In the last few weeks we have heard the voices of politicians, medical experts and business people about how best to deal with the coronavirus epidemic. But the voice of the most vulnerable in our society has been almost inaudible. This is not right.

No doubt fixing the medical and economic consequences of this epidemic should take priority. The lives of people and their ability to earn a living depend on this. But many risk losing everything. They also need to be supported to come out of this crisis in good mental health and with the hope that their future is not lost.

Low-paid workers with inadequate employment protection are among the most vulnerable in our society.

The prospect of losing their job or not being asked to provide their service could mean that they will not have enough money to put food on the table for their families.

Often these workers are either self-employed in the gig economy or not unionised and therefore depend on the generosity of others to survive a major financial shock.

An equally vulnerable group are elderly persons living on their own, often with underlying medical conditions. In an era where ageism is often so evident but unacknowledged, we must remember that the risk of loneliness in old age could be as lethal as the pandemic itself.

The over-70s are being advised to lock themselves up in their homes.

These older adults are the parents or relatives of many who today owe their lifestyles to the immense sacrifices that the post-war generation made to give their children a better future.

We should not confuse isolation with loneliness. Older people often have no problem with isolating themselves when they need to do so for health reasons. What damages their emotional and mental health is loneliness. We must find imaginative ways to reach out to those who are prisoners in their own homes.

NGOs and charities need all the support they can get to help those in need of advice, companionship or the procurement of food and medicine.

We all have a role to play in making sure that no one is abandoned in this challenging time, that the isolated or lonely have regular interaction with other people – that they do not feel abandoned.

This pandemic is a test for all our community. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and epidemiologists are on the front line to save us from the worst medical consequences.

But the damage limitation effort needs the involvement of government and volunteers in the community to make sure that the feeble voice of the vulnerable is not drowned out in the deluge of news about the medical and economic aspects of the pandemic.

Selfishness and greed still prevail even in this difficult phase of community life.

It is not inspiring to see ruthless stockpiling of pasta and milk by able-bodied young people fighting their way through queues in supermarket aisles.

Instead, we should be contacting our elderly relatives or neighbours to see whether we can do some shopping for essentials they may need or even just to offer them some words of reassurance.

If we believe in solidarity among different generations, let us not forget the vulnerable.

When this crisis is over, we will hopefully be judged as a caring society where the weak are never forgotten.     

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