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The outbreak of COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus pandemic, has changed the world as we know it. Beginning in Wuhan, China in December of 2019, the virus has resulted in well over 1 million confirmed cases and over 80,000 deaths across the globe at the time of writing. With little information about when society will return to a version of the ‘normality’ that we once knew, this period is one of indubitable uncertainty for people around the world.
On the 30th January 2020, The World Health Organisation declared the coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. They later recognised it as a pandemic on the 11th March 2020, with cases being reported in over 200 countries and territories.
As of the 10th April, the United States of America currently has the largest number of confirmed cases with over 470,000. Spain has over 157,000 while Italy around 143,000.
Spreading mostly through close contact with other people, common symptoms of the virus include shortness of breath, a persistent dry cough and a fever. Other symptoms include fatigue, headaches and muscle and joint pain.
Many countries are currently in or have been in, states of emergency or lockdown in attempts to curve the virus. Schools and universities have closed, with these closures impacting over 91% of the world’s student population, according to UNESCO. Many workplaces have followed suit, with an emphasis on ‘working from home’ where possible.
According to the BBC, The Financial Times Stock Exchange recently saw their biggest one-day declines since 1987. On the other hand, the British Pound has plunged to its lowest levels since 1985, while oil prices also plunged to levels not seen since the early 2000s.
Major sporting and cultural events have been postponed or cancelled in the wake of the pandemic. The last major sporting event to take place in Britain was the meeting between Liverpool FC and Atlético Madrid at Anfield Stadium on the 12th March. This garnered mass protests from football fans who believed the match shouldn’t have taken place, as fans from Spain travelled to Liverpool even though that same week Madrid had become the centre for the spread of the coronavirus in Spain.
Liverpool’s Public Health Director Matthew Ashton later admitted that it was ‘wrong’ that the match went ahead though ‘the seriousness of the situation wasn’t being understood across government at that time.’
Following this and instructions from the government, other events have either been postponed or cancelled including the Premier League and Champions League in football, Glastonbury and Coachella Festivals in music and the Wimbledon tennis tournament – the first time the event has not gone ahead since World War 2. Theatres on Broadway and the West End have halted productions indefinitely, while the Olympic Games in Tokyo will instead take place in the summer of 2021.
Fears of shortages have resulted in mass panic buying across the globe, with shoppers buying products such as toilet paper, pasta, rice, bottled water, anti-bacterial soap and hand gel in bulk. Some supermarkets and food stores have introduced limits on such products to ensure a fair share. Retailer giant Tesco recently reported a 30% rise in sales as a result of coronavirus panic buyers.
As people have stayed at home rather than engaging in social activities, the internet has provided plenty of alternatives for people to enjoy. Music artists such as Gary Lightbody from Snow Patrol, John Legend, Pink and Coldplay’s Chris Martin have streamed concerts on Instagram and Facebook live for their fans to attend. James Corden also hosted an alternative version of his ‘Late Late Show’ with performances from BTS, Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa.
Personal trainer Joe Wicks has also been praised for his Monday-Friday ‘PE With Joe’ live-streams on YouTube. Aimed at providing families with virtual physical education lessons while schools are closed, Joe has had hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world tune into his half-hour classes each day. Languages app Duolingo has seen a spike in downloads since the beginning of the pandemic, with people using their free time in self-isolation to learn a new language. Globally, new sign-ups grew nearly 108% from March 9 to March 30 on the application.
Others are using their time at home to catch up on television. Disney’s new streaming service ‘Disney+’ has almost doubled its global subscriber numbers to 50 million since the coronavirus outbreak in February according to The Guardian.
In a typical 21st century style, memes are providing comedic entertainment and relief through the global isolation period. The ‘coronavirus’ hashtag on the video streaming service TikTok has over 46 billion views, hosting dance and comedy clips to a tune of ‘It’s corona time,’ while others shared dance routines to the BBC News theme. Other videos show people demonstrating how to correctly wash your hands and raising awareness about myths concerning the virus.
Isolation will see Christians across the world celebrate Easter without their families. In response, the Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern was praised after announcing that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are ‘key workers’ during the pandemic. Speaking on behalf of the New Zealand government, she said:
‘We do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers, but as you can imagine at this time of course they are going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well, and their own bunnies, and so I say to the children of New Zealand – if the Easter Bunny doesn’t make it to your household then we have to understand that it’s a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to perhaps get everywhere.’
How has the UK dealt with the Coronavirus?
In the United Kingdom, the first cases of the coronavirus were reported by early March. At the time of writing, there are over 65,000 confirmed cases in the UK and around 8,000 deaths.
