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Society Can Come Together to Deal with Coronavirus But We Need Help
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“I have delivered food parcels to four families this morning,” says Paula Spencer, who runs the community centre in Thanington, a deprived district on the outskirts of Canterbury. Two of the families had called for help because they had symptoms of the coronavirus, and two simply needed food to eat.

There are no signs of panic buying in Thanington, which has a population of about 2,700 and a Morrisons supermarket not far away. However, Nick Eden Green, a Lib Dem councillor for this part of Canterbury, says that the restraint is not due to people being unworried by shortages but because many “do not have the money for a bulk buy and, even if they did, they do not own cars in which to take away mass purchases”.

I spoke to Spencer by phone on Thursday afternoon and she was already sounding fairly desperate. She said that the problem is that food banks in Canterbury, on which many in Thanington have come to rely, are dependent on volunteers who tend to be older people or pensioners – because of their high vulnerability to the coronavirus, and in compliance with government advice, many of them have gone home.

This is not to say that panic buying is not going on. I visited the biggest local Sainsbury’s on Tuesday when most of the shelves were still well-stocked, aside from toilet roll, kitchen paper, tinned or packet soup, and coffee beans. But a friend who went there this morning reported “no bread, no vegetables, no fresh fruit, no pizzas – and very little beer.”.

Normal life is crumbling fast in Canterbury, considerably faster than the efforts by government, local authorities and volunteers to prop it up. A few hours after I had talked to Spencer, she sent me an anguished email: “I’ve had a stream of people in here since I spoke to you saying their employers are laying them off as of today. The lady who just left has three young children and works in the kitchen of a school which has said that she has to take four weeks unpaid leave as of today and if she becomes ill she won’t be paid sick leave. What are these people going to do? I’m feeling so powerless and inadequate and there’s no guidance from anywhere.”

It is going to get a great deal worse than this as the coronavirus advances into east Kent. A patient at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford has tested positive. “The three main hospitals in the area couldn’t cope before the crisis, and they certainly won’t be able to cope now,” a friend told me.

Those worst hit are going to be the many who have been victims of creeping destitution during a decade of austerity. Canterbury is a city where many jobs are in pubs, restaurants, hotels, or are part of the gig economy. “It makes much more sense from the point of view of the owners of these places to fire their workers now and re-hire them after the crisis than take out government loans that they will have to pay back,” say Alex Lister, a community organiser. He was speaking before the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced measures to help workers impacted by the spread of coronavirus.

It is easy enough to work oneself into a state of apocalyptic gloom about the future of the country and the world as the pandemic spreads, but there are also strong forces working to make sure that society goes on functioning and prevent its disintegration. Edd Withers is the founder and organiser of the online Canterbury Residents Group, which has 37,000 members on Facebook and is the highly influential platform where most people in the Canterbury area get their local news and communicate their opinions. He says that “the government keeps talking about ‘social distancing’ while what we should be advocating is ‘physical distancing and social solidarity’.”

To this end, Withers is intending to use the group’s Facebook page to bring thousands of people who want to volunteer their help in contact with those sectors that are most in need. Doing so is not easy: Lister, who used to work for a charity facing this issue, says that “coordinating volunteers is always a huge effort”. He believes the best approach is to utilise the policies and experience of charities that have already been down this road.

A crucial weakness in combating the virus is that a great deal will be demanded of municipal and state organisations that have been systematically degraded by the years of government-imposed austerity. All of these, from Canterbury Council to the NHS, have been run down and starved of money. Operational capacity cannot be resurrected overnight.

Organisations that will now be in the front line are crumbling further under the impact of the pandemic. A small example of this is the Citizens Advice Bureau in Canterbury, never more necessary than today, which will, understandably, no longer see people face to face, although it promises to return phone calls. The Thanington Neighbourhood Resource Centre, to give the community centre its official name, drew most of its income from renting out space for clubs and meetings: as this revenue dries up, it may have to cut its staff or close at a moment of maximum demand.

None of these local efforts, be they voluntary or municipal, will be able to carry the vastly increased burden coming their way without drawing on the resources of the central government. However, government decision-making lags behind events, clarity of direction is lacking, and the government seems to be trying to operate slow-moving, traditional and over-burdened methods of administration, such as applying for and receiving loans, that will not work in a crisis as calamitous and destructive as this one.

ORDER IT NOW

The closure of schools is a measure that has so many exceptions that it is unclear how many schools will, in fact, be able to close. One parent in Canterbury worked out that 68 per cent of the children attending his daughter’s nursery school were still eligible to do so because one or more of their parents were “key workers”. A high degree of confusion is inevitable when changes disrupting the lives of millions of people have to be implemented almost overnight, but there is a sense that decisions are being taken that have not been thought through.

