As a dark cloud descends on Britain, YOU have been its silver lining: Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, who founded NHS volunteers group Helpforce, says Britons will pull together to come through the coronavirus crisis
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In these dark days, great comfort can be taken from the remarkable outpouring of goodwill and community spirit across the United Kingdom as people seek to help.
Whether it be letters posted to elderly neighbours with contact details if they need anything or community volunteer groups set up on social media, there can be no doubt a great sense of spirit exists.
This has been wonderfully harnessed by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who launched a campaign for a volunteer ‘army’ of 250,000 people on Tuesday afternoon.
Just 24 hours later, a staggering 504,000 people had come forward looking to ease the pressure on overburdened health professionals fighting Covid-19, while bringing happiness to the lives of fellow human beings at their most vulnerable.
Those looking to do the same in Scotland, however, may have been disappointed. As health is devolved, Mr Hancock’s good-spirited campaign does not apply here – and sadly the Scottish Government has so far failed to take a similar approach.
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street on Wednesday in London, England
As Volunteer Scotland points out, there is no shortage of people who are desperate to help – driving people to hospital, picking up medicines or delivering supplies – but much great co-ordination is needed.
The Government, alongside local councils, can ensure that those who step forward are doing the tasks that will help the most and, crucially, are able to keep themselves safe.
More strategy is needed from ministers to ensure the work of these volunteers will respond to need at different stages of this national health crisis, such as when we are in the eye of the storm, then during the clear-up exercise that will follow.
As Nicola Sturgeon rightly said yesterday, it will be some time before life returns to normal, so we all need to look out for ourselves and each other.
Volunteering has to be a way of doing this. The First Minister has agreed to consider whether more national coordination is required.
For the sake of vulnerable people around the country and our hard-pressed NHS, it is crucial she delivers.
Protect NHS heroes
Hospital staff and ambulance staff prepare to take a patient into the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, on Monday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the Government is ready to impose tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus if people do not follow the guidance on social distancing
The virus’s spread has exposed how woefully underprepared Britain was to tackle a pandemic. A lack of intensive care beds. Too few ventilators. Medics scrabbling to buy protective clothing from DIY stores. And, perhaps most seriously, a dearth of testing kits.
Because medical staff aren’t checked for Covid-19, those with symptoms must stay at home – even if not infectious. Yet those same doctors and nurses are desperately needed on the frontline as the NHS edges close to collapse.
Meanwhile, it’s welcome that ministers have bought 3.5million tests to show if medics are immune, and can return to work safely. If the kits arrive within days, rather than weeks, it would be a huge leap forward in controlling the disease.
So far, though, the Government has been lamentably behind the curve. It must raise its game… fast.
Banks must change
In the decade since rapacious banks sparked the global financial crash have they learned nothing about social responsibility? Incredibly, it seems not.
Last week, the Government pledged to pull out all the stops to ensure the economy survived coronavirus. Businesses, suddenly struggling, were promised year-long loans at ‘attractive’ rates – helping them and their staff traverse the turmoil.
Yet we learn one iniquitous lender is threatening to charge a usurious 12 per cent when the grace period expires (the base rate is a measly 0.1 per cent).
That wouldn’t save firms and jobs. It would dash them against the commercial rocks Not long ago, the taxpayer rescued the Square Mile. The City must now help save us – not brazenly profiteer.
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