The new coronavirus, COVID-19, has many of us glued to the news, concerned for loved ones, and adapting our lives to deal with the changes the pandemic is having on our homes, schools, and work-places. It’s pretty tough.

Young people demonstrate against climate change to ask the political and business class to take urgent action. The demonstration is part of the movement known as Fridays for Future, inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

A lot of systemic inequality has been exposed as the realities of the pandemic response set in. It’s easier for some people to deal with the crisis than others.

For example, not everyone has paid sick leave and many ‘gig economy’ workers don’t have the option to work from home. Consider that if schools and child care spaces close for extended periods, the burden on working parents (especially low-income, single-parent or single-earner households) without flexible work conditions will be extra heavy. People without adequate homes are particularly vulnerable, as are those who have pre-existing health conditions.

Fear of a recession, along with the impact of the OPEC dispute that has oil prices tumbling, have also sparked calls on governments not to fund a bail out of the fossil fuel industry. 

Greenpeace, along with many others are calling for any spending to help build a better society, based on better health care, employment standards, social protections and fund clean energy — in short, a society where we truly take care of one another and the only planet Earth we’ve got. And an economy and society transformed to make us more resilient, driving changes in the ways we live, work and get around that promote positive environmental and health outcomes.

We need systemic solutions to these kinds of protection gaps and problems. In  the meantime, we can keep our community connections strong and model the behaviour we want our leaders to adopt and show them that love and compassion are stronger than fear. 

Here are eleven ways people are talking about caring for one another while staying safe as our family, friends, colleagues and neighbours navigate COVID-19.

#1) Look after yourself, to look after us all – flatten the curve!

Use simple social distancing tactics like replacing hugs and handshakes with alternatives …

Handshake and hug alternatives in the Coronavirus world
Handshake and hug alternatives in the Coronavirus world

If we all do our best to stop the spread, we can flatten the curve! (IMAGES via The Spinoff)

Simple hygiene and social distancing can save lives and flatten the Coronavirus pandemic curve
Simple hygiene and social distancing can save lives and flatten the Coronavirus pandemic curve

#2) Check in on elderly neighbours

Although necessary, social isolation can be lonely.

Text, phone call, email or, if needed, in person, especially if they live alone.

#3) Reach out to people in self isolation

Send them funny memes or GIFs to cheer them up. Call them. Video chat them. Don’t forget about them. Make sure they feel less alone and have social support. Offer them help. Some communities have started to use these cards to help neighbours who are in self-isolation.

#4) Volunteer your time.

Know someone in self isolation or who needs to limit their public interactions? Offer to pick up and deliver their shopping, treats or other things they might need, while taking precautions to keep yourself safe. Your time and labour could be a big help to someone needing support.

#5) Counter racist fears and xenophobia

Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their origin or ethnicity. Yet because the virus originated in China, people of Chinese descent have faced a wave of racism. Help stop the fear and abuse by educating people and correcting racist comments or behaviour when you hear or see them.

#6) Combat misinformation online

Unfortunately, if not unexpected, misinformation on COVID-19 is floating around online. If you see it, report it to your platform and let anyone posting/sharing it know (e.g., via private message or commenting on the post). Get your information from trusted sources like the World Health OrganizationAustralian Department of Health, or your doctor/hospital.

#7) A radical idea: rent payment relief for self-isolated people without paid sick leave?

If you’re a landlord and have the extra income, you could consider (as some landlords reportedly have) freezing rent payments and ensuring no evictions occur for any tenants struggling financially due to the pandemic. What do you think?

#7) Fundraise for people financially impacted by quarantine measures

Fundraising platforms like Pozible can help you organise, but word of mouth, email and text are also tried and true ways to do some grassroots fundraising in support of someone affected by things like missing work, paying for childcare because of school closures, or extra medical costs.

#9) Make social distancing fun with video chat

Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t feel close to our loved ones. Get creative. Have a video chat to get together and celebrate birthdays or other occasions using everyday tools like Skype, Hangouts or Zoom. Or, synchronise watching your favourite TV show or movie together while chatting via text or video.

#10) Share positive news and acts of kindness with your community

There are so many examples out there of people helping one another. Share those. Talk about those. Together we can prevent getting caught in a bad news hopelessness spiral. Spread the word about how you’re making a difference.

#11)  And for cripe’s sake stop buying up all the toilet paper!

Prepare for what your household will need if quarantined, but curb the panic-greed reflex. If we want a better world, we have to learn to keep our community’s needs top of mind and share the simple things (seriously, toilet paper?! Soap is shareable and, erm, Indispensable in a time like this!).

And remember, wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. It protects you and everyone around you. It only takes 20 seconds.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific

About the author

Greenpeace Australia Pacific
Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organisation that uses non-violent direct action to expose global environmental problems.