at the centre of the European outbreak, has put the country in lock-down, closing businesses, theatres and enforcing social distancing.
Where I live, the United Kingdom, there is a growing sense of unease with the government's somewhat relaxed response to the crisis. In the typical British fashion (stiff upper lip and all) people are holding back their fears, but the panic buying at stores, where toilet rolls, hand-sanitiser and basic food items are going out of stock, reflect the hidden reality of the people's anxiety.
To rub salt in the wound, workers on poor contracts will suffer a loss of income if they are forced to self-isolate. Many will only be paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), which is a pitiful £94.25 a week, whilst those on zero-hours contracts might receive nothing at all. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that there are 1,766,000 jobs that are not entitled to SSP. If these individuals have to self-isolate it could mean cutting off a lifeline to them and their families.
Suggestions in the press indicate that the UK's response, which so far has only involved banning large social events, is heading towards achieving 'herd immunity' of the virus. In effect this would mean infecting approximately 60% of the population with Covid-19. If these suggestions turn out to be true, then we can expect wide-scale infection in the UK.
We do not yet know the extent to which this crisis will unfold, but we do know that it will have an adverse effect on regular people, especially the elderly, those with preexisting conditions, or those that will lose out on pay and struggle to feed their families.
It is in these moments that we must do more to reach out to our neighbours and our community.
Modern society pushes us into isolation. We stay indoors, we avoid our neighbours, we look at others on the street with distrust; many of us could live out entire lives with very little social interaction. We must shed these norms and show those around us that we can support each other.
For the socialist-minded, this is essential to building the community support necessary for change. If people are fearful, then we must reassure them with our support; if they distrust the government, then we must show them that they can rely on their community; if they suffer and the state will not come to their aid, then we must allow them to fall back on the kindness of their neighbours.
Yesterday I wrote a simple note offering to help out anybody who had to self-isolate, and stuck it to the wall of the entrance to my apartment building. We could all do the same, contact your neighbours, friends and family to make sure they have the support they need. These small acts of charity will have a bigger impact than you might think.
Or go a step further, and help stock food banks so that those on low-wages will not have to go hungry in isolation, or fall victim to short term lenders.
Freedom Press has put together a growing list of mutual aid groups created to assist those affected by coronavirus.
You can also search The Trussel Trust's list of food banks, and find somewhere local to donate to or volunteer at.
It is in the spirit of mutual aid that we can reforge the trust that we once had in our neighbours. It is unfortunate that it may take a crisis to bring us together, but it is in crises like this that we learn how much we really need each other.
The bridges that connect us will only be rebuilt if we work on them together.
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