Coronavirus: The United Kingdom unites in the face of illness, death and economic collapse

In London, one of Europe’s largest cities, life, for the most part, is on hold.

The nearly empty streets, however, make it easy to spot human interactions, such as a man offering rough sleepers containers of food from a brightly painted cart attached to his bike.

“I have seen so many acts of kindness during this pandemic so far,” said Lawrence Speelman, standing with his face covered on a warm, sunny afternoon.

Speelman isn’t working right now, but he is busy.

He’s taken to delivering meals for the charity Food for All and he coordinates all of the drivers and riders crisscrossing the city.

The charity makes and distributes more than 5,000 meals daily to anyone in need.

“I am currently on furlough, as many people are, and I am trying to do something meaningful with my furlough time,” said Speelman.

It was on the evening of April 23 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a sweeping lockdown across the United Kingdom.

“From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households,” said Johnson during a televised address.

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In the months since, the novel coronavirus has infected more than 254,000 people in the U.K., and of those who have tested positive, more than 36,000 have died.

At 8 p.m. on Thursdays, people open their windows or head outside to take part in “Clap for Carers” — a show of support for essential workers — and a 100-year-old, Second World War veteran has stolen the hearts of people around the world with his message of hope and display of strength.

“The love is pouring out. I just hope that when this is over, they don’t forget that,” said Jennie Matthias.

Matthias offers everyone a huge hello with the kind of energy that makes you feel warm, and she does it while organizing donations and packing meals for Food For All.

“It’s been a really hard, tough last couple of months for everyone,” said Matthias as she organizes and packs up food to be delivered. “We’re here all the time. We have not stopped once. In fact we expanded.”

Matthias convinced her friend who owns Rock and Roll Rescue on Camden Parkway to use the space for free.

She says the work is the reason she jumps out of bed in the morning.

“This is the year of compassion. This COVID-19 thing may be a bad thing but it also has given us all, everybody around the world, a chance to observe the noncompetitive nature for everybody in the area,” said Matthias.

The hope is that the kindness expressed in London and around the world outlasts the virus.

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