Coronavirus may yet bring out the best in us – Murdo Fraser

Jawad Javed delivers coronavirus protection kits that he and his wife have put together for elderly and vulnerable people in Stenhousemuir (Picture: Andy Buchanan/Digital/AFP via Getty Images)Jawad Javed delivers coronavirus protection kits that he and his wife have put together for elderly and vulnerable people in Stenhousemuir (Picture: Andy Buchanan/Digital/AFP via Getty Images)
Jawad Javed delivers coronavirus protection kits that he and his wife have put together for elderly and vulnerable people in Stenhousemuir (Picture: Andy Buchanan/Digital/AFP via Getty Images) | © Andy Buchanan 2020 All Rights Reserved.1/2 212 Battlefield RoadGlasgowG42 9HN07939 [email protected]
As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, some people having been panic-buying and spreading misinformation. But many other have been offering a helping hand, writes Murdo Fraser.

It isn’t hard to get depressed about the state of human nature, looking at photographs in the media of supermarket shelves stripped bare by members of the public panic buying. It is, I suppose, an understandable human reaction when faced with the prospect of shortages, to try and protect yourself and your own family. But there is clearly a wider societal impact from this herd mentality, with those who are in need of vital supplies finding themselves unable to access them.

Large retailers across the country have been very clear that there is no issue with supply chains, and there is plenty of food, and provisions such as toilet paper, to go around. The shortages are being created only by those acting selfishly and irresponsibly, not helped by the images circulating in the media, and on social media. With the latest advice being that those in the most vulnerable groups should self-isolate for 12 weeks, it is more essential than ever that they have access to the vital supplies that they require. For the rest of us, trips to the supermarket, or reliance on home delivery services, should mean that there is absolutely no need for households having several weeks’ worth of supplies in storage.

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Neither is the situation helped by the number of armchair experts expressing their views on social media, or on radio phone-in broadcasts, questioning the science behind decisions taken by Governments. Some of this, sad to say, seems to be driven by political considerations, where those who dislike the Prime Minister and his Government are losing no opportunity to criticise their approach.

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Significant in this is the fact that there is virtually no difference whatsoever in the approach being taken by the UK and Scottish Governments; both are based upon the best scientific advice available. Indeed, after a period of constitutional warfare between our two Governments, it is good to see both singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to these most serious issues.

A considered response is required to what is a most serious situation. The health impacts on vulnerable individuals will be catastrophic, although for many of us coronavirus is likely to be no more damaging than a run of the winter flu. There is likely to be a substantial impact on the economy, with already businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector facing an enormous impact, with wider repercussions likely for months to come. Whilst the financial measures announced by both Governments thus far have been welcomed, it is clear that much more is going to be required if we are not going to see widespread business failures and redundancies.

How we collectively respond to the current crisis will tell us a lot about the type of people we are. It has struck me that it is the oldest people in our society, the very ones who are most vulnerable from the virus, who are most philosophical in their views.

Perhaps that should not surprise us. This is a generation who lived through the Second World War; a time of real hardship, of food rationing, of real physical danger from German bombing raids, and with the psychological pressure of not knowing from day to day when a loved one might be killed in action anywhere in the world. Living through that experience puts a pandemic, no matter how serious, into some sort of perspective.

Those born more recently than my parents’ generation have never had to go through what they suffered, and faced with a new crisis it is not surprising that many seem to lack the resilience with which to face it. We could, as a nation, all emerge from this stronger, with a better sense of perspective about what really is important in life, and no longer taking for granted all the security and advantages that we enjoy in our modern, developed world where every opportunity is available to us at the touch of a button.

Whilst selfish panic-buying has made the headlines, so too have selfless acts by individuals and businesses. So we see small shop owners making deliveries to vulnerable local customers, making sure that they have the necessities that they need. We see families volunteering to help older neighbours, those who are concerned about leaving the house, doing shopping for them, or simply providing companionship. We see churches reaching out not just to their own members but to the wider community, offering friendship and a helping hand.

The generation of millennials are often denounced as self-obsessed snowflakes with pampered lives and no experience of the hardships that their grandparents and great-grandparents suffered in life. This is now a chance for people to work together, across all ages, to meet the new challenges that the coronavirus presents head on.

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We are undoubtedly in for tough times as a country. For so long as our Governments are following best advice, I believe that we should be supporting them and following the information provided. No one will be forgiven for playing petty political or constitutional games at a time such as this.

We can also hope that we emerge from this as a stronger, more united country, one where people look out for each other, rather than just put themselves first. Despite the many dangers, Coronavirus may yet bring out the best in us.