The UK is in its third week of lockdown, with bars, restaurants and all ‘non-essential’ shops still closed for the foreseeable. It’s not clear how much longer these measures will be in place, but there are some things that have become clear during this time: the heroes and villains of Covid-19.
Heroes: Let’s begin with the obvious – the NHS and the amazing professionals working around the clock in care homes, GP clinics, hospitals and surgeries – all those at the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus, with some putting their own lives at risk while the UK has a shortage of protective gear. And not forgetting the half million people that have signed up as NHS volunteers using the GoodSam Responder app. These are the number one heroes of the crisis.
After shutting it’s doors for the first time in 200 years, Claridges – the luxury 5-star hotel based in the heart of Mayfair, London – has re-opened it’s doors to let 40 NHS workers stay for free in their rooms that usually start at a minimum of £650 per night. They are also offering breakfast and dinner on the house.
Likewise, ex-footballer Gary Neville, and coach Ryan Giggs have temporarily closed their hotels in Manchester for the NHS to use – free of charge. Their staff will not be laid off or given unpaid leave during this time. Three cheers for this sort of enterprise.
In stark contrast, JD Wetherspoon’s boss, Tim Martin, encouraged his employees to look elsewhere for work during the pandemic and left workers in the lurch not knowing when they will receive their next salary cheques. In similar vein, Sports Direct initially kept their stores open stating that it was “uniquely well placed to help keep the UK as fit and healthy as possible”. This caused a lot of criticism and backlash, especially from SD employees who worried for their health and wellbeing. They have now taken a U-turn and closed stores.
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer since the Cabinet reshuffle on 13th February was little known to the public before his appointment, but has emerged as the Britain’s most popular minister according to YouGov. Whether his actions will prove to be enough to save the economy in the long term remains to be seen, but in the early days he was hailed by business leaders and media alike, for his quick, decisive and bold action and measures such as The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, covering the costs of employees wages dating back to March 1st.
Immediately undermining his efforts however, certain banks were under fire with accusations that they were using the coronavirus to boost their own profits. In response to government-backed schemes to allow emergency loans to struggling businesses, banks such as Barclays were trying to enforce anything between 7-12% interest, Labour MP Chris Bryant has claimed.
There are many more companies and individuals that could be named and shamed, and maybe they should be, if it were to encourage them to change their opportunist ways. At the same time, at a local level we’ve all seen countless examples of people looking after each other and trying to make the best of things. From the bad, we can see the good more clearly, and if nothing else, hopefully we’ve learnt the need to support our local businesses.