"some people may be stranded in a specific country."
In 2020, Coronavirus has by far been the biggest issue for the UK and the rest of the world and it is not just healthwise.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses. Common symptoms include a persistent cough and fever.
They circulate in animals and some can be transmitted between animals and humans.
This particular disease is called Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19. It originated in China when there was a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan on December 31, 2019.
It is believed that it came from a seafood market, where wildlife was sold illegally.
China is the worst affected but there is a growing number of cases in the UK.
So far, more than 1,300 people have tested positive and the number of deaths is increasing. Unfortunately, these figures are expected to grow over the coming weeks.
While the main issue is health, numerous factors relating to daily life is also being affected. That is the same for British Asians and the Desi way of life.
We explore seven areas where the Coronavirus will have an impact on British Asian life.
The elderly are most at risk from suffering the full effects of the Coronavirus if they get infected, whether they are living alone, in nursing homes or with families.
Older people, especially those over 70, are more susceptible to the virus due to two reasons.
The first is that they are more likely to suffer from underlying conditions that hinder the body’s ability to cope with and recover from illness.
The second has to do with how our immune response changes with age.
In a lot of British Asian households, grandparents tend to live with them in extended families. If they become infected, then it is likely that the rest of the family could also become infected.
Therefore, it is important for British Asian families with the elderly in their households to keep them safe despite how difficult and unsocial it may seem. It is for their benefit and everyone around them.
In a bid to slow down the spread of Coronavirus, the UK government is advising over-70s to self-isolate or shield themselves within extended family households.
According to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the elderly will be asked to stay home for “a very long time”.
He said that those with underlying health problems will have to self-isolate.
For those in nursing and care homes, family members can still visit the elderly relatives as long as they stay two-metres away from them.
This will also impact the elderly from British Asian households who might want to travel back to their homelands. It will be best for such trips to be delayed until the virus has peaked and stabilised.
Family & Income
Within British Asian society, the nucleus for most of them is family life. Thus, whole families are at risk of catching the virus.
British Asian extended families tend to be part of the household where older people mix with younger family members. This is a potential problem because if one family member becomes ill, they run the risk of spreading it to the rest of the family.
As the Coronavirus becomes more severe, family members may be forced to stay in separate rooms which may negatively affect family morale within a British Asian household.
Advice from the UK government is that whole household isolation is implemented and this is done for 14 days if a person in the family has the virus.
Whole household isolation will allow 7 days for the person who has the symptoms to recover and the remaining 7 days for the incubation period to pass.
With British Asian families always being strong and resilient when it comes to challenges in life, this is one which internally needs to be managed with care and understanding, especially for those with symptoms.
Patience and support are needed from those not affected by the virus within British Asian families.
Davinder aged 41, says:
“My parents are old and live with us. We are very concerned about Coronavirus because if one of them catch it and fall ill, the impact on me, my wife and three grown-up children could be significant. Because we will have to all isolate as advised.”
Work and income are key drivers in British Asian families to keep the households fully functioning. While some workplaces are asking employees to work from home, others are being given time off.
The means an impact on the income of households. Especially, those with young children and working parents.
It is a headache for working parents as they are not earning enough money for the family. This is especially problematic when the prices of specific items start to rise.
There is an opinion in the UK for schools to be closed temporarily.
Meena, aged, 35, a working professional and parent says:
“It is a very difficult and confusing situation. Me and my husband, rely on our income to keep the household going, and one of us does not get paid leave if we catch the virus.
“If schools close either me or my husband will have to stay at home with them because my in-laws and family live very far away. Putting us under financial pressure.”
Some universities have taken steps to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Akash is a student at Manchester Metropolitan University. While lectures have not been cancelled yet, the Coronavirus has impacted him due to the uncertainty of what is happening.
He said: “Lectures have not been officially cancelled but I don’t know if my lecturers are running classes so I’m having to email them to find out.
“I do know that face-to-face teaching will end on March 27.”
Visiting family abroad will also be affected. Many airlines are cancelling flights in order to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
This has resulted in numerous issues for British Asian people.
Aditya, who works in retail, explained: “There are concerns about British Asians travelling to/from India and Pakistan so there’s always the risk of spreading the virus.
“It is also a worry if flights are cancelled as some people may be stranded in a specific country.”
Asian Businesses & Food
Many businesses across the UK will be affected by Coronavirus and this includes Asian businesses, of which there are many. Especially, food stores, clothing and restaurants.
While certain products like bleach, Dettol, soap, toilet roll and hand sanitisers will have a significant increase in sales, generally, most non-essential may not sell well during the time frame, resulting in overall losses.
High-selling items are also resulting in a negative effect because when they sell out, suppliers are increasing the prices which makes it more difficult for business owners to buy.
Saniya added: “It also affects those who own small, local businesses as the people they are buying their stock from have increased their prices.
“This means shop owners cannot afford to even buy stock.”
This is due to panic buying. Many people are buying large quantities of food in case they are confined to their homes. Panic buying is something which British Asian people are also guilty of.
Out of fear, many families are stockpiling on South Asian staples such as chapatti flour and rice. A number of Asian businesses have reported low stock levels of these types of foods as well as other frequently eaten foods.
Mr Sandhu, an Asian shop owner says:
“Sales of atta (chapatti flour), rice, daals and many other Asian foods have been very very high.”
“Many people have been buying bulk like five bags of flour and rice.”
As well as gains or losses in sales, Asian business owners will have bigger problems if their staff becomes infected. Businesses will be stretched if employees are in isolation.
