Tue, 31 Mar 2020

Global Army of Volunteers Mobilizes to Battle Coronavirus

Voice of America
27 Mar 2020, 09:05 GMT+10

LONDON - More than half a million people in Britain signed up to help the National Health Service cope with the coronavirus epidemic in just 24 hours, following a government call for volunteers Wednesday, as fears grow that the country's outbreak is following a similar trajectory as that of Italy and Spain, where thousands of people have died.

Across the world, people are stepping forward to help the most vulnerable, offering hope that societies can overcome the huge disruption caused by the virus.

Cafe owner Amirah Gajia is among those who have stepped forward to help Britain's NHS workers. She locked the doors of her Bake Street Cafe in Lower Clapton, north London, earlier this week as the government ordered nonessential services to close. She doesn't know when the cafe will reopen.

"I was thinking about what I'm going to do next," Gaija said. "I knew I wanted to maybe do some baking experiments at home, but I also knew that just yesterday they're calling for volunteers for the NHS. So I thought that's a great thing that I could do with my time.

"I think I've seen the best in humanity at the moment, in such a such a horrible time. Everyone is really trying to support each other and help each other. Why shouldn't I do what I can to help - to help ease the burden on the NHS? Especially because I know a lot of the doctors and the nurses are doing long hours," she added.

Britain's prime minister praised the huge response to the government's call for volunteers.

"They will be driving medicines from pharmacies to patients. They'll be bringing patients home from the hospital. Very importantly, they'll be making regular phone calls to check on and support people who are staying on their own at home," Boris Johnson told reporters at his daily press conference Wednesday.

The British government has been criticized for delaying a nationwide lockdown until this week. Only time will tell if it was the correct approach, said Kalipso Chalkidou, professor of global health at Imperial College London.

"It's about doing the right thing at the right time. It's about trying to understand also how the different technology coming down the pipeline are being developed, the timing of those, the antivirals, vaccines, etc., and how these can be deployed most effectively when they're ready. So, I don't think anybody knows the right answer."

Volunteers across globe

Until that answer is forthcoming, volunteers across the world are stepping forward to help battle the coronavirus. In Georgia's capital, Tblisi, charities have switched from operating soup kitchens to delivering hot meals to older and vulnerable people stuck at home.

In Nairobi, volunteers are checking in on elderly residents and spreading information on preventing transmission.

In Poland, huge numbers of people have signed up on social media to help with anything from grocery shopping to dog walking. In Italy, which has suffered the highest number of deaths globally, local churches are helping to feed the elderly, sick and most at risk.

COVID-19 has forced one-quarter of the world's population into lockdown. It also has prompted millions of people to volunteer to help their communities and their respective countries - a heartening demonstration of strength in the face of adversity.

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