Coronavirus: Mutual Aid community groups set up across UK to help neighbours self-isolating
PUBLISHED: 11:59 16 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:38 16 March 2020
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Hundreds of community support groups have been launched across the country as neighbours offer support to one another during the coronavirus outbreak.
As of Sunday lunchtime there were 250 Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK groups in the UK offering help with shopping, picking up prescriptions and dog walking to people who are self-isolating.
Volunteers and organisers are coordinating via Facebook and WhatsApp. Islington's Facebook group on Monday morning had more than 1,500 members, 24 hours after setting up. The Haringey group had more than 1,200 members, Hackney had north of 250, Camden had almost 900 and Brent had more than 700.
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The groups, which are being coordinated nationally by Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK, have held online meetings and are now taking to the streets to let people know about the support, which also includes offering phone calls with people who are self-isolating due to infection or increased vulnerability.
National coordinator Anna Vickerstaff said: 'No matter what we look like, where we live, or how much money we have, getting sick reminds us that at our core we're all just human. And in every country it's the old, the sick and those already struggling who will be affected worse. That's why we set this network up - because we want to make sure that no one in our communities is being left to face this crisis alone, and because we want to try and redress some of the serious inequalities this outbreak will expose.'
Dave Hooke, 47, is one of the organisers of the Islington group, which he came across through fellow Labour party members on Facebook. Within the group, each ward of the borough is covered.
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Dave, of the Bemerton Estate, is covering Caledonian and Barnsbury as he knows the area through his Labour canvassing. He is calling for more people to volunteer.
'We've already had people self-isolating saying they have respiratory problems and asking for someone to go and get their prescription,' Dave said. 'That happened this morning. A couple of other people have said they want contacts because they may need something in the future, so we have put people in touch.
'I think community organising will help and make sure people can stick to the isolating guidelines, which may become more stringent as they go on.
'It's important making people feel they can isolate, and also to preserve mental health. We're going to need a hell of a lot of volunteers in the community.'
Hope Winter-Hall is self-isolating in Islington with her 92-year-old mother. She said: 'I am a disabled person with a care package.
'We already know that social services and the NHS were overwhelmed before this virus hit. I am very well prepared for months of isolation but I will be needing help before it is over. Finding the Islington Mutual Aid group lifted our spirits and changed our view of the future.'
The latest figures show as of 9am on Sunday 1,391 people in the UK had tested positive for Covid-19, with 35 deaths - one in Scotland and the rest in England.