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Communities unite over Covid-19 in face of government inaction

Mutual Aid groups spring up across Britain to assist locals amid virus crisis as Tories dither over policy

COMMUNITIES are coming together across Britain to stop the most vulnerable from falling through the cracks as the government said the elderly may have to self-isolate for months today.

Over 200 “mutual aid” groups have popped up across the country from Aberdeenshire to Totnes to ensure isolated residents are getting the help they need.

Health Minister Matt Hancock announced today that over-70s could be asked to self-isolate for up to four months to “shield” themselves from the virus. 

Mr Hancock confirmed the plans after writing the proposals in a Telegraph article which was initially under a paywall. 

Organisers of the mutual aid group are posting leaflets around neighbourhoods, delivering food and providing a “friendly ear” to anyone feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic. 

The movement has gathered steam rapidly, with the number of groups shooting from a handful on Thursday to 240 today. 

“It’s really incredible to see the rate the groups are growing at and willingness of people to step up and show support,” Anna Vickerstaff, a coordinator of the national Covid-19 mutual aid network, told the Morning Star. 

Explaining why the groups were set up, Ms Vickerstaff said: “We recognised that while coronavirus is likely to affect everyone, it’s definitely not going to hit everyone in the same way. 

“There are people who are more vulnerable to the impact and that can be both in physical terms because they’re from the elderly community… or people who are more emotionally at risk, such as those with anxiety — we wanted to make sure that they had support in their local areas.” 

The national network works as a way to centralise resources for local mutual aid groups which cover areas from single roads to whole boroughs, she explained. 

In London, dozens of Covid-19 mutual aid groups emerged over the weekend with Facebook pages connecting volunteers with people in need.

A page for the borough of Lambeth included posts offering advice for people on zero-hours contracts and homeschooling ideas. 

“It’s not just the physical support people are offering, it’s the sense of community,” Ms Vickerstaff added.

“A sense of hope is just as important because knowing that people are around can be as beneficial as someone doing a job for you.”

The proliferation of the groups comes as the government faces criticism over its response to the outbreak as well as for releasing inconsistent health information to the public. 

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to publish its modelling so a wider pool of experts can scrutinise the plans.

“I just need to understand better why the government is taking a different approach, based on its science, from other countries and I think that’s why it is so important that all the scientific modelling, for example, is published,” he said.

Scotland is not planning on isolating over-70s but would instead be “asking them to reduce social contact,” the country’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said.

Meanwhile, self-isolating SNP MP Lisa Cameron said the health service’s 111 helpline has been “absolutely inundated” due to the changing advice about the coronavirus outbreak.

Over the weekend more than 200 scientists wrote to the government urging it to introduce tougher measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

The 229 specialists said the current plans — which stand in stark contrast to the stringent measures imposed by Italy and Spain where the entire countries are in lockdown — will “risk many more lives than necessary.” 

The government has also been facing widespread calls to publish the models and data that officials are relying on to make decisions in tackling the pandemic.

Mr Hancock insisted they will make this available in the “next couple of days.”

Coronavirus cases jumped over the weekend to 1,372, with deaths reaching 35. 

Click here for the full list of Covid-19 Mutual Aid groups across Britain: mstar.link/C19MutualAid.

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