Express & Star comment: Support each other and we will pull through
These are unsettling, worrying times for us all. The coronavirus outbreak is a global challenge on a scale that even a few months ago would have been scarcely believable.
In Britain, the government response to the threat posed by the virus has escalated rapidly as the potential impact – to our health, our economy and our society generally – has become clear.
This is the most serious public health crisis to confront the country in a generation. We are all aware that the elderly and the vulnerable are most at risk. We all have a duty to help protect these people, to try to keep them safe as the outbreak spreads around the country.
It is not always easy. In many cases, those over 70 do not regard themselves as elderly. Moreover, they are often fit and healthy – and they certainly don’t regard themselves as vulnerable. And yet the advice from scientists is clear and we can all do our bit to help.
Last week, this newspaper launched its Star Neighbour campaign to support those people self-isolating. The response has been fantastic. Neighbours are supporting those who are not able to get out by picking up prescriptions, buying food and just being there on the end of a phone to chat.
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We have also been helping to promote those people and organisations offering their services to help those in need. Again, we have been overwhelmed at the response. The sheer number of people out there who are willing to help is incredibly heart-warming at a time of such uncertainty.
Time and again our readers have risen to the challenge of supporting others. Never has that community spirit been more needed than today.
Meanwhile, concern over the economic ramifications of the outbreak continue to grow. Businesses are trying to come to terms with a country and an economy that is slowly shutting down – in many sectors at least. While the government is stepping up its support for businesses, there remain doubts about whether the measures put in place go far enough.
All of this means huge uncertainty over jobs. Already, we are seeing normal working life disrupted. Factories are having to slow or even cease production. Those in the hospitality trade are seeing customer numbers plummet as people heed the advice to stay away from unnecessary social gatherings. The high street – with the notable exception of supermarkets – is being hit yet again.
Other businesses are having to innovate to continue to function, often working remotely and in circumstances that are at best unfamiliar.
In wider society, schools are likely to be closed until after the summer holidays. This presents huge challenges to working parents, particularly when many will be unable to rely on grandparents to help out with the child-minding.
There is no doubt that the days ahead will test the country to its limit. The chances of what we previously considered normal life resuming once the threat recedes are remote.
There is a very strong sense that the world will never be the same thanks to Covid-19.
But the community spirit that we have seen across the region already should give us great reassurance. By supporting each other, looking out for each other and listening to scientific advice, we can pull through this.