The Coronavirus pandemic has severely disrupted how we live our lives and is already having a profound impact on our economy, as local businesses weather the storm of the virus and the accompanying devastation. I’m working around the clock to get essential support and guidance for our businesses, to protect jobs in the short and medium-term and ensure we salvage as much of our regional economy as possible for the longer-term project of rebuilding our country and our economy that will begin when we have overcome the Coronavirus.
On a very human level, the Coronavirus is also disrupting our daily patterns and routines. Many people are now working remotely on a regular basis for the first time with all of the various challenges and opportunities that brings. Most people are following the Government’s guidelines and staying at home apart from to shop for essentials, exercise once per day, attend medical appointments and, for key workers and those unable to work from home, to go to work. We are all adjusting to life in lockdown, trying hard to make the best of what is undoubtedly a very difficult and stressful situation.
We don’t know how long this situation will last. Spare a thought for those who are being affected, in the different ways, by the lockdown. The elderly and those with serious underlying health conditions, who are self-isolating for 12 weeks and unable to leave the house at all. The people living on their own who may be at risk of loneliness and social isolation. The family with young kids who are cooped up in cramped houses or flats without balconies or gardens. The domestic violence victim who finds themselves in lockdown with their abuser. The Coronavirus is the most serious public health crisis any of us have ever faced. But, unless we are careful, we will also be facing a mental health crisis when the disease is overcome.
Local organisations are doing sterling work to support vulnerable people. Barnsley Council are stepping in to provide food and medicine for people who are ‘shielding’ for 12 weeks and who don’t have the support of family and friends nearby. The ‘Community Responders’ scheme, run by the Council and Barnsley Community Volunteer Service, has already seen hundreds of volunteers to support vulnerable residents – whether that is delivering essentials or calling those who are feeling lonely. Barnsley Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Service (BSARCS) and the Independent Domestic Abuse Service (IDAS) are dedicated local groups that are supporting those at risk of domestic violence. Barnsley Samaritans are on hand, all-day every-day, to offer support to people to people in need. We can all play our part too – even by something as simple as picking up the phone and calling a friend who may be feeling anxious, worried or lonely.
It’s vital that we follow the Government guidelines and behave in a measured, sensible way. Shop as infrequently as possible and follow the new measures that supermarkets are introducing to ensure that people can get what they need. Enjoy your daily walk, run or cycle, but only do it alone or with members of your household. Don’t go around to see friends or family – however tempting the weather or the Easter weekend – do it virtually instead. This won’t be easy, and it will hit some groups of people much harder than others. But if we are going to beat this virus and save as many lives as possible then we must follow the guidance: stay at home; protect the NHS; save lives.
This article was originally published in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10 April 2020