Coronavirus (COVID-19) has brought the country to a standstill in the space of a few weeks. Schools and businesses have closed, panic buyers are stripping supermarket shelves and social distancing has become the new norm. But the outbreak is also bringing out the best in people, and among all the bad news there have been inspiring tales of those helping others.
So, if you want to join them, here are some of the best ways to help your community.
Volunteer to help the elderly and vulnerable
There are certain people – including the over 70s and those with specific health conditions such as severe lung disease and some types of cancer – that the Government has classed as extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 and told not to leave their homes. Why not join the more than 500,000 volunteers who have signed up to support the NHS in helping them?
This may involve delivering food, medications and hygiene supplies, transporting patients to and from hospital, driving medicines and equipment to NHS facilities and checking on isolated individuals by phone. Volunteers must be 18 or over, fit and well with no virus symptoms, and the majority of tasks can be undertaken while still social distancing. You can sign up at goodsamapp.org/NHS.
Get a takeaway
Although restaurants, bars, cafés and pubs have been told to close, they are still allowed to do takeaways and deliveries, and many food and drink businesses have scrambled to reinvent themselves. As well as providing takeaway services, some food outlets are selling hampers, offering discounted meal vouchers and putting on cookery courses.
There's even a cheese truck in London delivering 'self-isolation survival kits' of cheese, charcuterie and wine. By getting a takeaway pizza from your favourite Italian or dinner delivered from your local burger joint, you will be helping them hold on to their employees and stay afloat - and they will be in a much better position when the time comes to reopen.
The NHS still needs blood and donations have dropped dramatically since the beginning of the outbreak. According to the NHS Give Blood website, donating blood and platelets is a medical need and a form of helping vulnerable people – so you can still donate during the lockdown. Staff have put extra measures in place to ensure people can donate safely. Visit blood.co.uk for more information.
Contribute to local charities
Not-for-profits are facing increasing demands for their services, but are struggling to meet people's needs as they lose staff and donations and are forced to cancel fundraising events. Look into donating to your local foodbank, homeless shelter, animal shelter or health charity.
Support the arts
The arts sector has been hit very hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with concerts and theatre productions cancelled all over the UK. If you have tickets for a cancelled performance or gig, asking for an exchange or credit note, rather than a refund, will go some way to helping the artists and others in the industry (this also goes for hotels, flights, holidays and independent vendors such as caterers and florists).
During the lockdown, many theatres are making performances available to watch online, while museums and art galleries are offering virtual tours – so there's no reason why you can't get your cultural fix from the comfort of your sofa.
Read more: How to keep your mind active when isolated
Buy gift cards and vouchers
Buying gift cards, vouchers or memberships for yourself or a loved one is another great way to support your favourite restaurant, shop, cinema, theatre or salon and is also a lovely gesture of customer loyalty.
Order from local book stores
We know how easy it is to download that novel to your Kindle, but bookshops – particularly independent ones – are taking a big hit, with doors closing and literary events cancelled. Investigate your local bookshop to see if it allows online order and delivery – and if it does, why not spread the word on social media?
Reach out to family and friends
Everyone will be struggling during this difficult time, but some people may find it harder than others. Check in with your friends and family regularly – particularly those who live alone or are self-isolating – and maybe even reach out to some that you have lost touch with. With so much technology at our disposal, it's never been easier to stay virtually connected with the people you love.
Read more: The best tech to keep in touch with loved ones