**NEW 14 Sept 2020** COVID-19


What have you missed most during lockdown?

by  Canon David Winter

It’s a good question, because it is about the things that make us tick. When I examined my list, I found obvious things – going to church, live sport on TV, meeting up with friends for a coffee or a beer.

But as I thought more deeply about it, I realised that what I missed most was TOUCH. For nearly four months I have not touched another human being!

That is an astonishing deprivation. When a baby is born, its first experiences are all of touch. The strong hands of the midwife, mother’s excited and loving embrace, tiny hands reaching out to feel mummy’s face.  We touch our way into life.

And then it goes on. Holding hands with friends, being hugged by grandma, your first serious kiss, and perhaps a last tearful one at the end of a much-loved life.

We greet each other with a holy kiss, the Bible says. And why not?

Sight, smell, hearing and touch. Four senses. And I think lockdown has taught me that the greatest of these is touch!


Support your local charity shops

Are you feeling the financial squeeze just now, but still enjoy shopping? Why not visit some of your local charity shops? 

Never have charity shops needed you so much. Coronavirus has meant a huge drop in donations, and many charities face huge financial shortfalls. 

The good news is that charity shops are well worth visiting.  Vast amounts of clothes and household items were donated following the lockdown this Spring.  Grounded at home, people decided to declutter and clear-out! 

The result is that, as a spokeswoman for Oxfam says: “People can expect to find some really great treasures to buy.”

It should be very safe to shop, for as Julie Byard of Cancer Research UK, explains, the charity shops put all donated items into isolation before putting them on the shelves.  She adds: “We’re grateful for all donations and to everyone who volunteers and shops with us.”


Concern for the children

During lockdown this Spring, the NSPCC was receiving a call every hour about children who were at risk from domestic violence. Reports to its helplines about children caught up in abuse had risen by 32 per cent, from 140 a week before the pandemic to 185 a week during lockdown. 

Child abuse concerns have been intensified by the closure of schools. This is because the teachers, who can act as an early warning system for abuse, are not around to detect it.

One of the most senior judges in England and Wales, Sir Andrew McFarlane, has warned that once social services can function normally again, the volume of child protection cases “may surge”.


Getting back to work?

 When he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. Matthew 20:2

For many of us it is time to get back to the workplace, as restrictions are easing. But can we be forced to go back to the workplace if we are concerned about how safe it is?

Many employment contracts include a requirement for the employee to work at a specific place and during a certain time. Most people are entitled to written terms of employment and this would include information on where to work. Refusing to turn up for work could lead to disciplinary action. The coronavirus epidemic has changed things, so that now an employee is entitled to ask questions about how safe the workplace is.

If you have concerns about going back to work, you should speak to your employer about them. These issues might include worries about using public transport, worries with childcare or other caring responsibilities and how safe the work place is.

Employers have a duty of care towards employees, to look after both their physical and mental health, to comply with equalities legislation and not discriminate against those who have protected characteristics, such as a disability. Under the government’s COVID-19 return to the office guidance, all businesses have a duty to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment. You can ask what has been considered to make the workplace a safe place.

Some employees have a right to ask about flexible working hours, such as coming in before or after the rush hour or working some days at home. You must give reasons and you should consider any compromise if it is refused. The employer is entitled to say no if there is a good business reason.

The key point is what is ‘reasonable’. Your employer will want to get back to normal business and it is in everyone’s interest to have a productive successful business.

As always this is a light-hearted guide to a complex subject and always get professional advice.


Ditch the commute?

We may prefer to continue working at home, rather than spend hours commuting each day.

A recent poll has found that a high proportion of workers, who are new to working at home, now want to carry on post-Covid, either entirely at home, or at least with fewer than five days in the office each week. 

It might mean that commuting to work could fall by as much as a fifth, even after the virus is over, according to the poll by Toluna for KEK Consulting.


Your face mask and your dog

Face masks have been a big adjustment for all of us, but dogs especially may be struggling, warns the animal charity, Dogs Trust. 

Dogs use our facial expressions to tell how we are feeling, so if they suddenly encounter people whose faces are covered, they could become confused, stressed, and even feel threatened. Their confusion may lead to a loss of obedience and cooperation with you.

Here is how to get your dog used to you wearing a face mask:

  • Hold your hand over your face for a moment, speak reassuringly to your dog, and then reward him.
  • Introduce your dog to your face mask, let him sniff it and let him see you put it up to your face, and then down again. Reward him.
  • Put it on for a moment. Reassure and reward him.
  • Put it on and move about the room, while reassuring him. Reward him.
  • Gradually build up the length of time that you wear the face mask around him. Keep reassuring him. Reward him.

Expect that he may not be so quick to understand and obey you when you are wearing the mask – be patient.

Don’t take him into public places where many people are wearing masks, unless you absolutely have to do so. It could be very stressful for him.


As the pandemic progresses, here is the latest from Mission Aviation Fellowahip (MAF) pilots…

 South Sudan: Although MAF South Sudan has to fly at reduced capacity due to government restrictions, Pilot Danny Gill, has still managed to clock up 2,000 hours in bringing relief to stranded people in need.

 Papua New Guinea:  MAF has received 2,000 home-made face masks from Australia, courtesy of MAF supporters with super sewing skills. They are being allocated to each passenger who boards a MAF PNG flight.

Angola: MAF has been granted special permission for a couple of emergency flights each week to take sick people in isolated places to hospital. Pilot Marijn Goud says: “MAF get to fly even when Angolan airspace is completely closed down – how cool is that?!’’ 


Visit the C of E online page

There is now a range of digital resources for to you connect with God at this difficult time.  These include:

Time to Pray app (https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray) which is free and has an accompanying daily audio offering on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Mental health reflections (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health)

Tips to tackle isolation (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/dealing-loneliness-and-isolation-five-top-tips)

Finally, there are the Church’s smart speaker apps, which provide a range of Christian resources.  https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/our-smart-speaker-apps  In March alone, the number of people using the Alexa app rose by more than 70 per cent.

More details at:  https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online