It’s now been just over 80 days since the UK went into lockdown.
80 days is as long as it took Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg character to circumnavigate the world and in that time 7.5 million people have been infected by the corona virus called Covid-19 (corona virus disease 2019).
420,000 people have succumbed to Covid-19 and in the UK nearly 42,000 have died, 10% of all known deaths. These deaths have severely impacted on mourning families unable to say a proper ‘goodbye’ to their loved ones due to restrictions on numbers of people allowed at funerals.
From 23 March 2020 the majority of people in the UK were instructed – to stay at home – protect the NHS – save lives. This is what we all came to know as ‘lockdown’. The UK Government guided by the science kept the majority of us in our homes in lockdown, apart from the those carrying out vital services, until the second week in May when we were asked to – stay alert – control the virus – save lives. At this point the Government lost the confidence of a lot people and there was real fear that we would see a second spike in infections and face a second, possibly longer, stint in lockdown as people flocked to the beaches and beauty spots in their numbers.
So far, thank goodness, a second spike hasn’t materialised, but the fear of a second spike is causing many businesses to think twice before opening their doors to the public. Many small retail businesses, cafes, bars and restaurants will struggle to make their businesses financially viable even if the two-metre social distancing rule is reduced to one metre.
It is really difficult to see in the short to medium term how things can be relaxed to the extent where there is no socially distancing, so real uncertainty remains as to what the future holds for many UK businesses. The impact on the UK economy has been dramatic. During March and April, the economy shrunk by 25%, job vacancies have halved and the number of people claiming benefits went up to over 69% in April.
And… We are yet to see what the true impact of covid-19 will be and what isolating at home has done for our nation’s mental health, for those who have experienced domestic violence and for our children and young people’s wellbeing with no school for the majority of them until September.
Given the horrendous devastation caused by covid-19 it’s hard to see where the positives are in all of this!
As a Foundation, we have received funding from the National Emergencies Trust (NET) to award to organisations carrying out activity in response to lock down, for example food banks, and out reach programmes to reduce isolation. Of course, it is a positive that we have received money from NET (hence the title ‘net’ gains).
Being a positive ‘half glass full’ person I am going to attempt to find some positives to cling on to and build on because in the UK we are resilient, and I firmly believe we can bounce back and be better for it.
As soon as it was clear that Covid-19 couldn’t be stopped in its tracks the Government guided by the science instructed the elderly (70+) and the vulnerable to self-isolate and those who were clinically extremely vulnerable to shield. This meant that hundreds of thousands of people could no longer leave their homes to shop or pick up prescriptions or go for a short walk without the fear of being infected.
1. The voluntary sector have more than risen to the challenge
This is where the amazing resourceful voluntary sector, aided by keen members of the public, stepped in to meet this need, setting up and supporting foodbanks, making meals sourcing and distributing food and prescriptions; and so much more. This vital work is being carried out by established local charities and informal initiatives run by local residents requiring funding to sustain it.
2. People have shown their continued generosity
The generosity of giving has been phenomenal and has come from a number of sources. Members of the public, local businesses and charitable trusts have donated directly to organisations on the front line and community foundations have raised money from their local supporters and distributed their generosity as grants to the front line. However, the most impressive response to the Covid-19 fundraising has come from the newly formed National Emergencies Trust, formed in November 2019 as the UK’s equivalent to the international Disaster Emergency Trust (DEC). The DEC was set up in 1963 and has raised a hugely impressive £1.5 billion. One hope’s we don’t need to call upon the NET that often, but they should be commended for raising over £80 million (to date) being utilised as grants through the 46 UK community foundations.
3. Businesses have done what they can to help
The generosity from some businesses has extended to producing and donating items of personal protection equipment (PPE). One of the most of notable local examples is Burberry, who have donated over 100,000 pieces of PPE to the NHS after transforming its trench coat factory in Yorkshire to make non-surgical gowns.
4. People are thinking about the impact of traffic on our environment
Moving away from funding and PPE another positive of lockdown has been much less cars on the roads. Where I live reduced traffic has had an obvious effect on reducing the noise from the nearby main road and brought to the fore the wonderful sound of the bird song. Over the 80+ days of lockdown the lack of cars on the roads must surely have had a positive impact on the environment? We will be missing a major opportunity to help ourselves and future generations if we don’t reduce the number of cars on the road. Easier said than done of course, but with social distance restrictions likely to remain on public transport for a while yet we all have a responsibility of NOT choosing the car as our go-to mode of transport and find more environmentally friendly alternatives.
5. I’m buying an e-bike and shopping
I am putting my money where my mouth is and buying an e-bike and importantly buying it from Blazing Saddles, a Hebden Bridge bike shop devastated from flooding in 2015 and 2020 and yet somehow surviving. E-bikes are not a cheap option but you can improve your health and save money on fuel and by signing up to a green cycling-to-work scheme you can save up to a third on the cost. But really, can we put a price on a greener cleaner world that will be sustainable for our children and our children’s children?
6. I’m shopping at independent retailers even more
Supporting our local shops rather than simply buying from Amazon is going to be crucial to smaller retailers surviving covid-19.
Spending your pound locally isn’t a new concept – check out https://totallylocally.org/stuff/ to read about Totally locally the brainchild of Chris Sands from Halifax.
7. More communication with the team
Lockdown has thrown up a few unexpected positives. Working from home, something which was alien to me before covid-19 came along, has many positive benefits. No commute and no travelling from meeting which saves a lot of unproductive time. Virtual meetings are easier to covene because most people are working from home. Virtual meetings and get togethers have actually enhanced relationships with work colleagues and friends, probably because these moments have been more frequent and informal.
8. Work/life balance
Lockdown combined with some glorious weather and the flexibility of spreading the time spent on work stuff has carved out valuable time to spend quality time with my wife and dogs, to do plenty of gardening and generally, a much more relaxed approach to work.
I have finally achieved a better work life balance albeit with considerable restrictions including not being able to watch live football!
So this, my third blog in the series, is my attempt to highlight some positives to come out of Covid-19. The net gains can’t replace the 42,000 who have died from the covid-19 coronavirus and I appreciate that not everyone will keep their job, live in a house with a good sized garden or have the resources to buy an e-bike but I hope we can all find some positives to hang onto to see us through to more happier times.