March 05, 2020
Update: See the latest stories on the coronavirus outbreak.
How You Can Help Vulnerable People In The Coronavirus Outbreak
Coronavirus is dividing the nation between those who have the access and resources to take necessary precautions and people on low incomes or with other vulnerabilities that mean closures and self-isolation can take their toll.
Those working practical and manual jobs on zero-hour contracts won’t be able to work from home, and those who can face higher bills. 
Liam Evans, campaigns officer at Turn2Us, a national charity that helps people in financial hardship, believes there needs to be a collective move by society – as well as the government – to help those who are vulnerable. 
So what can people do to help?Related... Coronavirus Is Dividing The Rich And Poor – And Could Drag Hundreds Of Thousands Into Poverty 1. Shop responsibly.Panic buying can affect those on low incomes. Evans cites a corner shop that had increased prices of hand sanitiser from £1 to £7 due to demand. “Those sorts of individual choices have an impact on people on low incomes who won’t be able to afford that,” he says. If you overbuy, prices are likely to rise – and this will affect a portion of the population. 
Try to keep it to business as usual, until advice is suggested otherwise. This means there’s no need to buy more or less than you usually would. Shopping “responsibly” is the key word.  2. Support food banks.As cases of coronavirus rise, food banks face fresh challenges to make sure vulnerable people have access to food and that banks aren’t forced to close. In Singapore, for example, food charities have been hit as coronavirus measures increase – with many volunteers not turning up. 
More and more people rely on food banks and if vulnerable people are self-isolating, they will need food supplies but may not be able to stockpile – if it comes to that – if they don’t have a freezer or even the funds to do so.
If you’re unable to get to food banks to donate, it’s worth calling your nearest one to find out if there’s a way for donations to be picked up, or another way you can help. Or if you know someone in need, perhaps you could buy a meal from a food delivery service to send to their house. Related... How Not To Be A Dick During The Coronavirus Outbreak 3. Seek out local charities.Grassroots organisations are often best placed to help people in a time of increased need, such as the coronavirus outbreak – whether with food, information or funds. Evans puts an emphasis on local, smaller groups that are likely to offer “immediate, practical support” for issues relating to coronavirus.
Are there charities that give cash grants to vulnerable people in your area? Do those charities need support from volunteers to come up with an action plan? See if there are any that could benefit from your time, money or both.4. Look out for your community.Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, says that now is to the time to look out for your neighbours. “The coronavirus outbreak is obviously a huge worry and looks likely to be challenging for our older population so it is more important than ever to be vigilant and look out for older friends, neighbours and relatives to make sure they’re okay,” she told HuffPost UK.
“If you have any concerns about their health or need more information about coronavirus call NHS111 or visit the NHS website.” Across the country, Age UK provides support – older people and their families can call Age UK Advice for free on 0800 169 65 65 to find out how the network can help them. 
Elderly or disabled neighbours might not have the ability to prepare or protect themselves, says Liam Evans at Turn2Us – this might be a lack of internet access or a shortage of hygiene supplies. Visits from carers might be challenging because one or other person is in self-isolation. Letting vulnerable people know of any updated health measures is helpful in itself.
“Sometimes, you do have to reply on your community to help,” says Evans. “Obviously, we’re urging the government to step in as much as possible too – but no one is going to check on your neighbour more likely than you. It’s more of a social responsibility to keep an eye on your community.”Some people may also be on a pre-payment energy meter, but unable to leave the house because they are self isolating. Peter Smith, director of policy and research, at National Energy Action, a fuel poverty charity, said given that cold homes can cause or exacerbate circulatory and respiratory conditions it’s “very important that people potentially infected with coronavirus – or any illness - are able to stay warm in their homes”.
Check if anyone self-isolating on pre-payment meters are out of credit – you may be able to help them or advise them to speak to their energy supplier. “Suppliers can sometimes provide discretionary credit in emergency situations, although we must stress at this point that we can’t confirm what their policies are regarding coronavirus,” said Smith. “If not then they should be able to advise on other ways that the person can manage their energy use during a period of temporary confinement.”5. Follow the health advice.You should follow the health advice laid out by Public Health England to reduce the spread of coronavirus. This will minimise the potential health impact, and reduce infection, illness and death in those more vulnerable.
You may not have any complications if you are tested positive for coronavirus, but if you pass it on to someone who has underlying health conditions or who is elderly, it could have fatal consequences. 
To practise hygiene and reduce the spread, you should:Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 secondsAlways wash your hands when you get home or into workUse hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not availableAvoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed handsCover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwardsTry to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Related... Should You Avoid Touch Screens In The Coronavirus Outbreak? How To Self-Isolate For Coronavirus – Especially If You Don't Live Alone How To Check For Coronavirus Symptoms Online
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