/ Health

Celebrating the unsung coronavirus heroes

We’re all having to come to terms with our entire lives changing – who’s gone the extra mile to help you through it?

While it’s too easy to get wrapped up in stories of people fighting for loo roll, I’ve been most taken aback by the extraordinary kindness people are showing.

News: supermarkets restrict items in a bid to prevent stockpiling

I was worried about my elderly neighbours so, from a good few metres away, I asked if they needed me to get anything for them.

Nope. All sorted. A woman who works at our nearby petrol station is doing daily deliveries for them.

Community spirit

In my local area, three community clubs that support elderly people have had to close.

This should be devastating to the 90 people who use it, except three staff plus 25 volunteers are ringing regularly to chat, organise shopping, pick up prescriptions and run errands.

We also have very active local Facebook groups. People are banding together to offer support and services.

Anyone who needs help can get in contact and they’ll have someone there for them. They’re also encouraging people to look out for their neighbours, and are basically changing our entire culture of keeping our heads down and getting caught up in a too busy life.

See all the latest news and advice on COVID-19

It’s really helped lift my spirits to see people pull together at such as difficult time. So I thought it would be really good to create a space here where we can share our stories.

What acts of kindness have you seen? How has life in your community changed?

Share your positive stories with us in the comments, we’d be delighted to read them.

Sally says:
26 March 2020

Yesterday Waitrose in Tonbridge delivered a bouquet of flowers for every member of our staff at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital. It put a smile on everyone face. How wonderfull is that! They also gave us biscuits and chocolates. A BIG Thank you to Waitrose!!!

Elaine Kiff says:
27 March 2020

Has anyone spared a thought for refuse collectors? Surely they are “key workers” and are putting themselves at risk to save us but I don’t hear anyone in the government or otherwise saying thank you.

I agree with you, Elaine, but there are hundreds of essential occupations that must continue but could not all be listed. It’s 90% of retail businesses that are not needed although some firms think they know better.

The problem for refuse collectors is that they have to be in close confinement in the vehicle cabs. They have five in the cab where we live. There are contingency plans to scale back the refuse collections, cutting out the garden waste bins first, then the recycling, and then the non-putrescible general rubbish just leaving the food waste to be collected weekly – and that only involves a solo operative with a wheelie bin.

Let’s do a virtual clap too for local family companies like Laidler’s in the North East, Whitley Bay, est.1913. Their company ethos has always been – First for Quality, Service and Pride and they’re certainly living up to that now. 
They have rapidly employed more staff to work at home dealing with the influx of registrations for home delivery of fresh produce, bread and milk and are even adding more products to their range at this time and delivering within 24/48 hrs of orders being placed. Some achievement!

Apart from helping those of us ‘shielded’ and locked down and many people in parts of rural Northumberland with no local shops, this service significantly reduces the number of people and informal carers as well as registered, paid carers,  who are potentially putting their own health at risk by visiting supermarkets to shop for us. Laidlers’ delivery personnel can maintain social distancing.

Much appreciation to all at Laidler’s – and similar relatively small businesses around the country- who have adjusted their systems instantly and selflessly and are going the extra mile (in Laidlers’ case covering a radius of 30+ miles). 

Teamwork at it’s best. 
Pauline S. 

C. Shemilt says:
30 March 2020

As an 82 year old self isolating customer who has used Tesco on line for the last 9 years and spent on average £100 each time I feel very angry and upset that no help has been give to people like me who are unable to go to the stores through disability, my last Tesco order last week contained I milk, I am relying on friends and Family to help me and I honestly don’t think I will ever bother ordering from Tesco again, I honestly don’t know what I am going to do.

Hi c shemilt you can contact gov.uk for assistance fill in the form online you will be priority bless you stay safe there are organizations like scope / Samaritans redcross

Dorothy says:
4 April 2020

I am 86 and cannot get a delivery slot either from Tesco Neighbours are helping out but I do not like to to ask too much so ration myself which i learned to do during WW2

I have to say how quickly UK.Gov. Arranged food aid for myself, check with you doctor for a NHS authority, enter into UK.Gov. Questionaire. It’s a tick in a box, I freely admit in my dim state, I should not have. . . . . five days later, I was ringing a homeless charity to donate 2.5 cubic ft to ease my conscience.

I have to say local businesses in Belfast are really stepping up to the challenge. I am getting deliveries from 3 different places in the next couple of days that will take us through about two weeks without having to shop. I am so glad I can continue to support these businesses as well through all of this.

