An Open Letter: COVID-19, Responsibility and Privilege
Dear friends and peers,
First of all, we just want to apologise. These are strange and honestly quite frightening times we’re living in. There is not a single person that hasn’t been affected, either directly or indirectly, by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that, like us, the majority of our readers are university students. We are sorry that the academic year came to such an abrupt ending; that there were no summer- time memories to be made and no final goodbyes said. We’re also sorry that the (immediate) future is no longer certain, and time has warped into this abstract concept; lacking any form or structure. And to all our readers who are dealing with especially stressful or upsetting circumstances, such as difficulties with family, worrying about the health of older loved ones, losing jobs, worrying about family income, struggling with mental health; we are thinking of you. In sum, we are sorry for everything happening right now and we are here to offer our support as a platform if you want to let any of these feelings out in writing or as art.
We have noticed that in our Instagram feeds, most of the content has been addressing these concerns. We have seen many posts discussing self-love in quarantine and dealing with feeling isolated and bored. These conversations and uplifting images are of course vital. Many of them are the reason why both of us felt motivated enough to get out of bed over the last few days. However, we feel that as a community we also have a duty to acknowledge the privilege many of us possess during this crisis. We have an obligation to consider the ways in which as a generation we can be making a positive, rather than a negative impact. Laila went to her grandparents’ local Sainsbury’s to do their weekly shop for them but she found the supermarket to be entirely rinsed out. Shelves upon shelves were empty, and the floor was covered in swathes of plastic and cardboard as if a tornado had passed through. Many elderly shoppers carrying empty baskets were wandering through the ransacked aisles, looking entirely disorientated and bewildered. This is heartbreaking.
As well as this, despite the PM’s clear instructions, we still see large groups of people loitering and hanging out in parks without observing any of the social distancing guidelines. We have seen this in person and on people’s social media stories. Social distancing is not sitting with a group of friends in an open space sharing a tennents. Five days ago, Lilah and her family went for a walk in Highgate woods. Lilah’s dad, now named by the family as ‘two- metres- Peter’, comically kept darting out the way of anyone who passed. Her family felt like the once rude action of social distancing had to be made into a joke, since many other groups of people weren’t doing the same. They all, her dad leading the way, practically had to fall into bramble bushes to maintain a safe distance from those taking up path space.
Whilst we understand the desire to retain some semblance of normalcy, and also to take precautions and stock up on crucial food items; the effects of such actions are, put simply, both cruel and selfish. We’ve outlined three examples of people who are badly affected by the careless actions of others and the current situation. If you’ve been engaging in any of the behaviour outlined above, hopefully the following stories and testimonies will make you reconsider your future actions. We also hope that they will encourage anyone who is feeling fed up at home (us very much included!) to be reminded who we are doing this for and who our thoughts should be directed towards right now.
The viral video filmed and uploaded by critical care nurse, Dawn Bilbrough,, detailing her experience of shopping in an empty supermarket post a forty eight hour shift is difficult to watch. Bilbrough tearfully appeals to the public to stop panic buying supplies in order to leave sufficient resources for frontline staff. Although many supermarkets are now giving priority to NHS staff, we can still defend and take care of the most needy by only taking what we need. If we consume responsibly we will have enough resources to keep everyone safe. Stockpiling only further endangers the vulnerable whilst fuelling the air of panic and hysteria.
In a similar vein, the utter disregard for the copious advice to stay inside has entirely overwhelmed the NHS’ resources, in terms of staff, medical equipment and hospital beds. There simply is not enough space to care for the hundreds of new patients who get admitted into hospital each day. The one action we can all take to ease this pressure is to stay indoors and limit social contact. Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at University College London, called the actions of those who have chosen to ignore the advice as ‘criminal’ in an interview for Channel Four News. He went on to add that just one person could ‘within ten cycles, pass it on to 60,000 people’. The numbers speak for themselves, proving that the most just and sensibile course of action is to stay indoors in order to flatten the curve and save the NHS.
Undoubtedly, the virus poses the gravest threat to the elderly. Whilst we have seen a large number of volunteers band together to provide vital supplies to the homes of the vulnerable, lately there has been a marked rise in crime against older people. The Metropolitan police are reporting more and more cases of corona related scams targeted at the elderly, such as home ‘decontamination’ services. Thus, not only are the elderly physically vulnerable to the virus but have consequently been rendered vulnerable to the opportunistic and inhumane schemes of frauds. If you see leaflets or advertisements offering home decontamination services, then get rid of them or report them. Checking in on elderly neighbours or relatives by calling them or dropping supplies on their doorstep is an effective way of keeping them at home. And if you are personally unable to deliver groceries, then attempt to spread the word to elderly neighbours or family that supermarkets and smaller groceries are now reserving supplies specifically for them.
Coronavirus has halted the economy. People’s jobs now hang in the balance and many have lost their jobs altogether. The self employed have especially suffered, with no organisation providing backing or stability. The government’s grant https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme#how-much-youll-get will hopefully provide relief to some self employed people who are in need of support. Please check it out if this applies to you! This grant is based on an average of your monthly salary as calculated from your tax returns.
However, it unfortunately does not apply for the following situations:
- Those who aren’t paying tax because they earn less than their personal allowance, which for the 2019/20 tax year was £12,500. This means that they don’t have tax returns to use for the government to work out how much they should be given in a grant.
- Self employed people operating under a limited company don’t qualify. This is a huge percentage of self employed people.
- Those on zero hours contracts. They are between self employed and contracted.
The result of this is an incredibly stressful and overwhelming situation for so many. Many individuals will be struggling to envisage their future as their professional life has come to a halt. Therefore, it is vital to check in on all our self-employed friends, family and anyone we know who might be struggling as a result of the virus.
As well as this, anyone who has let go of those who help run their household under normal circumstances (cleaners, dog walkers, gardeners, carers, etc) due to sensible worries about spreading the virus have a duty to keep paying their wages and checking in on them. We all need to be displaying this sort of decency and care. Now, more than ever.
Again, while we appreciate that the pandemic has impacted each and every one of us, we would like to shift focus to those who may need our attention and concern. Altruism and community is what is going to ultimately keep our spirits high during the next few weeks. Practicality and self-awareness is what is going to keep us safe. Please be aware and take responsibility for your behaviour; it could save more lives than you know.
Lots of love,
Laila and Lilah
P.S: In this light, Clitbait’s theme this month is CARE. Caring for yourself, your friends, family and the wider community. If you have any ideas for articles, poems or artwork which you would like to do, email us or message us on instagram @clitbaitblog ! We would love for all our community to use the site as a platform for voicing and illustrating their thoughts, feelings and ideas to help the wider community during this time.