Here's how you can help vulnerable people during the coronavirus pandemic - without leaving home

The government has instructed everyone to remain indoors for all except necessary travel - but there are ways you can help the vulnerable at a distance.

From the elderly to small business owners and food bank users, the coronavirus outbreak has left many people across the UK in a precarious position.

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If you yourself have been instructed to avoid social contact and remain at home completely, there are still plenty of ways you can help others without putting yourself at risk of infection.

Local businesses

The coronavirus pandemic has forced most local businesses to close their doors for the foreseeable future. Many are worried that the loss in profits may mean they're unable to re-open once restrictions have been lifted.

You can help by checking out whether your favourite local businesses has any schemes in place through which you can support them.

This might include delivery of food, drink or other products to your home, or gift voucher schemes for redeeming once the pandemic has passed. Most businesses will be advertising any such schemes on their social media channels, so it's best to check there - or get in touch with the business if you're unsure.

Theatres, cinemas and other entertainment venues

Sales of theatre tickets have dropped dramatically over the past few weeks, and other entertainment venues, such as cinemas, will be seeing a similar drop in sales.

Independent cinemas, theatres and entertainment videos will be especially vulnerable to a fall in sales.

Again, you can support these businesses by checking out what schemes they have on offer during the pandemic. Some theatres may be live-streaming performances, for instance. Other venues would be glad to accept donations from the public, or the purchase of advance tickets to be used once restrictions on socialising have been lifted.

Food banks

Food banks across the country have reported difficulty with replenishing stock due to panic-buying in supermarkets.

If you're social distancing rather than self-isolating, food banks are welcoming donations of food items. You can check on your local food bank's website or social media page to find out which items they are most in need of. You should be able to drop off food items with minimal social contact.

If you are under self-isolation, you can make a financial donation to your local food bank. You can either donate to your food bank directly, or you can donate via a GoFundMe for the Trussell Trust.

Charities

If you can't help out by volunteering, there are plenty of charities and funds you can donate to which will help those worst affected by coronavirus.

Some charities and funds that fit this description include the Neighbourly Community Fund, The Red Cross "National Emergencies Trust" appeal and FareShare.

All of these organisations and funds will use your donation to help those most vulnerable in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Care homes

Most care homes across the UK have been locked down, stopping all visits to ensure residents' safety.

Some people have been offering help to care homes in the form of dropping off shopping or trips to the pharmacy. However, if you are unable to leave your house, letter writing may be an option.

Get in touch with your local care home to see whether they are looking for any letters, pictures or stories to be sent to their residents to put a smile on their face. It may seem a small gesture, but could mean a lot to those currently stuck indoors.

Mutual aid groups

It's highly likely that your local area will have a mutual aid group for offering support to those most vulnerable during the coronavirus crisis. If there isn't one, you could try setting one up via Facebook.

While many roles within a mutual aid group involve being able to get out and about, some - like administrative roles - can be done remotely.

Check with your local organiser to see if there's any help you can offer, even if you're self-isolating.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But, similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Government advice

As of Monday 23 March the prime minister has put the UK into lockdown and instructed all citizens to stay at home. People can only leave their homes to exercise once a day, go shopping for food and medication, travel for medical needs or to care for a vulnerable person, and travel to work only if essential. Police will be able to enforce these restrictions.

All non-essential shops will close with immediate effect, as will playgrounds, places of worship and libraries. Large events or gatherings of more than two people cannot go ahead, including weddings and celebrations. Funerals can only be attended by immediate family.

Children of separated parents can go between both parents' homes.

Anyone with a cough or cold symptoms needs to self-isolate with their entire household for 14 days.

The government has now instructed bars, restaurants, theatres and non-essential businesses to close and will review on a ‘month to month’ basis. Schools closed from Friday 20 March for the foreseeable future, and exams have been cancelled.

The over 70s or anyone who is vulnerable or living with an underlying illness are being asked to be extra careful and stay at home to self-isolate. People with serious underlying health conditions will be contacted and strongly advised to undertake "shielding" for 12 weeks.

For more information on government advice, please check their website. https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

Should I avoid public places?

You should now avoid public places and any non-essential travel. Travel abroad is also being advised against for the next 30 days at least, and many European countries have closed their borders.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS