Anyone can be a hero during the coronavirus pandemic – Richard Ault


If you’ve ever dreamed of being a hero, then now’s your chance.

The coronavirus outbreak currently sweeping the globe represents the biggest challenge the nation has yet faced in my lifetime.

Precious few are left from the generation which defeated the Nazis during the Second World War. Most who even remember those dark days were just children at the time.

But even the babies conceived during joyous VE Day celebrations are now well over the age when they are required to self-isolate for at least 12 weeks while the COVID-19 pandemic reaches its peak.

An elderly customer shops wearing a face mask in a Sainsbury’s supermarket (stock image)

The ‘Blitz Spirit’ which is spoken of so often belongs to a bygone era.

So we need to create a new spirit of our own, which fits in with the modern age. Something we can feel proud of when our grandchildren ask, ‘what did you do during the pandemic’?

Britain is now essentially on a war footing, although the threat we face bears no real comparison with that of 1939.

But it is a danger which has been faced before. In the weeks and months before the First World War came to an end in 1918, the unfairly-named ‘Spanish flu’ was infecting soldiers on the front line, before spreading to the population back home.

In October, 1918, 379 people in Stoke-on-Trent alone died from influenza.

Schools closed – but only when pupil attendances dipped below 50 per cent – additional hospital beds were found, cinemas and theatres were ordered to introduce a 30-minute interval for, ‘ventilation and disinfection by spraying’, and tram drivers were told to ventilate carriages and to spray them as often as possible.

The virus that causes Covid-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

Like then, the danger we face now is invisible. A virus which can pass from person to person unseen and undetected until symptoms show. The difference is that while, remarkably, Spanish flu mainly claimed the lives of otherwise healthy adults, coronavirus is a far greater risk to the elderly, or those with underlying health issues.

Still, we live in strange times and none of us have ever seen anything like this in Britain before.

A nasty side effect of the coronavirus has been the numbers of businesses which have had to close – perhaps most noticeably the pubs, cafes, theatres, cinemas and restaurants – and the sheer amount of people who have been laid off from work.

It’s been awful to see so many suddenly finding themselves in unexpected financial hardship and with grave fears for the future.

People walk pass an information board giving the public information on steps to help the country cope with the Coronavirus outbreak

The next few weeks and months are going to be an immense challenge – but it’s one that we can rise to and which people are already meeting.

Some people have already become heroes – most obviously health workers. All the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics and carers who are striving to make people better, while putting themselves at greater risk of getting sick themselves.

Then there are the teachers and classroom assistants who have looked after our children; supermarket workers who are struggling to keep the shelves stocks, and the drivers delivering food and essential supplies.                                                                                                

Police, firefighters and ambulance drivers will not be able to effectively self-isolate while they serve the public. Nor will workers in many other fields who will carry on regardless.


But anyone can be a hero amid the challenges we face in the immediate future.

Simply checking on elderly neighbours, perhaps picking up a few essentials or trying to raise spirits among the isolated and depressed (while maintaining a distance of at least 1m apart) will make you a hero in someone’s eyes.
Something as simple as organising a WhatsApp or Facebook group will connect people and could have a vital impact on someone’s mental health.

Elderly people who have the courage and fortitude to self-isolate are relieving the strain on the NHS and helping to save lives. Their sacrifice should not be underestimated.

Community groups are already doing great work in meeting the needs of their neighbourhoods, checking on vulnerable residents and even organising food parcel deliveries.

A community Facebook group has been set up in Biddulph to help anyone who has had to self-isolate due to the Coronavirus outbreak

It has been embarrassing and disappointing to see the levels of panic buying and hoarding which have so far taken place – but we’re better than that.

In 2020, it’s true that we don’t have the same sense of community that we did in the past – and people are far less likely to know their neighbours particularly well.

The current crisis is a reason and an opportunity to change that. We all need to think of others and do what we can to help.

As David Bowie said – and as cheesey as it sounds repeating it today – we can be heroes.





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