Social distancing, self-isolation, panic-buying –– there aren’t many reasons to be cheerful right now.
The UK on Monday became the latest country to restrict people’s movements because of coronavirus. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned people from leaving their homes apart from a few “very limited” reasons.
But the new measures have also inspired many to help out in their communities, and social media is awash with offers of help and support for those in need and frontline workers.
More than half a million people responded to the UK government’s call to become a volunteer for the National Health Service (NHS), the country’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Thursday. The government was hoping to get 250,000 people to sign up.
A long way from the fraught scenes of supermarkets stripped bare and fights breaking out at the checkouts are the thoughtful groups and individuals who are doing what they can to try and make a difference.
Ravinder Singh, founder and CEO of Khalsa Aid, an international humanitarian relief organization, has been distributing food to hospitals around London and Slough, southeast England, with the help of 25 volunteers.
The charity has delivered Punjabi food such as samosas and aloo tikkas, and other essentials such as pizzas and water, to hardworking nurses and doctors in various hospitals.
Most of the food has been donated for free by restaurants, Mr Singh told CNN.
They have so far delivered food and water to Northwick Park, Watford, Wexham, St Mary’s, St George’s, and Charing Cross hospitals and aim to support more outside London in the coming weeks.
The response has been “absolutely fantastic,” Mr Singh said, adding that medical staff have been grateful to receive the additional supplies.
The charity has delivered 35 crates of tomatoes, 80 loaves of bread, and 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of vegetables, to the NHS and nurses on shift.
“They are putting themselves at risk and I think it’s time we recognize them as heroes,” Mr Singh said.
Charlotte Bredael, 18, from Newcastle, northwest England, runs a small business where she attends children’s parties and events dressed as princesses.
Bredael saw Facebook posts from parents whose children were devastated that their planned trips to Disneyland were canceled.
“I thought that if the kids weren’t able to meet a princess at Disney World, it might make it a little bit better for them if they could have a video from a princess,” she told CNN.
Schools in the UK were told last week that they would be closing for most children, except those whose parents are “key workers.”
Bredael is creating videos from her home dressed as Disney princesses for any child who is feeling down.
“I’ve had messages from parents saying that it’s made their kid’s day, which makes my day,” she told CNN.
Bredael has filmed 20 videos and is expecting to film more.
She added: “It’s making the kids really happy and it’s also making the parents happy to see their kids happy.”
Josh Ezekiel is a third year chemical engineering student at Bath University. Once his university shut down earlier this month, Ezekiel offered up his services as a remote tutor in maths, physics and chemistry, with a view to prioritizing those “with limited financial means.”
Days later, Johnson announced that the nationwide exams would be canceled. But Ezekiel has still been tutoring students online, free of charge.
The 20-year-old told CNN: “I’m quite lucky in that I’m doing some research and it’s done with modeling software so I can be away from the lab right now.”
He added: “There were quite a lot of people who messaged me initially but then the exams ended up being canceled and I’m sure a lot of parents thought they would hold off for now.”
Up until the UK government’s announcement on Monday, Ursula Stone had been making bouquets and leaving them outside Londoners’ front doors.
Stone creates arrangements from flowers that have been thrown out by supermarkets and other suppliers once they hit their expiration date.
At the time, Stone told CNN she hoped the flowers would “bring a little bit of cheer to people’s lives.”
She has had to stop her arrangements since tighter restrictions were put in place in the UK around social movements.