Cities across the world have fallen silent, ghost towns, besides a few strays covering their faces with masks. Once a tourist hotspot, the streets of Venice are desolate, the canals stripped of their infamous gondolas. In London, the once-bustling West End is abandoned, and the tube stations empty. From LA to Milan, and China the roads are vacant of traffic, the skies free from planes. Supermarket shelves around the world are bare as people raid the shelves and panic buy supplies.
Before January you’d think I was describing scenes from a Hollywood blockbuster, but we all know this pandemic wasn’t shot in a studio. We have no idea when the credits will roll on this real-life horror movie.
The Prime Minister’s last update was the biggest to date. Social interaction should be kept to a minimum. We should boycott pubs, bars and cinemas and offices and any unnecessary travel. Universities and colleges across the country have closed. Certain groups of vulnerable individuals including people over 70, pregnant women, and those suffering from chronic illness such as heart or kidney disease should prepare to self isolate for 12 weeks.
Of course, the fear at the forefront of people’s minds is death, with Boris Johnson’s quote about preparing to “lose loved ones before their time” still echoing in our minds.
As the reality of the government’s new measures sinks in, new fears have begun to rise in us too. The loneliness of isolation, declining mental health, inability to pay bills. I spoke to three Scots about their fears and experiences in the midst of the pandemic.
Jane McAdam, 43, falls into the group of vulnerable people who have been advised to isolate for the next 12 weeks.
She suffers from Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), a chronic kidney condition, Jane said: “I suffer from chronic pain, nausea, fatigue and have a weakened immune system. Suffering from a chronic illness already impacts my mental health, knowing that my condition will never go away.
“Being in isolation for 3 months won’t be easy. When I’m feeling low I go to see my son or my friends. I won’t be able to do that anymore. But I have to try and follow protocol, it’s not worth the risk.”
“I worry that there are people who won’t survive the loneliness.”
She continued: “I also don’t like that I might have to rely on others to drop off food and worry for those who might not have others to rely on.
“I worry that there are people who won’t survive the loneliness. The government should open up a helpline like Samaritans to help people cope, especially those who already have pre-existing mental health issues.”
While Jane reckons the government should do more, Jack Leslie, 22, who works in IT support thinks that philanthropy work on the part of businesses and individuals will go a long way in aiding the pandemic.
“Porn-hub is probably the biggest example in the media, giving Italian citizens free premium. But there’s so much more too.” Jack says.
Some prominent examples include Tim Cook, chief executive officer at Apple, who has announced he will donate $14 million to corona virus-related efforts.
Mark Cuban, billionaire best known for appearing on TV show Shark Tank, has shown his support for small and local businesses who are most at risk during the pandemic. Cuban announced he would be reimbursing all of his employees who choose to eat lunch at local restaurants.
He said in a tweet: “We in! Just sent the email for Mavs and my companies. Anyone who buys from small local, independent (sorry big company owned chains), will get reimbursed for their lunch and coffee/teas. We will start with this week and go from there.”
Companies such as Urban Outfitters, Nike, and Facebook have also announced they will ensure their employee’s are paid despite closures.
Jack, who is currently working 3 jobs to support his mortgage says coronavirus has had an impact on his work.
His main job as an IT support worker has advised he work from home: “That might sound like a good thing” he says, “But you do get cabin fever.”
Jack occasionally works Saturday nights at a busy nightclub but thinks this is no longer a safe environment: “I don’t want to put myself in risky situations. My brother has asthma, and I have grandparents in their 70s. My godmother has two daughters with cystic fibrosis too. I’ll be limiting physical contact with them at the moment.”
His third job is working as a security guard with an events company: “Pretty much the jobs I normally do are rugby and football events so no work at the moment. All shifts have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.”
Jack says this will have an impact on his savings, but it hasn’t hit him as hard as it has hit his parents.
Jack’s stepdad works in the entertainment industry, gigging as a stand-up comedian.
“My stepdad usually does 6 or so gigs a week and now he’s hardly doing any. He’s gone from 50-100 people attending to between 3-8 people. The venues are basically just haemorrhaging money, so most gigs have been cancelled.
“It’s hit them really hard because of the reduced income. It might come to point where they won’t be able to pay rent. It’s worrying in the long term. Because my stepdad is self-employed he isn’t eligible for things like employee protection or sick pay.
“There will be a lot of people in that situation. Services like citizens’ advice and job seekers might become overwhelmed.”
As things currently stand schools have yet to close, but Scottish ministers have said this could be a potential move to ‘flatten to peak’ of the virus. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has hinted schools could close until after the summer holidays.
“At school, for 6 hours a day five days a week I knew I was safe.”
Chloe*, 30, who grew up in the foster care system says we need to consider the social-economic ramifications that may arise from such closures.
“For me, school was an escape from reality as I was living in an abusive home. School was the only place I was guaranteed a meal for that day.
“School was also vital for social interaction, something I didn’t get much at home. At school, for 6 hours a day five days a week I knew I was safe.
“I worry about vulnerable children in similar positions. It’s a catch 22 situation. If they don’t close schools, people might get sick. Both options are bad.”
Jane, Jack and Chloe’s stories make it clear it is not just those infected with the virus who are struggling. We all feel the impacts of this in different ways.
While it’s easy to crumble from the fear of the unknown, it’s important to remind ourselves that there is light to be found in the dark. I’ve seen stories of local shops committing to deliver supplies to elderly, landlords pledging to waive their tenant’s rent for one month, and I’ve witnessed first-hand the hard work and dedication of front-line healthcare staff across our country.
A quote from Winston Churchill springs to mind: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
It may seem odd to use words spoken during a World War, and compare that situation to the epidemic we are facing now. But the reality is, we were in it together then and we’re in it together now.
Also, this virus won’t discriminate based on country, colour, gender or age. We needed Allies then, and in this unprecedented post-Brexit world, we’re about to realise how much we need allies now.