Putting the country on a wartime footing is necessary – but, if this is to be more than bombast, it must mean giving clear orders and ensuring that they are obeyed. Anything less implies that the government has still not got to grips with the gravity of the catastrophe coming our way.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Culture/Society • Tags: Britain, Coronavirus, Health care 
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  1. onebornfree says: • Website

    “Putting the country on a wartime footing is necessary – but, if this is to be more than bombast, it must mean giving clear orders and ensuring that they are obeyed. ”

    I left the UK more than 30 years ago to escape the mindset of all of the government -loving/worshiping, snot-nosed little busy-body motherfuckers like yourself. Fuck you , go die [because you “followed orders”], you deserve it, you mental midget.

    No regards, onebornfree

  2. He says that “the government keeps talking about ‘social distancing’ while what we should be advocating is ‘physical distancing and social solidarity’.”

    When I first heard the phrase, “social distancing”, I immediately thought of it as another senseless euphemism and an oxymoron on top of it, in my opinion. What Mr. Withers says makes complete sense and I will use his terminology in the future.

    None of these local efforts, be they voluntary or municipal, will be able to carry the vastly increased burden coming their way without drawing on the resources of the central government. However, government decision-making lags behind events, clarity of direction is lacking, and the government seems to be trying to operate slow-moving, traditional and over-burdened methods of administration, such as applying for and receiving loans, that will not work in a crisis as calamitous and destructive as this one

    How about this then. Since the government in the UK and most other countries are proving to be incapable of constructively and effectively dealing with this situation, they should simply pull funds out of their defense budgets and give them to these local organizations. No need to declare war. No need to follow the government’s orders.

  3. @onebornfree

    Worth reading: Matthew 12:36-37 and Ephesians 4:29. (I hope I don’t get a response like the one you gave Cockburn, but if I do, then so be it).

  4. anonymous[261] • Disclaimer says:

    Major roadways in, out and around Washington, DC have light boards urging drivers to “practice social distancing.”

    My next door neighbor lives 16″ on the other side of the brick party wall between our houses.
    She noticed me in the back yard and called over, “I retrieved a package from your porch a few days ago. I will leave it on your door step.”

    Keeping social distance.

    Does that mean she has The Virus?

    Does that mean she thinks I have The Virus?

    Neither of us asked the other: ALL are being coerced to assume Each and Every OTHER is a threat, not only to the ME s in society but to the community at large.
    Dumb & Dumber.

    I went to the porch to wait for her; she’d already deposited the item and left.

    No time for a “thank you,” or “How you doin’?” or how’s the new grandchild.

    Social Distance.

    Which is worse: the government, or shadows behind it, who are playing with ordinary people to induce them to behave this way, or the people themselves who are allowing themselves to mindlessly follow what I consider to be senseless decrees?

    I wanted the opportunity to tell my neighbor that I’d just had a 5 hour surgery and was feeling — better, fortunate, maimed, fragile, all of the above, and I could use just a wee bit of social interaction, even the cant, fake, “Oh, my; I didn’t know; anything I can do? I hope you feel better.”

    Nope.
    Social distance.

    I’m in early 70s — not elderly. My surgeon told me I was “good for another 20 years.” I told him I had no desire to live to be 90. He said, “That’s where it’s heading — 95 is not out of the ordinary.”

    If ordinary people are social distancing themselves from an otherwise healthy, but now labeled “elderly” 72 year old, what is going to be the situation when I’m 92?

    My neighbor’s actions convinced me that the Covid 19 business is a smokescreen; I haven’t figured out exactly what or who is behind the smokescreen yet, but it’s not good, it’s not intended for the betterment of the American populace.

    The debt that is being larded onto the younger generations may be even more destructive than the Covid smokescreen being used to snuff out the elderly.

    PS If Americans are freaking out because a few people in a far away city might have a disease that they’lll probably survive, how in the world do they think Syrians and Iraqis are coping with being bombed by Americans for the crime of being Syrians and Iraqis?

    • Thanks: Sasha
    • Replies: @Tom Rogers
  5. Sasha says:

    All of this – while a grim sanpshot of the present, and a guide to the future, proceeds from the same false premise. That is, that the virus is to blame. That is an utter lie, and it should be made clear that the official response to what I consider an engineered panic-inducing event is the sole cause of the mayhem. Once bodies start piling up in makeshift morgues, etc – then blame the virus. Everything we are seeing now is a result of both panic in the masses, and the result of governmental measures such as lockdowns. It is not a medical issue. The response needs to be questioned, not accepted as a normal thing.