Pets At Home and their charity Support Adoption For Pets have put some incredible funding in place to help animal charities. They are also giving 10% off shopping and vets costs to NHS workers as well as dedicated shopping times to them and the vulnerable. Brilliant!

Bridget says:
1 April 2020

We had exceptional service from Boiler Juice ,we ordered Oil yesterday morning at the longest delivery slot as it is cheaper , but we received an email asking if we were in a vulnerable group I replied that we are in our 70 s so they rushed the delivery through for us and we had it today ,what great customer care .

Ruth says:
1 April 2020

We’re very lucky. Our local council & volunteers did a terrific job organizing volunteer co-ordinators for every area and leafletting all the houses with details of who to contact if you need help, plus a list of local independent businesses that will deliver. All the delivery people have been brilliant but the young lady at the pet shop deserves a sainthood. We ordered some stuff (cat food, heavy cat litter) and it appeared later that day – being trundled towards us in a wheely suitcase. Apparently the lady had asked her car insurers to cover her for doing a few local deliveries and they had wanted so much money she couldn’t afford it (maybe Which could run a campaign about this?). So, she loaded everything into the case and dragged it all the way up the very steep hill from the high street to our house. We insisted on giving her a tip and she said she’d put it in the charity box. What an absolute star!!

A seamstress friend here in a Cheshire village is making and distributing free, non-surgical, face-masks for local shops, and also working with a local hospital to make scrubs and scrub bags. She is doing this whilst looking after her two small children.

Ste says:
1 April 2020

I have to tell the story of a dear friend of mine, who when the covid-19 major breakout / lockdown occurred was in the hospital, having surgery on her spinal cord. She was left permanently disabled, at 33 years old, within sensation at all in the lower part of her body. She was then referred to a cancer specialist, for suspected cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract. On release from the hospital, she returned home to her 3 children, and instantly set up an online teaching platform , for children from Pre-school to 16, with activities, educational tutorials, workbooks and challenges. She started a movement amongst the local youth, starting children’s book clubs and poetry challenges, offered help to those who were isolated and her telephone number for anyone who felt lonely. Whilst most would be still in bed recovering, she is doing everything she can to support the children of the Keyworth community in Nottingham. Jo-Anne Jukes , you are a hero

A very heart-warming story, Ste. You should nominate your friend for an honour.

Frank Wesson says:
1 April 2020

One of our local pubs, now closed of course, has been delivering hot meals at a time I request for £5. He came this evening with my dinner and checked that I was alright for bread and milk etc. This is the White Hart in Swaffham, Norfolk.

Ah! The good publicans of Norfolk. I shall make a point of visiting the White Hart when I am next over in Swaffham.

Wearside U3A has been meeting in the Bangladesh International Centre for many years and participated in joint projects. We were touched that as soon as the impact of this virus was known the centre manager offered a telephone support service for all our members to include maintaining contact with any of our isolated members and offering shopping where needed. Our members are happy about this great support.

Madeleine Spinks says:
2 April 2020

In our village in rural Herefordshire, we established a small ‘COVID-19 taskforce’ in two weeks to coordinate getting help to those who can’t or shouldn’t go out. We’re using open-source software and a lot of guidance already out there from http://www.covidmutualaid.org. It has to be practical and agile while taking care of personal and sensitive information, keeping safe when delivering etc. We have one already known and trusted person (particularly for older people) to ring if you need help and another to coordinate volunteers. We’re having to adapt quickly to changing guidance and demand.

Richard Woolley says:
2 April 2020

In Hull, our internet service provider KCOM has temporarily suspended the data limit for all broadband subscribers who are on fixed limit contracts so that home-workers and (equally importantly) people can maintain social contact without fear of additional data charges.

We live in Braithwell, a village of 1000 in South Yorkshire. The local organisations have got together, identified the people in the vulnerable groups, and 60 volunteers have been allocated to them as “buddies” to support them and enable them to achieve self-isolation. Previously there were no shops left open in the village. The cafe has been offering a take-away service. The owner of a food wholesale business, who lives in the village, has set up a pop-up farm shop in the garden of the local pub (which has had to close for normal business), and the shop delivers. They have been very successful, and the buddies have been doing a tremendous job.

