On the 23rd of March, the British Government introduced three new measures:
- The public must stay at home, could only go outside for food, health or work reasons (but only if working from home isn’t an option)
- Closing certain businesses and venues.
- Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public.
UK government campaign urges people to “Stay At Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives”. On the 24th of March the government asked for 250,000 volunteers and more than 750,000 people signed up to help. There was and still is significant support for the NHS. Nightingale Hospitals with ventilators were set up in London, Birmingham and Manchester to increase patient capacity and treat more people affected by Coronavirus.
All low-paid workers such as; postmen, delivery drivers, binmen, bus and train drivers, teachers and NHS staff became Key Workers of the country. On the 20th of March, schools closed and most set-up online learning, however some children still do not have access to an electronic device so they cannot take part, and since schools are only open to Key Workers’ children, it has isolated some students and stopped their academic development. The government also cancelled GCSE and A-level exams. Teachers will now submit a grade for each student, for each subject, and supply a ranked order within each grade. The exam boards will then perform various statistical procedures on these grades using an algorithm before publishing results in August. If these grades seem unfair to students then there is an opportunity to appeal, which will allow students to take GCSE exams in November 2020 or June 2021.
Furlough leave has been introduced by the government to provide employers with an option to keep employees on the payroll. Businesses can claim 80% of their employees’ wages from the government, up to a maximum of £2,500 per person, per month. When Liverpool Football Club announced that they will pay their non-players (e.g. ticket vendors) using the furlough scheme, they received a backlash from their supporters. Hence, they had to change their decision and support their staff in other ways. When Premier League clubs asked players to take a 30% pay cut, footballers came under pressure, however they set up a charity fund for the NHS instead.
During this tough time, positive stories also appeared, such as the 99 year old veteran Captain Tom Moore who raised over £26.5 million for NHS charities by walking 100 laps of his garden. Margaret Payne, a 90-year-old, raised over £280,000 for the NHS after deciding to climb the equivalent of the height of Highland peak Suilven (2398 ft) on her stairs. Fundraiser Samantha and her family set up Corona Care Challenge. They deliver food and essential toiletries to vulnerable people as well as pre-cooked meals to hospitals and ambulance stations in and around London. There are many more charities and people that are delivering food to vulnerable people in their community as well as their local hospitals. NHS staff appreciate this help since the cafés and restaurants in and around the hospitals are shut and the staff work long hours.
The shortage of personal protective equipment is worrying for the NHS workers, my school, Bradford Grammar School, made full visors in DT, donating science safety goggles, thousands of disposable gloves to local GPs, opticians and care homes. There are many other schools in the country also donating safety equipment to their local health facilities.
There is a big community spirit in Britain, every Thursday the public go outside to applaud the NHS staff to thank them. Children draw rainbows and post it to hospitals to show their support. People leave ‘Thank You’ cards to binmen and children draw kind messages on the pavement with chalk. Celebrities also donate money to NHS charities and send ‘Thank you’ messages on their Instagram or Facebook posts. Social media is full of people trying to cheer one another and individuals setting up exercise classes e.g. yoga, meditation or dancing sessions to motivate people, keep them moving and help to stop isolation.
The downside of the coronavirus lockdown announcement is that it led to people unnecessarily panic-buying. There were no tissues, sanitisers, soaps or toilet paper to be found in supermarkets. Even today it is hard to find any sanitiser, soap, flour or egg in certain areas of the country. Supermarkets have long queues, due to the new measures of everyone being 2m apart and the maximum number of people allowed to enter at one time being low. Many people tried to order online grocery deliveries but the delivery slots are reserved for the vulnerable first and, also delivery times are far into the future, since supermarkets cannot cope with the demand. Online fashion and clothing companies are still delivering goods but with an extended delivery time. Since people are at home, many turn to DIY hence this huge demand has led to the first ‘virtual queue’ for ordering products in Britain. It is possible to wait up to an hour to get on the company’s (such as B&Q and Wickes) website to browse and order.
There are worries over levels of domestic violence going up and elderly people becoming depressed due to them being stuck at home. Also, online gambling has increased, with people getting into more debt. Furthermore, people living in flats and those that have no outdoor space are experiencing deteriorating levels of mental health. Action Fraud reported that Coronavirus-related fraud increased by 400% in March, with total losses reaching nearly £1 million. The majority of reports are related to online shopping scams where people have ordered protective face masks, hand sanitiser, and other products, which have never arrived.
Covid-19 has also affected businesses since the government has announced non-essential shops to close. Debenhams and many other companies have prepared to close some of their branches. Some small companies already are shutting since they do not have any income to cover their costs. Catering, Travel and Leisure industries have also suffered due to cancelled accommodation and flights as well as refunds that they have to pay, also no one knows when they will start to work again.
A minute’s silence has been observed on the 28th April at 11am for health, care and key workers who have lost their lives to COVID-19.
In conclusion, this horrific virus has sadly caused thousands of deaths, but also showed the true British spirit of people coming together and helping one another.