I’ll level with you; this is not a running article
Okay, I’ll level with you. This is not a running article. What’s that, a running blog with an article not about running? Tonight, the Coronavirus pandemic entered a new stage in the UK and I’m inspired to write something meaningful for people who are now in a period of uncertainty and possible fear. I have an audience on this blog and I want to reach people with a message I am passionate about.
Think of this as a special blog post, written by someone who loves running with all their heart, who wants to inspire people to stay positive and lead by example in the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
Things just changed dramatically for public life in the UK
This evening (20th May, 2020) in the UK, tens of thousands of pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants were told to shut their doors to slow the spread of coronavirus. That nasty disease which originated in Wuhan last December.
Boris Johnson, the UK’s prime minister, announced the new social distancing measures in a dramatic escalation of events. On Monday, measures were put in place telling the British public to avoid going to pubs, clubs, bars and other social establishments, but tonight they were all ordered to close with immediate effect. The UK is a very social culture, so this has been a huge blow to communities everywhere.
With everything from the premier league, to Glastonbury, to exams, to schools and universities being cancelled left, right and centre, it was only a matter of time before stricter distance measures were put in place.
Other countries in Europe, most notably France, Spain and Italy (the worst-hit European nation by the virus), are all already in full on ‘lockdown’ mode. The government has ordered people to stay indoors unless it is absolutely essential to go outside i.e. for a family emergency, to get supplies etc. In France, for instance, you are fined over 130 euros if you are out of your home without a valid reason.
What is the aim of social distancing?
To prevent countless hours of pain and misery, to stop thousands of people from dying and to protect and support our countries health systems. Without social distancing, too many people will get infected too fast which would result in a disaster for human life.
Instead, social distancing aims to spread out the peaks of the infections, sort of like a tap. When the infection rates are too high and the health system can’t cope, social distancing measures are intensified. When they’re reducing and health systems have some capacity, social distancing controls should be reduced.
Government’s around the world are rising up to an unbelievable challenge
I sympathise with any government around the world trying to steer their country through this challenge. Trying to balance the nation’s public health with the nations economic needs is an astonishing juggling act, requiring balanced and considered input from scientists, public health professionals and economists, to get the timing right for applying new measures.
Say what you want about Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump and other world leaders. Driving a country through the Coronavirus pandemic would be enough to send even the toughest people to the melting point, and they’ve all shown extraordinary courage and leadership so far. Hats off to them, I say.
I would also like to take an opportunity to commend the exceptional efforts of the key workers who have been on the front line of this ordeal. Most notably those working in hospitals and primary care settings, but recognition must be given to supermarket workers, the police, manufacturers, producers, public health professionals, civil servants, logistics operators and countless others, working day and night to keep the country running. Your country applauds you for your service.
From what seemed like a distant threat to us in Europe when we first heard about the Coronavirus in early January, it’s now all too real and present in our daily lives. Coronavirus has caused travel restrictions, economic chaos, health and wellbeing challenges, interrupted the schooling of over 100 million young people and lead to the death of over 10,000 as of the 20th March.
Staying positive and leading by example in the Coronavirus pandemic
Being someone who takes pride in running to stay positive and writing about running to help others make a positive change in their life, I wanted to write about helping people stay positive right now. When it really matters most.
I believe we have two options in this coronavirus pandemic. We can panic, lose our humanity, act like animals, fend for ourselves, with selfishness and fear. Or, we can do a better option. We can lead ourselves and others through this situation with a positive mind-set, determination and a willingness to rally the spirits of everyone around us through the dark days to come.
The latter of these two options is what we should be doing. This is our opportunity to step up to the plate and be the best we can be for those around us to get through the pandemic.
Inspirational words from the chancellor of the UK
Rushi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer in the UK inspired me with the following words in his economic package update tonight. To watch him deliver these words, skip to 25:36 in the below video.
‘now more than at any time during our history, will we be judged for our capacity for compassion. Our ability to come through this won’t just be down to what government or businesses do but by the individual acts of kindness that we show each other. The small business who does everything they can not to lay off their staff, the student who does a shop for their elderly neighbour, the retired nurse who volunteers to cover some shifts in her local hospital. When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back at this moment and remember the many small acts of kindness done by us and to us. We want to look back on this time and remember how we thought first of others and acted with decency. We want to look back on this time and remember how, in the face of a generation-defining moment, we undertook a collective national effort and we stood together. It’s on all of us.’