I spoke to a local elderly neighbour who had a home delivery from Sainsbury this week and on arrival realised that the order for bread was not delivered as there was no stock and she told the driver that she had no bread at home. Two hours later she got a phone call from the driver to say that he had seen bread in the warehouse and would bring the loaf round on his way home.
He dropped the bread round to her surprise 2 hours later, she offered to pay and he would not accept any money.
She was so happy she called me, It put a smile on my face too in this difficult time.

Anne Skene says:
15 April 2020

My postman and myself have worked out a way by which he can see if I have post to send which he will then take for me. Had a govt. food parcel which was big enough to feed a family for a week: I am a single 78 year old! But they had tried to help me as vegetarian …it included a tin of tuna and tins of chicken soup! Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciated it. What I couldn’t use or would go bad as being too much for me, I shared with someone who is an essential worker finding it difficult to shop due to long shift hours.
Best of all is the fact that everyone who delivers always smile and wave when they see me. Including the lovely helpful bin men.
And my council have allocated me to a volunteer who says that I need any help, just ring him. And they made sure that I have an emergency alarm.

One of the unseemly aspects of the management of the Covid-19 epidemic in the UK is the ongoing row between the government and those on the front line about critical aspects of the care response, including testing for coronavirus, the availability of ventilators, and the provision of suitable protective apparel.

I feel it really is time for the government to stop trying to apply spin to what is a distressing situation for the whole country. It is clear that the issue of testing was not given the importance it deserves which could be a contributory factor in a higher than necessary mortality rate. It has projected the testing capacity to be at the rate of 100,000 a day [does that include weekends?] by the end of April. Performance is currently running at around 15,000 a day. There are fifteen days [including weekends] to go to raise the testing rate by an average of nearly 6,000 a day and it is likely that as the deadline approaches the target will get harder to hit. The universities and commercial organisations that have substantial laboratory resources were drawn into the programme almost as an afterthought. Two of our great pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and AstroZeneca, are expecting to contribute up to 30,000 tests a day by the beginning of May on a not-for-profit basis and the hope is that the universities, government scientific laboratories and other commercial laboratories will complete the picture. For the sake of the doctors, nurses and care workers I truly hope so.

The need for ventilators seems to have caught the Department of Health and Social Care by surprise and all sorts of companies that produce cars to vacuum cleaners, and various folk who keep a 3-D printer in their garage, are doing their best to produce some useful appliances but there have been arguments over compliance with specifications, standards, copyrights, and approval requirements. Perhaps it is easy to say this with the benefit of hindsight, but I would have expected there to be a strategic reserve of such vital equipment held in government warehouses that could be distributed rapidly to where it was needed. Thanks to the fulsome resources of the exhibition industry and with military assistance it has been possible to set up the vast Nightingale hospitals at a fast pace, but without the essential life support apparatus for intensive care the NHS will struggle to keep up with demand.

The acrimonious ding-dong over personal protective equipment between the government and the professionals and volunteers is, for me, the most upsetting feature of this episode so far. The Secretary of State says there is enough to go round if it is used properly; the practitioners say there is not and I believe them. The residential and nursing homes sector and the domiciliary care services have found it impossible to get enough supplies to provide safe working conditions for the personal care staff who have to be in intimate contact with residents and clients and we are losing dedicated care workers as a result. Unbelievably, we seem to be reliant on getting supplies from China because, first, we do not have adequate reserves in store to meet such an emergency, and, second, we no longer seem to have UK manufacturers on government supply contracts who can switch from routine production to intensive supply to a standard pattern using readily available materials. At the most basic level, the use-once plastic aprons that come on a roll and which many care workers need to wear – not the all-over body suits – are little different from bin bags in terms of manufacture. These could have been belted out in their millions given the call and a little preparation. Gloves, caps, coats, visors, and other basic necessities could also have been made available quickly with proper organisation and coordination. Large quantities of the more specialised protective kit for doctors and nurses should also be held in reserve stocks in case of emergencies and manufacturers lined up to manufacture replacements as the situation develops.

I have been led to wonder whether that inscrutable organisation the UK civil service – not the healthcare professionals – doesn’t have something to answer for in all this. In order to achieve unrealistic budget reductions and divert cuts away from more sensitive or uncomfortable subjects, did they deliberately run down our strategic reserves of vital supplies, allow us to become in hock to oriental suppliers which could not guarantee priority of service, and reduce our preparedness for emergencies? So, . . . we are not exposed to earthquakes and tsunamis, the cold war is over [really?], and other disasters are within a manageable scale, but we have not eliminated the possibility of plagues and other pestilences that can steal up on us without warning with devastating consequences. We really must be prepared much better for future crises and install vital resilience and then maintain it. We owe it to the present heroes and heroines not to let their losses and their fortitude be given in vain. I trust it is noted that I make no criticism whatsoever of the NHS in this débâcle. My anger is directed entirely at the government; in my view, despite its much vaunted efforts, its overall performance has been inadequate and I detest its callous attempts to say otherwise.