    • Agree: botazefa
    • Replies: @anon
    , @Tom Rogers
    , @animalogic
  6. anon[261] • Disclaimer says:
    @Sasha

    ** “It is not a medical issue. The response needs to be questioned, not accepted as a normal thing.” **

    Agree

  7. Oracle says:

    Globalism has already weakened our society to the point where it’s difficult to withstand the most current threat of globalized disease.

  8. Catdomnj says:

    If you put 10 people in a room, 3 with virus, 7 without, for a month. Now, you have the three wear a mask the entire month. No sexual contact, no kissing, no cpr or any other intimate contact. After 30 days, now how many will have the virus? The answer: THREE.
    You keep hearing how those masks (flimsy type) won’t protect against the virus. What they fail to mention is the absolute effectiveness of those masks NOT SPREADING this virus.
    These aren’t germs or bacteria, it’s a virus. Infecting people via water particles. If for ffs you sneeze inside your shirt the virus lands inside your shirt and STAYS there. If you sneeze or cough openly these particles are spread in the air and land on surfaces, quicker in indoor environments.
    If everybody was free to roam around but mandated to wear a mask and safe distances were maintained, then no one else would get it. If carriers don’t wear masks then of course they can spread it if they openly cough or sneeze, so lock up anyone not wearing a mask. Now of course when returning home, you’d have to immediately put clothes in washer, then dryer (which absolutely kills this virus), then vigorously wash your hands. Then take off mask and disinfect it. Then take a shower. Do this you won’t get this virus.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  9. @onebornfree

    Can I just say what a wonderful comment and I completely agree. I wish Patrick Cockburn and all these stupid fuckers like him who are plaguing my country with their bossy, busybody attitudes, would curl up and die.

  10. @anonymous

    Completely and totally agree. Another good comment. But you don’t mention the main player in all this silliness – the media. They have ramped-up the hysteria and governments have followed. Almost-everybody who contracts this will survive It’s an ordinary illness. If people are freaking out over this, they must lead sheltered lives or be very unhealthy.

  11. @Sasha

    Excellent comment. Not for the first time, the best is in the comments section. If Patrick Cockburn is garbage, the commenters are rare gems of wisdom and common-sense.

    • Thanks: Sasha
    • Replies: @Sasha
  12. Sasha says:
    @Tom Rogers

    Thank you Tom – why I come here, the comments. In these dark times, my safe space.

  13. wildbeard says:

    I don’t see it. Let them rot in the multicultural societies that they’ve forced upon us.

    We are not one. We should never make that mistake again. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me.

    Now is the time to watch their every scheming move like a hawk.

  14. Paul says:

    Regarding the Chinese virus, I recommend that people not eat Chinese bats.

  15. @onebornfree

    Wow, nothing is good enough for you: over 10 years of Thatcherism (“there is no society”) & the UK is still too socialist.
    Maybe you’re a misanthrope hiding behind libertarianism ?
    I can imagine your response to current circumstances — fucking die, the lot of ya.

  16. @Sasha

    “Once bodies start piling up in makeshift morgues, etc – then blame the virus.”
    OK….but,
    “It is not a medical issue.”
    I can see the contradiction even if you can’t.

    • Replies: @Sasha
  17. @Catdomnj

    “What they fail to mention is the absolute effectiveness of those masks NOT SPREADING this virus.”
    Funny how all these doctors & nurses are contracting the virus. But i guess they have no idea of personal hygeine….Masks ? Nar, & fuck the gloves & soap too, you “government -loving/worshiping, snot-nosed little busy-body motherfuckers like yourself.” [OBFree]

  18. An epidemic naturally spreads from infected to not-yet-infected areas. Hence the need for a national policy. Social distancing is a strategy to ‘flatten the curve’ so that people don’t die needlessly for want of treatment. While Trump gushes over the generosity of big corporations making needed equipment, he takes no responsibility for seeing that the right quantity of the right stuff is available to the people who need it when it is needed. How is that possible without centralized coordination?

    I think the guy doesn’t WANT to be re-elected.

  19. Sasha says:
    @animalogic

    As I don’t consider a seasonal flu, with an average death toll of something like 4,000% of what we’ve seen from the Reichstag fire, a medical issue. It’s a goddamn regular event, culling the almost dead. 9 days ago the NHS quietly rowed back on all their alarmist rhetoric and removed it from the category of “high consequence infectious disease”, based on its very low case mortality rate. (can just search that term), but ONE paper of any prominence, the Scotsman, has bothered to report this incredible development. Not the Mail, not the Guardian or Times – none of the principles of this utter psy-op.

    • Replies: @animalogic
  20. @Sasha

    Seasonal flu ? Maybe. I think Italy had something like 920 deaths today….I cant remember such a “seasonal flu” but im sure there’ll be some reason to say that such a death rate is anomilous or purely circumstantial or whatever.
    Nothing to see here, move on, please.

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