While risk level was raised from moderate to high on the 12th March, it was not until the 18th that any rigorous social distancing measures were introduced across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On 18 March, it was announced that the UK would close all schools except for vulnerable children and children of key workers such as supermarket and National Health Service Staff. Two days later, all restaurants, pubs, clubs, and gyms were ordered to close by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
The Coronavirus Act of 2020 introduced and supported the tightest measures yet. On the 23rd March, the government banned gatherings of more than two people in public, restricted travel and encouraged working from home where possible. The slogan ‘Stay At Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives’ was used to promote the order to stay at home, with the government stating that people should leave the house only for the following reasons:
- Shopping for basis necessities
- One form of exercise per day
- Any medical need
- Travelling for work purposes
The nation has come together to show support for National Health Service and its staff for their work during the pandemic. The ‘Clap for Our Carers’ campaign has seen Britons applaud NHS staff at 8 pm on Thursday nights with vast turnouts showing their appreciation for people on the frontlines.
It was announced on the 27th of March that the Prime Minister himself had contracted symptoms of COVID-19. While initially continuing to lead the country from home, he was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London on the 5th of April and later moved to the Intensive Care Unit on the 8th of April after his condition worsened.
First Secretary of State Dominic Raab was nominated by Johnson to act as his deputy, with Raab stating, ‘The Prime Minister is in safe hands with that brilliant team at St Thomas’ Hospital, and the focus of the government will continue to be on making sure that the Prime Minister’s direction, all the plans for making sure that we can defeat coronavirus and can pull the country through this challenge, will be taken forward.’
Politicians across the world offered support to Johnson, whose partner Carrie Symonds is currently pregnant with their first child together. Leader of the Opposition and Labour Party Leader Sir Keir Starmer wrote on Twitter, ‘Terribly sad news. All the country’s thoughts are with the Prime Minister and his family during this incredibly difficult time,’ while the President of the United States Donald Trump said during a press briefing, ‘We’re very saddened to hear that he was taken into intensive care this afternoon and Americans are all praying for his recovery.’
As of April the 9th, the Prime Minister was moved from Intensive Care back onto the ward.
How Has Lancaster Responded to the pandemic?
Lancaster University took its first major action to stop the spread of the coronavirus on the 13th March, when Interim Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve Bradley announced the suspension of classroom teaching. This action was taken to ‘safeguard the health and well-being’ of students and staff. It was also announced that the university would remain open for students who live on campus.
This suspension of teaching was later extended to include the summer term up until the 26th June 2020.
On the 1st April, Steve Bradley announced that ‘as many students as possible will graduate or progress to the next year without undertaking examinations originally scheduled for April-June 2020.’
In an email sent to the student body, the Interim Vice-Chancellor clarified the arrangements for exams and assessed work:
- Undergraduate students, including those in their final year, will complete the year without requiring summer examinations wherever possible. Exceptions will be necessary in some cases, such as when required by professional or regulatory bodies in particular disciplines, and your department will provide details in these cases.
- Postgraduate taught assessments will be minimised in the Summer Term, with specific arrangements made at departmental level. All dissertations will take place online.
The University also confirmed that all summer Graduation ceremonies due to take place between Tuesday 14th July and Friday 17th July will be postponed until December of 2020.
Many students have voiced their concerns about the payment of rent for the third term of the academic year, expressing that outstanding fees should be waived as a result of the coronavirus. Other universities such as the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and The University of Liverpool have already cancelled outstanding rent payments, and there are calls for Lancaster to follow suit. An Open Letter to Vice-Chancellor Steve Bradley currently has over 750 signatories from students demanding that the University waive fees for those living in university-managed accommodation.
The Full-Time Officers of the Students’ Union (George Nuttall – President, Grishma Bijukumar – VP Welfare and Community, Victoria Hatch – VP Activities, Lewis Marriott – VP Campaigns and Communications and Bee Morgan – VP Education), collectively wrote a letter to the University asking for the cancellation of accommodation fees for Third Term, stating that this action ‘will make a positive difference to students in these turbulent times when students are under immense stress.’
In response to the suspension of teaching hours, Students’ Union nightclub ‘The Sugarhouse’ closed its doors on the 13th March as a ‘precaution’ to protect ‘the best interests of the health and safety of students who attend the venue and staff who work there.’
As well as this, the annual ‘Extrav’ end of year parties hosted by each college were also cancelled, with the Students’ Union announcing the decision on the 25th March.
The annual sporting competition between Lancaster University and the University of York was later cancelled on the 17th March. Due to take place in May, the decision was reached by both Lancaster and York. In a statement, the Students’ Union said:
‘This joint decision by Lancaster University and the Students’ Union was taken very reluctantly, but we had no choice given the cancellation of other major sporting events, the ongoing public health situation and recent government advice, which is unlikely to improve in the immediate future. We appreciate how disappointing this will be for students who were looking forward to the event, but our priority has to be the health and safety of those competing and the many spectators who will attend.’
The colleges on-campus have formed a collective ‘Nine Colleges’ office based in Pendle. Open for students Monday-Friday 9-5, the service is providing face-to-face support for those needing assistance from the University.
Students and Staff requiring further information from the University regarding the COVID-19 pandemic should visit this webpage.