Croydon, London and much of the country was going into a self-imposed lockdown today, as sports events, concerts and other public gatherings, large and small, were being postponed or called off to try to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
In the absence of leadership from the Prime Minister or the government, two days after the World Health Organization declared corona a pandemic, the public started taking measures which might avoid making a bad situation worse.
So far this week, one elderly patient at Sutton’s St Helier Hospital, who already had underlying health issues, had died after contracting the virus, and Croydon’s Mayday Hospital on Wednesday confirmed that it was treating a patient with covid-19.
Croydon Central MP Sarah Jones called on people to prepare to deal with what she described as “a challenging time”.
Jones wrote to constituents last night: “There is deep concern across our community about the spread of coronavirus, but that there are also many people asking how they can help.
“This is not a time to panic, but a time to prepare.”
The Premier League this morning announced it would be postponing all matches until early April – starting with Crystal Palace’s trip to Bournemouth that was due to be played tomorrow – shortly after former Whitgift School pupil, Callum Hudson-Odoi, the Chelsea and England midfielder, was confirmed as one of the first top-level players in this country to have contracted the virus.
Champions League matches, Formula 1 grands prix, England’s Test cricket tour and major golf tournaments have also been postponed or cancelled.
Yesterday, the Electoral Commission issued a recommendation that May’s London Mayor and London Assembly elections should be postponed. Some Croydon councillors, the country’s best-paid leaflet deliverers, were even prepared to consider the unthinkable. Labour councillor Sean Fitzsimons suggested that he and his colleagues might avoid going out canvassing and knocking on doors so as not to risk spreading the virus.
Elsewhere in Croydon, the Minster announced it had cancelled today’s regular lunchtime music recital when the scheduled performer decided to self-isolate after displaying some symptoms consistent with the virus, while the Croydon Camera Club last night decided to postpone next week’s 130th anniversary Wratten Lecture.
Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had addressed the nation and had specifically ruled out, for now, any cancellations of public events.
In an email to residents in her Croydon Central constituency which included the latest advice on coronavirus from the NHS, MP Jones offered to start organising a register of volunteers who would be available to assist as public services are expected to be stretched to breaking point in the coming weeks.
“I know there is deep concern across our community about the spread of coronavirus, but that there are also many people asking how they can help,” she wrote.
“We do not yet know how significant restrictions will be across Croydon following the increasing spread of coronavirus across the country. I urge people to continue to follow advice from government and medical experts.
“Though not confirmed today, potential future measures include closing schools and halting gatherings such as religious services or sporting events. Older people or those with underlying conditions may need to self-isolate. This will create significant challenges.
“Families who currently get free school meals may struggle if schools are closed, older people may struggle to get the food they need.
“In advance of any significant issues in terms of the community, I am gathering a database of people who may want to be in a position to help with voluntary work that may become necessary, such helping ensure elderly people have the supplies they need at home.
“If volunteers are required, I will pass on requests from organisations which are looking for help. We don’t yet know the nature of what will be needed, and if things deteriorate, new advice may mean that we are unable to mobilise in a significant way.
“But I want us to be prepared. That way we can help ensure there is coordination at what will undoubtedly be a challenging time.”
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