What kept us going during the pandemic

On Every Corner

By Farhan Muhammad

24.08.2020

Since lockdown measures were announced in late March, the UK has been subject to a plethora of slogans and government campaigns to help satiate the pangs of being stuck at home. Although, some of us have been fortunate enough to enjoy the time off or work remotely. Others have continued to work, risking their health to ensure the country is still running. There has been a polarised attitude towards the lockdown that has caused strife within the UK. Scapegoating and finger pointing have led several media outlets to publish articles on how and why ethnic minority communities have dealt with the pandemic. We felt it important to highlight how some minority communities have adapted to the lockdown restrictions or have been neglected as a result of it.

With Gurdwaras empty, some Sikh communities opted to deliver hundreds of meals each day to vulnerable people. This is in line with their faith; Langar, a general or common kitchen, is always open to anybody providing food non discriminately. Communities such as the Midlands Langar Seva Society who provide free food everyday throughout the year except for Christmas, have committed to not stop during COVID. Murals of the MLSS founder can be found in the City Centre as his selfless organisation has continued to provide food for vulnerable people internationally. Something that can be especially appreciated as reports of rough sleepers have seemed to spike during lockdown.

Sana Haq writes in Gal-dem that South Asian corner shop culture has helped the UK survive during COVID-19. By exploring their legacy from racist encounters in the 70s to now becoming an asset to communities in times of lockdown. The lives of the families that operate these stores explain that the corner shops are a product of racial discrimination in public workplaces when they first immigrated to the UK. Its not just South Asian corner shops that have helped people across the UK, but also Polish, Turkish and many more have provided the same service to countless communities. This is often the story for many established South Asian entrepreneurships. With a 63% rise in sales in small stores such as these. It is clear that people opted to go to their local shops for essentials as opposed to large chain supermarkets. 

Tory MP Craig Whittaker explains that spikes in COVID cases often come from Black, Asians and ethnic minority areas – particularly Muslim areas. Stating that such communities are not taking the virus seriously.

Whilst its true COVID-19 has exposed vulnerabilities in ethnic minority communities linked to underlying inequalities in health. Black, Asians and ethnic minorities account for more than 34% of critically ill patients suffering from COVID although they only make up 13% of the UKs population (as of 2011 census). Research has suggested that Ethnicity could interplay with virus spread through cultural differences including lower socioeconomic status, health-seeking behaviour, and intergenerational cohabitation.

The statistics allow MP Whittaker to draw conclusions that ethnic minority communities, are enhancing the spread of the virus. But it is unfair to say these communities themselves are not doing anything to help reduce the effects. Muslims for example, visiting the mosque require online bookings and mandatory mask wearing indoors as well as bringing their own prayer mats. The last-minute lockdown procedures that prevented Muslims from celebrating Eid, disrupted the holiday. Despite, the warnings being sent out 2 hours before celebrations, local mosques ensured safeguarding for worshippers.

The spread of COVID in lower income areas could be explained by the higher proportion of keyworkers situated in those neighbourhoods. For example, ethnic minority nurses, which recent studies from RNC found had less access to PPE than their white counterparts. As well as Cab drivers and food delivery drivers, who have kept the country running as the rest of us have had the privilege to shield at home.

Although a lot of blame has been put onto ethnic minority communities for spreading the virus, we found it important to recognise their efforts to keep the country running as it shielded itself from harm. Ranging from organisations such as, MLSS continually providing food for the most vulnerable internationally, to small corner shops that have endured recessions, huge political changes, and pandemics. We understand that during this lockdown that some people do not have the luxury to just work from home. As a result we wanted to say thank you to every single one of our key workers.

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