In cities brimming with ideas, Tim Webb and Emily Brennan find there’s no need to feel isolated.

Coronavirus is of great concern to all of us. Our vision is for a city that is greener, healthier and wilder, so how can we help ourselves and each other to stay healthy through the crisis? Particularly vulnerable are the elderly, unwell, and people with physical and mental health issues.

With meetings cancelled and offices closing, more people are working from home. Smaller companies, charities and businesses are going to struggle with the technology. The good news is that platforms like Google and LinkedIn are unlocking lots of services which were only available through subscription, for example the maximum number of Skype participants has been extended to 250 and live streaming on Facebook is possible for up to 100,000 individuals.

Self-isolating for up to two weeks is harder than it sounds, and many will need help with practical things like having food or medicine delivered or in coping with isolation, and the potential that brings for increasing feelings of loneliness or depression. 

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Our parks and public open spaces can help us with our physical and mental wellbeing throughout the coronavirus outbreak. Research has found that even just a 15-minute walk in nature boosts wellbeing, and being active outdoors is an important part of life in a National Park City. Walking, running, cycling, skating and scooting are some of the best ways of getting around, especially if you’re concerned about being in a crowd on public transport. Walking to work or around your local greenspace isn’t considered to be ‘self-isolating’, but you can choose to walk at quieter times of day and keep your distance from other walkers if you are concerned about close contact with other people.

You can still immerse yourself in nature indoors. Biophilia is defined as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life" and is now recognised as being good for us. Spider plants, Victorian palms and aloe vera are said to be among the top, most-beneficial house plants you can grow. Recordings of natural soundscapes are also believed to help maintain spirits along with sunlight mimicking lightbulbs.20160417-2292.jpg

The therapeutic benefits of gardening, of touching and smelling plants and soil, can’t be underestimated. Take time to tend to a window box, pot plants on balconies or street trees. If you are lucky enough to have access to a garden, allotment or community space, get stuck-in to planting seeds and weeding flower beds. If you don’t have access to a garden but would like to get gardening, check to see if there’s a local community garden or a Friends of Park group you can join. 

There are many community-focused groups organising support to help vulnerable individuals get through the coronavirus emergency. Local councils are trying to coordinate support as are faith centres. Apps like NextDoor, Facebook and WhatsApp are being used by many to manage loose groups of people willing to help with tasks such as shopping, delivering medicines or other essentials.

As with many climate change issues, coronavirus is affecting the poorest and vulnerable most. While the majority of us have access to soap and water to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly, others don’t. Public hand sanitiser stations are appearing, but groups like the homeless are especially vulnerable.

Five simple steps have been identified to support community action against Covid-19.

  1. Think of others, consider your actions and be kind
  2. Connect and reach out to your neighbours
  3. Make the most of local online groups
  4. Support vulnerable or isolated people
  5. Share accurate information and advice

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We can and will still achieve our vision for London National Park City, but we need to change the way we work together to get through this outbreak. We’ve just recruited our first fifty Rangers and employed two Ranger Coordinators. We are exploring ways in which our Rangers and Coordinators can best support local communities through this period and beyond. Do let us know if you have any bright ideas! Look out for some short films from them soon on how we can all make a difference.

One initiative promoted online and via The Guardian’s news pages is a printable card for you to fill-in with your name and contact information, along with details of the help and support you can offer. Click on the following link to download a printable PDF version and then deliver to elderly or vulnerable neighbours.

Download the Viral Kindness card here

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List of some known Corvid-19 Community Action Groups on Facebook

Tim & Emily are trustees of the National Park City Foundation.

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