I agree, John, and we could certainly do with fewer pleonastic speeches by government and far more admissions that they got it wrong by simply not listening to the warnings last year. It is said people have lost faith in politicians but I honestly wonder if there was much there in the first place.

I find it very difficult to work out what is fact, fiction, political posturing and media hype.

Political opposition and media are experts at making a mountain out of a molehill, finding a couple of people to support the mountain, blowing the facts out of all proportion, so you don’t know what to believe.

I can’t remember the statement now, but the media twisted it into suggesting it was said that healthcare workers were wasting what PPE they had.

Is it a relatively small number of healthcare establishments or all establishments that have insufficient PPE supplies?

In these unprecedented times, the government needs to take responsibility, but why do we hear nothing of NHS management or care home owners? It is not as though this equipment is not already in use albeit on a much smaller scale. Surely they have some responsibility but are managing to stay quiet.

Private care home owners make healthy profits so why aren’t they providing protection for staff and residents? What do they do when normal flu gets into care homes, after all it also kills.

That said, we still have manufacturing in this country that by now should be producing the essential equipment needed by healthcare workers and all those working in public. Where is it?

Is PPE being stolen? I have no idea of the quality or standards, but there is plenty for sale on ebay. Perhaps recent sellers should be questioned as to where they acquired it from.

Whatever the truth, it needs sorting out NOW.

I don’t know about PPE but hand sanitiser has been the target of many thefts: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-51771584 Three members of my family work in a hospital and have first-hand experience of this problem.

If stolen hand sanitiser is sold on online marketplaces, assume that it has been diluted with water.

I have not bought any hand sanitiser. I have ‘disposable’ nitrile gloves which I carry when I am out. After use I turn them inside-out and pop them in a bag. I then wash the used gloves with soapy water and they are ready for re-use.

Well said John. I am pleased Boris is now in recovery but I hope he will spend some time looking back and admit to himself that washing hands, although important, was not enough to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 and that it was exactly the same strain that came here from the Far East, where “it is a culturally accepted practice to wear masks anyway” and so it was not really necessary to encourage people to wear them here.

I walked to the local GP Practice this morning without donning a mask as there were very few people around, but wore it as soon as I arrived. I waited in the car park until called by the phlebotomist who seemed very well protected wearing both mask and visor, apron and surgical gloves, then proceeded to instruct me re a very well rehearsed procedure, ie hand sanitizer both on entry and exit, to place relevant documentation on the desk and not to talk at all while she extracted the blood. All the remaining staff were wearing masks and they waved to show their appreciation that I was wearing one too.

I hope lessons have been learned about the damage an unseen nucleic acid molecule wearing a protein coat, hungry and desperate to replicate itself in the cells of the likes of you and me is capable of and that all global scientists will work together to produce a vaccine, or better still an effective medication that will stop this parasite dead in its tracts before it raises its ugly head again in the future.

My medical practice, which is more like a health centre because they also carry out minor procedures there, has always had hand sanitiser at the check-in point but I had to point out to a passing medic recently that the vessel had obviously never been cleaned and was merely routinely refilled whenever necessary since there was a considerable build-up of gunge around the spout and down the sides of the bottle which also looked old and dirty. I was more concerned with catching something than preventing infection. The person apologised and said she would get it dealt with but the next time I went there the sanitiser bottle was in the same condition as previously. The hospital I have been going to for dressings has no sanitiser available for patients’ use at the clinic I attend.

Definitely worth mentioning on your next visit John. Hand sanitizers are in evidence everywhere at the hospital I visit. A quick reminder about past MRSA dirty infected hospital days may help to get the message through. Would the management there welcome a return to those days?

One of the most promising prospects for an anti-viral tailored to Covid-19 is Moonshot. Covid Moonshot is managed by PostEra, a start-up company linked to Cambridge University, that specialises in sifting through large data sets.

But there are, altogether, more than 3,500 different anti-viral designs being trialled. From the evidence emerging it seems countries and researchers are collaborating as never before.