• Isabelle Osborne

Reflecting on COVID-19: Has the virus provoked unity or divide?

It is in trying times, like the recent situation has proven, that people set aside differences to come together and help the greater humanity. One positive aspect of the COVID-19 outbreak is that people have valued community spirit and supported one another. I feel it is often the case that we simply get on with our daily lives, whilst not really appreciating the lives of others if it doesn’t directly affect our own. But, has the virus promoted total unity, or harsh division?

The advancement of community spirit has been heartwarming, as people alter the way they shop and communicate with others. People are supporting local shops and sourcing their food outside the realm of commercial stores, which has generated higher profit for those shops that would usually be battling the mainstream outlets. Additionally, people across the country have been doing their bit to support their community - making masks and PPE equipment for the NHS, offering a helping hand to elderly and vulnerable citizens, and ensuring they stick to government guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Colonel Tom Moore stands testament to the power of community spirit, and how we have united to support our NHS and frontline workers. Moreover, spontaneous street parties and distanced gatherings with neighbours are happening all over the country, which arguably would never have happened if the COVID-19 outbreak hadn’t occurred. VE Day certainly gave people the opportunity to unite with people they wouldn’t normally socialise with as people gathered to preserve the memory of the fallen. Not forgetting the Thursday ritual 'Clap for our Carers', which epnoucraged people across the nation to stand outside their homes and show their respect and thanks for the people who have taken care of the sick and kept our country moving during lockdown. This heartwarming idea has become a national exhibit of the people's appreciation for their fellow citizens. The country has, in many ways, become stronger as we fight the virus together.

However, this sense of unity and support hasn’t always been conveyed. I have read many articles, seen many headlines and scrolled through countless social media shares that have focused on the negatives of the situation we are facing; anything the government does wrong seems to hit the headlines, and when they don’t, there is constant speculation about what they will do wrong in the near future. I do not agree with all the decisions the government have made in recent months and at the same time feel their measures haven’t entirely achieved what was needed to prevent the spread of the virus. I do, however, recognise that the government have an extremely difficult job and are facing these uncertain times alongside the rest of the country,; just as we have never experienced anything like this before, just as we are making sacrifices to prevent the spread of the virus, so are they. The negative opinions that are being shared through the media are founded upon two very important things that I feel must be acknowledged. Firstly, they are founded on hindsight, meaning we now have the power to scrutinise the government’s methods and measures using the knowledge they didn’t have at the time; the government are dealing with the matters at hand with the information they have at the time. Secondly, they are founded by people who are not the ones in charge of the country, so it becomes extremely easy for them to say what they would or wouldn’t have done if they have been in the government’s position at any given time, as we will never have the chance to act upon these opinions. Instead of confrontation, instead of pointing fingers, instead of assigning blame, why can’t we use the troubles the world is facing as an opportunity to unite? We can still preserve differences (political, social and cultural) whilst respecting the adversity of the situation and focusing on the positives rather than picking apart the negatives, and focus on what really matters - uniting to prevent the spread of the virus.

The times we are facing now prove how important the preservation of unity is. The way people have reacted to the virus has, in some ways, been heartwarming, and yet in others it has shown that we have maintained our strict differences. I wonder whether the sense of unity we have seen during recent months will continue, or if people will return to their version of normality as if this situation was only a distant memory.

Featured image courtesy of Nick Fewings on Unsplash. Image license can be found here. No changes were made to this image.