We need clean hands and open hearts to tackle the coronavirus

12 March 2020

Advice from Rev Arun Arora, Vicar of St Nicholas Church Durham

THE Bishop of St Albans recently published a post entitled Coronavirus: what we haven’t heard from Government. It’s not official advice to churches but rather four golden rules about our attitudes and behaviour to the sense of crisis which is accompanying the spread of COVID19. So in the same spirit here’s my take on how to negotiate the risks brought about by the disease.

1.Don’t Panic: Reports of panic buying of hand sanitisers, toilet rolls, baked beans, pasta and even mushy peas (who’d have thought it ?) all adds to a sense of apocalyptic panic. In a supermarket over the weekend one woman was asked by a sales assistant why she had just bought ten packs of 12 toilet rolls. “Everyone else is doing it” she replied. This is how panic begins. Oddly there is no evidence that coronavirus has a diuretic impact.

2.Be more Dave: Dave Jones, a butcher from Dewsbury, recently posted on Twitter “If anyone near our shop has to self isolate over the coronavirus and are on benefits I will put together a two week food parcel that will be delivered to your door.” This kind of response – kind, compassionate and heartfelt – wins (clean) hands down over panic, hoarding and a me first approach.

3.Go to bed: One of the ways to combat the coronavirus is to strengthen your immune system. This means eating healthily, taking regular exercise and sleeping well. Do all three and your immune system will thank you.

4.Pick up the phone: Over the coming weeks it is likely a number of people will self-isolate, especially the elderly who may be at increased risk. In this digital age where it has never been easier to communicate via email, messaging and texting, take the opportunity to get in touch with the lonely and the housebound.

5.Don’t be racist: Reports of recent racist attacks against Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean students due to racist tripe that they are responsible for the coronavirus simply beggars belief.

6.Do not fear: the most oft repeated instruction in the Bible is “do not be afraid”. Bishop Alan Smith entitled his forth golden rule “live today to the full” and noted that Jesus challenged his followers to live each day fully and not be afraid. Every time we are tempted to give in to fear we need to make a conscious choice to respond in trust and openness.

7.Be an example: One infectious disease specialist recently wrote one of their biggest fears is the example we are setting for our children in how we respond to the threat of the virus. Instead of reason, rationality, openmindedness and altruism, by our actions we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested. There is a choice on offer on how to respond.

It is likely that many of us will be infected by the coronavirus in the coming days and weeks. Alongside clean hands we will need open hearts to ensure that in the end we get over the virus and commit to care for one another in the challenging times to come.

Arun Arora is the vicar of St Nicholas Church, Durham


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