Asian business manufacturers of clothes for high-end stores could be hit due to a worker being forced into isolation or a spread of the virus amongst the workforce.
Business meetings and social contact within Asian businesses will be important to reduce the spread of the virus. So, the use of technology for video and phone conferencing will be an option many will have to take.
With the advice of the UK government related to lower social contact, there is no doubt, Asian restaurant owners, taxi drivers and shop owners will be impacted. Simply, if there are no customers, there are no sales.
A big part of British Asian life is the fact that they love to socialise whether it be family gatherings, community groups or special occasions.
Coronavirus is spreading all the time and one of the easiest ways for it to spread is during social gatherings.
The UK government has announced a temporary ban on large gatherings and ‘increased social distancing’ which means very limited social contact.
This includes attending social events, visiting bars, restaurants and cinemas.
The aim is to delay the transmission of the disease through reduced contact.
From a British Asian perspective, nights out, club-nights, birthday celebrations, family parties and community social functions will be impacted. Many will most likely need to be cancelled.
Charan, aged 26, says:
“We have a family party in April 2020 and it’s been cancelled due to the Coronavirus. We have a very large extended family and relatives. So, we wanted to make sure everyone was safe. We will have to wait to re-book it.”
Going to the cinema to watch Bollywood or other South Asian films will also be impacted due to many UK cinema chains being forced to close for a period of time.
Unnecessary travel is also a recommendation from the UK government, which means that social visits amongst friends and family need to be curtailed to avoid the spread of the virus.
A common area of impact for British Asian communities is attending religious services, where it is frequent for social gatherings and people to attend weekly. Depending on individual faiths, it is likely many could be affected.
Overall, it is important for British Asians to sensibility manage their social contact with others and avoid it where and as much as possible to keep safe.
British Asian people love weddings and preparing for one is a big affair.
Even though the wedding season is not until May and June 2020, the planning lasts for months.
This is something which will be affected. One area is shopping for clothes and jewellery. Even though they are bought in the UK, many shops import their products from India and Pakistan.
Banker Iyesha revealed that she has extended family members who are panicking.
She said: “We’ve got a few family weddings coming up. But everyone is stressing over the uncertainty of whether they will go ahead.
“Also I do know that in Pakistan, they are closing down wedding venues.
“And in terms of bridal outfits, because they come from India and Pakistan, there are fears of whether they’ll make it to the UK.
“And the tailors over there are stressed because the embellishments like the beads come from China.”
Wedding-related businesses will also be hit due to potential cancellations.
Banqueting halls, function rooms and community centres could see a reduction in their bookings and cancellations of existing ones.
Saniya explained: “As my parents run an Asian wedding decor business, they are worried that upcoming wedding bookings will get cancelled meaning it will affect them on the financial side.”
One of the biggest factors in society which have been impacted by the Coronavirus is sports.
Many events took place without any spectators but a step up in measures has led to high-profile sporting events, like the Premier League, being postponed.
Other sports matches have even been cancelled in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.
It is not just professional sports which have been affected, grassroots sports also face problems, something which a lot of young British Asians participate in.
With football and cricket being popular sports amongst British Asians, it is likely fixtures will be hit by the spread of COVID-19.
Dinesh, a father of three says:
“I take my young sons to play football in a local team. But due to the virus, I have decided I will not be taking them.”
Some sports clubs have decided to postpone fixtures while others are carrying on with a close eye on any government announcements.
Teams are following the necessary advice in order to prevent the likelihood of contracting the virus.
Medical Care & Support
As more people become infected, NHS staff will be pushed to the limit in order to treat everyone.
There is an impact on NHS staff who are of South Asian backgrounds.
Doctors and nurses are also not immune from the virus and it is likely those working in the hospital or medical environments will need to be extra careful, following the advice given to the public.
Many doctors in China have been infected by the virus while treating it.
Those British Asians who are in isolation will still need support if they constantly require medical care.
One issue is medicine. People are panic buying healthcare items without any consideration for more vulnerable people like the elderly.
This has resulted in low stock. In some cases, entire shelves are empty.
One employee at Boots who wanted to remain anonymous said:
“People are worried about trying to find the right products such as hand sanitisers, anti-bacterial wipes, soaps and masks.
“For the most part, they are nice about how they ask or feel about the items being or not being in stock.
“However, there is a small majority who start blaming us employees for not having the stock, not stocking up, not helping them further.”
Due to the increasing number of Coronavirus patients, appointments for other health issues may be severely delayed or even cancelled because it would not be considered a priority.
Another medical support problem is a potential lack of public transport. Being surrounded by many other people, especially if they are ill, could increase the risk.
One measure to stop the spread would be to advise against using public transport but it becomes a problem for those who do not drive as they have no way of getting to the hospital.
Unfortunately, it does not look like the Coronavirus will be slowing down, with more people becoming infected each day.
The UK has not yet announced a lockdown but health experts have issued several ways in which you can stop the spread of bacteria and stay safe.
Citizens are urged to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water or use anti-bacterial gel.
If you need to sneeze or cough, use a tissue. Throw the tissue away and wash your hands.
Avoid touching your face with unclean hands and ensure that you do not come into close contact with unwell people.
For those who are experiencing symptoms, self-isolate for a period of seven days. If the symptoms continue, go online first for the latest information or call 111, if you feel your need immediate help.
Also, as per advice from the French health minister, Olivier Veran, if you have the infection, avoid taking anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen or cortisone as it could aggravate it. If you have a fever, take paracetamol instead.
The surge of this pandemic will be testing times for everyone and no doubt, British Asians will also be under the strain and challenge everyone else is facing but in their own specific way.