Coronavirus: How can I help?

A man wearing a mask walks past a Image copyright

There’s a lot of bleak news in the world right now. From the outbreak to massive unemployment to vulnerable people being separated from their loved ones – it can be easy to feel helpless.

But for those of us who are lucky enough to be healthy, and have time and resources available, there are also lots of practical ways we can help healthcare workers, our communities, and people we care about.

From making donations, to writing a diary, to reading a story online to your friends’ children – here are some simple, and sometimes surprising, things you can do.

1. Stay home – or follow local social distancing guidelines

This one’s obvious – but if you’re living in a place with physical distancing guidelines, make sure you follow them. You’ll be doing your bit to keep infection numbers down – particularly since some carriers don’t show symptoms – and hence reduce the burden on healthcare providers.

2. Register to donate blood

In many countries, blood banks saw a fall in donations after social distancing measures kicked in. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau even made a public appeal, saying “we still need blood donors. If you’re able, consider going in and donating.”

Blood banks have stressed that, even if their stocks are good now, it is important people keep donating as normal, or register and make appointments to donate later in the year, to ensure a steady supply. The UK blood bank has told donors: “We will need you most later in the year as we feel the impact of coronavirus.”

3. Help your local community with care packages or mutual aid groups

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Media captionCoronavirus: The volunteers making face shields for Madrid’s medical staff

A lot of groups have been set up so people can help vulnerable neighbours who can’t leave their homes.

“We try to help with some of the small, everyday things like groceries, picking up prescriptions, and being a friendly voice on the end of a phone line,” says Trin Gong, who runs a mutual aid group with about 250 volunteers in Surrey Docks, east London. They also share useful information, like whether any local supermarkets are particularly busy.

Meanwhile, groups like Dare to Care Packages are co-ordinating donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) for UK hospitals that are low on supplies, and organising donations for vulnerable people who don’t receive emergency care packages from the government.

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Dare to Care Packages

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Community groups are organising care packages for people who can’t leave home

“Some immunocompromised people don’t qualify, as well as vulnerable women with frequent address changes, refugees, and some people in care homes,” says founder Josephine Liang. “We’re taking donations for soaps and there’s a pretty big need for sanitary pads and tampons too.”

4. Work out where your skills are needed, then volunteer.

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Media captionSewing scrubs for the NHS

There’s been a lot of coverage of people sewing PPE for healthcare workers, or alcohol distilleries making hand sanitisers.

But many less obvious skills are also invaluable to volunteer groups.

For example, a lot of charities and community groups need help operating online – so Marc Sloan and some of his technologist friends teamed up to form Code4Covid and CovidTechSupport, that help non-profit groups with technology problems.

So far, they say they’ve helped a charity set up an online warehouse to distribute essential goods, and helped mutual aid groups design websites that can cope with large numbers of visitors.

“We’re trying to get marketers, product managers, designer and copywriters too – because all the projects we work with need those kinds of skills,”

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