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OPINION: How Meriden, England, is coping

OPINION: How Meriden, England, is coping

Editor’s note: Chris Bannister is the co-editor of the Meriden Mag, the quarterly community publication in Meriden, England. Here are some of her reflections on how her village is dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

18th April, 2020 — As we move into our fourth week of lockdown, it seems a good time to reflect on how our village has been coping with Covid-19.

The village

Meriden is a rural village historically thought to be the geographical centre of England. In the 2011 Census, the population of the Meriden parish was 2,719 but this is estimated to have risen to 3,096 by 2017. It lies between the cities of Birmingham and Coventry, with good transport links to both, in a “green belt” of the countryside known as the Meriden Gap. The village has several shops, salons and offices, three pubs/restaurants/hotels, one traditional pub, an Indian restaurant, a library, a post office, three churches, a school for children up to age 11, a care home for the elderly, a sports park and a doctors’ surgery. There are several farms operating in the surrounding countryside, one of which also has a farm shop and restaurant. The area is criss-crossed with lovely footpaths. It’s a great place to live, whatever age you are.

Effect of the virus

The virus came to all our attention in the UK in early March. We were asked to start “social distancing,” i.e. keeping at least two metres away from others, unless they lived in the same house. People over 70, anyone with Covid-19 symptoms and anyone with ‘underlying health issues were all told to self-isolate — i.e. not go out of their home at all. This immediately caused panic buying of food across the country. Within a couple of weeks, we were all told to stay at home at all times, apart from local trips to buy essential food or medication, to take some form of exercise or to go to work if it wasn’t possible to work from home. The police were now enforcing this and issuing fines to those who did not follow the rules.

Our community spirit

All the local shops had to close apart from those selling food and medication, and the post office. They have been doing a fabulous job of keeping the village both fed and safe. Some have been doing home delivery if people couldn’t get out. Some rationing of food has been put in place to ensure it gets to the most people. The local Parish Council and church joined forces to create a Community Emergency Action Team with a phone line for residents to call if they needed anything, including someone to talk to. Lots of residents volunteered to help with this. The local pub, although closed, continued to provide lunches for those residents who relied on them, but delivered them to their homes instead. People have been talking to their neighbours more and shopping for each other.

Our Facebook sites have generated lots of ideas to help keep children occupied now that schools too are closed. There are many houses with Teddy Bears and rainbows in the window, for children to find when they take their daily exercise. Lots of people are out walking and taking the chance for a friendly chat with a stranger (at a 2-metre distance, of course). Every Thursday at 8 p.m. the whole country makes a noise (at their front doors) to say “Thank You” to the staff in our wonderful National Health Service who are on the front line, trying to save the lives of those who succumb to this terrible virus. And technology is playing a big part too, e.g. with families using Facetime to see and speak to each other and share a virtual hug. We can’t wait for it all to be over so that we can have a real one!

Life after Covid-19

We are hoping that life will not go back to how it was before. We want to keep the wonderful community spirit going and hope that the new approach to caring for and talking to each other will continue.

To read the Meriden Mag, go to www.meridenmag.co.uk.

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