What a week.
Two months ago, it seemed unimaginable that countries would go into complete lockdown, shutting down borders, banning travel, and keeping citizens in their homes. It seemed unfathomable even when news channels were reeling shots of the streets in Wuhan: empty and desolate. Even now, as most of the UK starts to practice the new art of social distancing, it is strange and new. The virus has taken lives and has interrupted everyone’s way of living.
In the wake of this new age of quarantine and self-isolation, lives and businesses have taken a huge hit. The latter is incomparable to the devastation of the former, but it is interesting to consider how our spending habits will change, and businesses are and should be responding to the crisis. Panic buying, the fall of small business and temp jobs, as well as a lack of investment and business in general have torpedoed the economy.
It’s not difficult to understand the mentality of panic buying. As a crisis looms over the world, this pandemic has instilled in many a psyche of hostility, tension and, strangely, selfishness. Buying toilet rolls in bulk, tinned foods, non-perishables such as pasta – in some extreme cases, buying gallons of milk. Living in such a strange and terrible moment in history gives us a peek into what human nature is. At times flawed, sometimes confusing (e.g. the decision to infect hundreds of thousands of people to achieve herd immunity), but also inspiring. Videos of Italians singing on balconies, daily emails from supermarkets assuring a re-stocking, and gyms creating online classes to maintain people’s wellbeing.
It’s heart-warming to see the messages shared online about protecting the elderly, the sick and those with compromised immunities. The best businesses can do is continue to protect these rights and maintain the community in the loop: to face this virus, together, and not to retreat into a moral isolation as well.
What we have unfortunately seen is the lack of support for local business, the self-employed and those working in the gig economy. Those that depend on passer-byers or require a high level of investment and interest to operate such businesses will be forced out in this crisis, especially if the government delays providing loans to those in need. Panic buying has also negatively impacted the elderly and those with mobility issues. Such buying practices should be avoided, and supermarkets are attempting to control the flow of people into this public space as well as caution buyers on considering those more in need.
The best we can do and the best we can hope for one another is empathy. We must remain empathic, mourn together, help one another and support one another. From those finding the cure, to those giving out loans, to citizens isolating and buying responsibly: the only way we’ll maintain hope is if we confront it together.