Listening to Rushi speak these words as the update was given earlier this evening gave me absolute chills. New to the cabinet, Rushi is relatively unknown to most Brits but he is quickly carving a name for himself as a charismatic, capable and confident leader. Exactly the type of person we should be looking up to in this pandemic, regardless of your political views.
A key point I took from his speech was the closing words: ‘it’s on all of us’. So true. Getting through the Coronavirus will be a collective national, international and global effort.
Like Winston Churchill who inspired the nation through the darkest days of its history in World War 2. Like Abraham Lincoln who publicly opposed slavery during his presidency even at the cost of a civil war. Like Nelson Mandela, who went to prison for 27 years for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the state all in the name of racial equality. Like all of these great leaders before us, this is a time to stay strong and lead by example. There is always a light at the end of every tunnel, no matter how long and dark that tunnel may be.
Principles to stay positive and lead by example in the Coronavirus outbreak
1. Do not panic
If you want to demonstrate strong leadership in this pandemic, do not panic. Easier said than done for some people, but this virus will truly separate the leaders from those who panic relentlessly.
What do I mean by panicking? Being unnecessarily hysterical, treating other people badly, panic buying everything in sight at a supermarket, putting yourself before others. It’s not good, it’s not humane and it’s animal-like, at best.
Unfortunately, it’s human nature for the worst qualities to be brought out in people in crisis situations. You’d have to have no heart to not want to shed a tear at the video which surfaced yesterday of the NHS worker crying after doing a 48-hour shift to find that her local supermarket was stripped of all the fruits and vegetables, leaving nothing for her.
People are panicking and buying far more than they need to buy, just in case they have to go on lock down. This may seem like a logical strategy, but it’s flawed for two main reasons.
- By panic buying, people are actually creating a supply problem. Stockpiling puts supply chains under immense pressure creates a risk of supply being disrupted. If you want to protect our source of supplies, don’t stockpile. Buy what you need, think of other people, and think of the people working in the supply chains.
- Even if we were to go on lockdown, you would be able to go out and visit shops to get food. France, Italy and Spain have already implemented this rule, and it seems to be working for the time being. Obviously, the caveat is that you can’t go out of your house if you have any Coronavirus related symptoms, but you will be able to leave your house for food. No need to panic.
Set an example for those around you and do not panic buy. Tell everyone around you not to panic buy too.
Think about the old neighbour in his 80’s with arthritis who has painfully slogged to the shop in the middle of a lock down period to find it ransacked of the bare essentials.
What about the supermarket worker who has served you and hundreds of others for an 8-hour shift, who now needs to buy supplies for her family? What will she do when she needs toilet roll, bread and milk, but there’s none left for her?
Be a leader. Be sensible. Don’t panic buy, lead by example.
Not only should you not panic by buying huge quantities of supermarket items you don’t need. Also, don’t panic in general and set a strong and calm presence for those around you.
When things get tough, when the government announces a painful new distancing measure, you have a low moment and so on, don’t show panic.
Not only does this make you look less like a leader, panicking behaviour will derail those around you and you’ll soon find others begin to panic. It may be hard, but try and act calmly and collectedly.
Try and instil a sense of confidence and positivity in all those you speak to. The less panicking, the more likely we are to get through this thing with our sanity in tact.
2. Follow public health advice
In the days leading up to the mandatory closure of pubs, clubs, restaurants, bars and cafes, lots of people have been ignoring government public health advice.
People have been socialising, seeing elderly relatives and mingling with those that fit into the ‘vulnerable’ category i.e. with underlying health conditions, not washing their hands as much, not sneezing into tissues and so on. In other words, optimum conditions for spreading the virus.
A particularly mind-boggling moment for me yesterday was seeing a carer wheeling an elderly man, hooked up to a breathing mask and an oxygen bottle, into Weatherspoons for a couple of pints. Have some people lost their mind? Not only would this man be in the at-risk category due to being over 70, but the respiratory illness also compounds his at-risk status of succumbing to the disease. Just one example of madness I’ve seen in the last couple of days.
