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Vulnerability and the pandemic: lending a helping hand

If we were to be completely honest about the harsh truth of our current situation, the vast majority would settle for a tired face and say how hopeless they feel about constantly prolonged Covid restrictions. 

Everybody is exhausted and anxious, and with all the restrictions in place until the end of February, the future might not look as promising as it was assumed to be. Everyone’s approach to the current situation is different, and it is hard to blame anyone for being too selfish when all we do is try to carry on with our lives. Still, some are clearly more vulnerable than others in their struggles with the pandemic, and tighter Covid restrictions bring them yet another burden. 

It seems that in the light of current tight restrictions, it has never been as difficult as now to deal with a chronic illness or a disability. The possibility to leave the house with an excuse for physical activity might not be an option. 

But, on the other hand, even if it is, going outside is most likely linked to a serious threat of getting a virus, and a trade-off becomes impossible to solve. Lack of possibility to visit the loved ones inside households triggers feelings of isolation and loneliness, which then might have a detrimental effect on mental health, as it has been on a constant decline from the very start of the pandemic. 

Thinking of the most vulnerable is often thinking about the elderly. As far as it might be true in principle, ageism featuring in this statement has been a serious contributor to the anxiety of the pandemic. Feeling of loneliness is not easy to overcome by a generation not familiar with technology and relying mostly on face-to-face relations. 

As the situation remains in place and is predicted to remain for some time, voice calls have become some sort of safety net. Whether it is in a more direct manner of financial support or in an indirect one of assistance and support, actions are expected. 

But they are not as visible as it is expected them to be. Taking a broad perspective, there are around 2.5 million citizens classified as clinically vulnerable in the UK, whether due to a chronic illness or a disability, who are in significantly greater danger of catching Covid-19 and developing some serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions. 

Still, with the lack of a clearly developed social safety net, those individuals have to face a particularly bizarre trade-off between their health and source of income, allowing them to live a decent life. The most recent estimates show that the most vulnerable ones can lose up to 60% of their income, whether to full unemployment or a necessity to reduce their working hours. 

Mental health support isn’t in its best condition either. Since the pandemic brought more underlying problems to the surface, the demand for such services has been increasing but without being sufficiently met. This contributes to the instability of already existing negative feelings. 

The pandemic isn’t over and even with a current vaccine rollout it will still take some time for the life to become normal again. 

In the meantime, those who are vulnerable have to fight more battles than usual to adjust to a new reality. The lack of possibility to meet up with friends can be understandably frustrating. An extra burden that the pandemic adds to the struggles with mental illnesses or physical disabilities is a whole new spectrum of issues that have to be dealt with. 

Taking an outside perspective creates a clearer picture of a situation, as personal difficulties of the pandemic are not everything there is to consider.  So in this pandemic we are all in together, don’t forget to think of those who might need a helping hand in your community. Reach out to those who are more vulnerable and if possible, offer them your services.

Whether it be carrying groceries or bringing them a meal, every little thing counts.

Image: Lorie Shaull via Flickr