By Hina Bokhari
Merton Councillor and Liberal Democrat London Assembly candidate.
As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, it is clear that many of us, especially the elderly and most vulnerable, are going to be self-isolating over the coming weeks and months.
During these times, we need to pay extra attention to the elderly. Many will need assistance with obtaining groceries, medication and other essentials. Some will receive fewer visits from family and friends; increasing the risk of a harmful incident, such as a fall, not being noticed until too late. Reduced social contact will also have massive psychological implications, in the form of loneliness.
The rise in loneliness and social isolation over the last few years, particularly amongst the elderly, has been well documented. It is one of the reasons I championed a “happy to chat bench” in Cheam – to encourage people to reach out and build the relationships which are so vital to sustaining healthy lives.
The imminent period of isolation is likely to lead to the issue being exacerbated. The happy to chat bench might not be coronavirus friendly, but let’s all do our bit to think of creative ways to combat this issue. If you have elderly/vulnerable neighbours consider dropping a note through their door with your contact details so they can get in touch if they are worried or need a hand. A template postcard you could use is available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1L_8GoI1zQ572fBZtElFfQZI9vNEwK7Rf/view?usp=sharing
We also must keep in mind that BAME communities are going to feel the effects of this pandemic worse than others. People from South Asian, African and Caribbean backgrounds are more likely to suffer from diabetes, putting them at greater risk of suffering from harmful symptoms of Covid-19. Additionally, elderly people from South and East Asian backgrounds score worse on the “health related quality of life for those people of 65 and older”.
There is also an economic dimension to this, with BAME millennials aged 16-25 are 47 per cent more likely to be working zero hour contracts. This puts them in a vulnerable position if their work is affected due to the pandemic, potentially leaving them without an income stream.
Many from BAME backgrounds also face higher risks of transmitting or contracting the virus, due to living in extended families, or through regular attendance of places of worship.
I urge everyone from our BAME communities to take extra precautions, to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable. If you have elderly relatives living with you, then please make sure you stringently follow government guidelines on social distancing and hygiene https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults.
I know that during times of trial and hardship, we find comfort in turning to God – but please avoid public places of worship, as these try and help slow down the spread of this virus, and save lives. Our religions all command us to do good and take care of each other – there is much you can do, such as sign up to a local mutual aid group on Facebook, or donate to your local foodbank.
Our BAME communities have long histories of looking out for one other, and deep traditions of community service. If there was ever a time to ensure we are living up to these, it is now.