Whilst the majority of people have been following the government’s public health advice, many haven’t. This is not responsible and it certainly isn’t leadership material. It’s being irresponsible and showing little disregard for the safety of others and the health and well being of the country’s health system.
If you think this is harsh, watch two minutes of this video of an Italian hospital in Northern Italy and tell me you still think it’s being harsh.
This is a hospital, like countless others around the world and most notoriously Wuhan during the peak of their outbreak, that is currently overwhelmed with Coronavirus patients.
This is the harsh reality of catching the disease; people get symptoms, they get ill, their immune systems go into overdrive, they need intensive care, and unfortunately, they die.
Not only is this horrendous for the patients and their families, but it’s also awful for the health care professionals working day and night to keep these people alive. Do you think they want to see people losing their lives in absolute agony, away from their loved ones, in a hospital bed, some in the prime of their life?
The sad thing about all of this is that many cases of Coronavirus can be prevented by following the public health guidance and directives issued by the government.
If you want to lead a positive example through the Coronavirus outbreak, you must follow the government’s Public Health advice, which for the most part is as follows:
- Practice social distancing: Stay at home, don’t go out unless absolutely necessary, do not physically socialise
- Wash your hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water
- Work from home, if you can
- Avoid events with groups of people
- Use digital services, such as webs and apps, in place of physical services
If these measures are not followed, hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) will become infected with the disease and thousands will die. Simple and brutal as that.
Trials are already underway for a vaccine, with a product estimated to come to market sometime next year. We don’t know how long this thing will last for, but we must follow the public health advice and guidance being given for the meantime otherwise we will suffer the consequences that the Italian doctors and nurses warn against in the above video.
Follow the measures set out by the government. Lead by example for the people around you and do the right thing.
3. Keep communicating
‘The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald
With all the social distancing measures and reduced physical contact with others, it’s easy to feel lonely and isolated.
Not only can isolation negatively affect mental health at the best of times, but the harrowing media coverage on Coronavirus compounds these feelings and can quickly lead to depression. Don’t let this happen to you or the people you love and care about.
To reduce feelings of loneliness and social isolation, stay in constant communication with people. Prioritise your close family and friends first, and then extend this to your wider circle.
Why not? We’re all in this together, right? Communicate with as many people as you can and remind them they’re not alone.
Ask people how they’re feeling and talk about the situation. Try not to dwell too much on the virus and try to talk about something else.
It could be anything. Painting, music, cars, dogs, history, stamps, celebrities you have a crush on. Play a game, talk about a treasured memory, aspirations and dreams for the future. Anything.
Keep the conversation flowing and don’t turn off the tap. The route to loneliness and feelings of isolation is to say nothing to nobody.
On the other hand, getting others to talk and express themselves is a sure route to connection and what it feels like to be human.
Write a Facebook status update saying that you’re up for a call with anybody who wants a chat during lockdown / self-isolation. Give your best friend a text. Play board games with your family in the house.
Be positive, communicate and look after others. When this is all over, people will think about the extra efforts you went to, to make them feel heard and listened to. In the grand scheme of things, that really goes a long way.
4. Stay active
In the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s easy to become physically unfit with all of us staying inside for the majority of the time.
However, I think this is a problem for staying positive. Lack of motion and activity can lead to us becoming slow, having a bad mood, feeling sluggish, lacking energy and so on. Not to mention all of the countless health conditions linked with a lack of exercise, like heart disease, diabetes and some forms of dementia.
Simply put, exercise is essential for your physical health and mental wellbeing. If you want to be a positive role model for those around you during the Coronavirus pandemic, you’re going to need to stay active.
I wrote a blog post on 6 ways to stay physically active during the Coronavirus pandemic. Check it out here:
The UK Government, and many other governments around the world, have all made it clear that we’re in this for the long-haul.
Until a vaccine becomes available, we need to socially distance ourselves, protect our health system, and save lives. Every single one of us and our actions depends on it.
As Rishi Sunak so brilliantly said in his speech tonight, ‘it’s on all of us.’ Hopefully, one day in the not so distant the world will go back to normal and we’ll all be able to meet up for a long run.