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Coronavirus crisis ‘will hit homeless the hardest’

‘They say self-isolate… where are people going to wash their hands?’

13 March, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Jon Glackin: ‘Most people who are homeless also have physical or mental health ­problems, particularly chest ailments – they are more susceptible to viruses generally’

HOMELESS people who cannot “self-isolate” and are vulnerable to infection need urgent support if they are to survive the coronavirus crisis, campaigners have warned.

Jon Glackin, who runs the London-wide Streets Kitchen outreach project, said the politicians needed to “imagine they had nowhere to go, nowhere to wash your hands”. He outlined how it was not straight-forward for homeless people to follow NHS advice like making 111 calls, booking appointments online or attending medical centres or surgeries.

He suggested unless empty buildings across central London were strategically made available it might be time to “bring out the crowbars”.

Prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday (Thursday) said the coronavirus was the “worst public health ­crisis” for a generation and that “many families would lose loved ones” in the coming months. He called for thoughts to be particularly with the elderly who were vulnerable and in danger of isolation.

But Mr Glackin added: “Most people who are homeless also have physical or mental health ­problems, particularly chest ailments. They are more susceptible to viruses generally. These guys are walking around with that tension in their heads. They don’t know what’s going to happen.

“Imagine you had nowhere to go. Imagine you had nowhere to wash your hands. It’s horrible what the government is doing, holding off in this way. Maybe we need some sort of socialist revolution to make them listen.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson speaking yesterday (Thursday)

Mr Glackin said: “For the last week I have been going around with other guys dispensing hand sanitiser to everyone. I have been going out with a thermometer taking temperatures. I’ve been seeing everyone’s hands, it’s terrible. You got places like McDonald’s, the security won’t let them go in to use the bathroom. Where are people going to wash their hands?

“They say ring 111. They say self-isolate. Where are those things going to be done?

“Many of these people don’t find it easy to go to see a doctor. A lot of them haven’t been let in to places and that affects you.”

He added: “There are so many empty buildings that could be used. It would be wonderful if something good could come out of this. If community comes together we can resolve it.”

Anyone with a new persistent cough or high temperature is now advised to self-isolate for seven days. The UK government said it was now in the “delay” phase of its plan to tackle coronavirus spread.

Schools have been advised to cancel trips abroad, and older people and those with pre-existing health concerns have been told not to go on cruises. In total 10 people have now died in the country with the virus.

There have been 596 confirmed cases. But the actual number now could be between 5,000 and 10,000, the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said.


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