Remember Lord of the Flies? An uninhabited island, something about a pig, an important seashell, a little murder here and there? Substitute social distancing calls for the seashell, blatant refusal to stop hoarding or heed lockdown restrictions for murder, throw in a stray virus for good measure, and we’ve got ourselves the perfect storm for a modern-day William Golding novel.
As though the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a brutally literal test of ‘survival of the fittest’, excessive food hoarding and those exploiting the crisis by buying out and reselling limited medical supplies at exorbitant prices have further marginalised the elderly, sick and differently abled individuals’ access to food and healthcare necessities. Likewise, those who continue to recklessly disregard calls for social distancing play a risky little game of Russian roulette with the lives of these vulnerable groups.
There is a silver lining however, that has emerged within this climate of uncertainty, bringing out the best of humanity and its capabilities: acts of fortitude, compassion and kindness. The young American girl doing a grocery run for an elderly couple stranded in a carpark, unable to cope with the crowd. The #caremongering movement in Canada that mobilises local community efforts to ensure equal distribution and access to basic resources.
Australian supermarkets opening an hour early exclusively for the elderly, differently abled and pregnant women, leading Singapore to adopt similar measures by allocating the first hour of opening to these shopper groups. Privately-owned European gin distilleries that utilise alcohol by-product to manufacture hand sanitiser for distribution among the less privileged.
In the face of an invisible enemy that knows no nationality, ethnicity or respect for borders, how can we better support the vulnerable in our society during the pandemic? Here are some ways that we can safely practise providing aid to those who need it most.
1. Up your hygiene game
While the coronavirus is mainly transmitted through close contact with respiratory droplets such as a cough or sneeze, studies have found that the coronavirus is also transmitted by fomites—materials that have been contaminated with droplets of the coronavirus. Individuals can become infected when they touch those contaminated objects and then touch their eyes, nose and mouth. The solution? Keep your sneezes and coughs covered with a tissue, and bin it afterwards in a covered and lined bin. Avoid touching your face in public before washing your hands for at least twenty seconds and disinfect door handles to prevent surface transmission.
See the BBC's guidelines on what 2 metres looks like here.
2. Stop hoarding and buy only what you need
Stick to two weeks’ worth of what you need. The average person does not need that much sitting around at home. But the elderly man with arthritis who lives alone and can barely make it to the kitchen, much less out of the house, does.
3. Be responsible and practise social distancing
It is entirely possible to be virulent without being symptomatic, which is why scientists have recommended avoiding crowds, social gatherings and maintaining a distance of two metres from other individuals on essential trips out. Reports of people defiantly flocking to the beach or holding parties in jest of social distancing measures have not only acted irresponsibly to the immune compromised, but are also intensifying the strain on our healthcare system by occupying limited hospital resources. Social distancing is physical distancing, not social isolation. With today’s technology, there is a myriad of social media channels to safely maintain social interaction and continue working from home to minimise physical contact.
4. Deliver essential and emergency care packages
Reach out to elderly, pregnant or differently abled relatives or neighbours who might need help with picking up prescriptions, pet food or running errands, leaving the items in the mailbox or in a safe place for them to collect. Naturally, all households differ and items should be customised to their needs. A basic list of things to consider including in these packages?
- Dried and long-life food: oats, cereal, pasta, rice, tea/coffee, biscuits, spreads, long-life cheeses, milk powder, cooking oil, dried fruits or nuts
- Bottled foods: canned tuna, meats, tomatoes, baked beans, soups
- Frozen goods: frozen vegetables, fruits and meats
- Health supplies: gloves, alcohol-based hand sanitiser/wipes, surgical face masks, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, Band-Aids, feminine hygiene products
- Perishable products such as milk and bread can be included, as long as they are consumed by their use dates and preferably before long-life products
5. Supporting COVID-19 relief organisations
Different community-led organisation efforts have come forward to ensure that those without a social support circle will not be forgotten. Donate or volunteer your time at these organisations:
(a) The Courage Fund
Set up by Community Chest, this fund provides relief and support to vulnerable individuals, families, healthcare workers, frontline workers and volunteers affected by the COVID-19 situation.
(b) Food From The Heart
A non-profit charity organisation that aims to alleviate hunger among the less privileged through their food distribution programme.
(c) SG United Portal
This centralised platform was set up by Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee to coordinate volunteer and donation opportunities for COVID-19 relief efforts towards the underprivileged, vulnerable and healthcare workers.
Donate to partner charities here, sign up for volunteering opportunities here or contact the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre at 6550 9595 for further enquiries on how to provide structured assistance.