Tonight at 8:00 pm, we will pause our already interrupted lives to applaud our health workers.
A sound like the falling rain, tumultuously loud in our new peaceful world, where the skies are empty of planes, and the streets free of cars and our high streets closed and silent.
Our gratitude to healthcare professionals of all walks of life – doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners, administrators, pharmacists – is as immense as the extent of this virus.
Nigel Lawson’s observation that the health service is the “closest thing to the British to a religion” has never been truer.
But today, we also want to extend that love and thanks to every person who is out to hammer those quiet streets today keeping us all safe, powered and connected.
The backbone of our nation today is made up of posties, milkmen and women, delivery drivers, supermarket staff and zero-hour caregivers.
While so many people with so-called powerful jobs are sitting helplessly at home, it is the binnies and cleaners, shelves and fruit pickers that support us.
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And how quickly people forget to worry about the race of the person who takes his temperature during a pandemic. How small and mean is nationalism when the crown is impermeable to borders, sweeping indiscriminately all over the world? When we need a vaccine to be just as mobile globally.
As the poet Carla Mellor writes in a new poem “A Kingdom United”.
“In 2020, heroes don’t wear cloaks: they stack supermarket shelves.”
Today we share that poem, transformed into a short film by our longtime Northern Heart film collaborators and using the Mirror archive. Natasha Hawthornthwaite and Scott Bradley call it “a story of hope and a message to unite Britain”.
For each Tim Martin, a thousand people have returned to the front lines of the NHS since retirement. For every Mike Ashley, 10,000 people are shattered every morning to stack the shelves.
For every Rick Stein, millions of us watch the spring sun through the glass windows in the hope of saving someone else’s life.
But what this backbone of our country needs is more than our gratitude. It needs our constant support. We must not miss those on the front lines, both in hospitals and in nursing homes or in the collection of fruit and vegetables. They need masks and other protective devices, they need a strictly controlled social removal that has been absent this week in construction sites and warehouses.
And where necessary, people need to be paid to stay home so they don’t face the worst choice of all: whether to endanger themselves or others or see their hungry children.
We must protect those who were already struggling before the Covid-19 strike. Those who had nothing in the cupboards before the crown virus now face misery. Gig and other self-employed workers can’t even wait five weeks for universal credit because they are 101,060 in a 500,000 queue to talk to an operator.
It is not just healthcare professionals who are afraid of their lives. This week, two workers from a major delivery company contacted Britain. One woman, who was desperately training for new drivers, said she was terrified of the lack of social distance and equipment.
The hand and glove disinfectant promised her a week ago had not yet arrived.
“I can’t afford to lose my job,” he said, “but it doesn’t look like we’re safe at all.”
Another woman with a large turnaround said that she and her colleagues were “put at risk for the profit of large companies.” She lives with her family, including her elderly father-in-law and is frightened that she will make him sick.
“When a package arrives at someone’s home, it was handled by 12 different people, many people touch it before it arrives at me,” he says. “I get a drop at my house, so today I had over 100 items in bags – and I don’t know if they are safe to handle, but I have to do it anyway.
“I cannot use a glove for every item and I have not been provided with any equipment. I have absolutely no confidence in the safety protocols of any of these companies: there is no hand sanitizer or PPE for anyone in the warehouses.
“I visit 30 to 100 houses a day and they are just one of thousands of couriers. Continuing to wash our hands is all we can do. As usual it seems that we children are asked to take all the risks that others can do. money. “
If the government is putting its arms around people, it must put its arms around all people. Not just because all people are worth the same. But because if we don’t protect those with the lowest incomes, the whole “Stay at Home” plan fails.
And after this is over, we need to rebuild our economy to reward these everyday heroes. The government cannot describe it as a war without offering a peacetime dividend. After Covid-19 we have to build a country that recognizes that nobody is more “ordinary”.