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THE LOCKDOWN LOWDOWN: A Study into the Social Impact of COVID-19

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KCL chapter.

It’s almost like the start of a dystopian sci-fi novel or an interactive episode of Black Mirror or the Twilight Zone, where we’ve all been sucked into the makings of an almost apocalyptic world. I bet all the fans of The Walking Dead have been preparing for this moment for most of their lives. Somehow it’s starting to feel like a joke and at some point, there will be a glitch in the Matrix or mishap in the Truman show and then Rod Serling in his iconic suit will come out of nowhere and somehow we will all wake up and realise that none of this was actually real. 

If only. 

Fictional parallels aside, it seems reality really has taken a rather difficult turn and we are living in some testing times.

We cannot undermine the severity and real harm the Coronavirus has had on people worldwide, with its huge international death toll.

One significant element that has emerged as a result of the Coronavirus has been the opposing ways people have reacted to it. It seems to have created an extreme social-chasm in which the opposite extreme ends of the spectrum showcase people who either seem to be taking it too seriously or not taking it very seriously at all. Some believe the media is overexaggerating the effects of the virus extensively in order to create and control a fear mongering populous. Others would argue that the media and the government are downplaying the outbreak and undermining the very real effects it is having on people. 

This article is less about trying to fall into either category or persuade you to pick one side over the other, or to even attempt to answer the question of to what extent is the Coronavirus a real danger or fictious one. But rather, this article is interested in studying people, documenting the ways in which people have reacted to the virus and how most importantly, this has driven many of us into a spiral of mass hysteria which has greatly impacted the socio-economic foundations of our time. 

I want to deal with this somewhat serious and delicate topic with empathy and compassion towards the people who are suffering as best as I can. Thus, as much as I will address the over-exaggeration and hysterical elements of people’s reactions to the virus, I will attempt not to undermine those whose health and family have been greatly detrimented by it. Whilst examining both sides of the story, I will consider the impact it has had on a diverse range of social groups. Finally, I am also going to look at the possible silver-linings to this virus (because I am in fact an optimist – albeit a slightly jaded one). I want to offer some of form of hope for anyone who might be in need of some during this chaotic and tumultuous period. I am aware that this is going to be a long article, so maybe grab some tea, curl into bed or on the sofa and buckle down for an interesting summary of the events so far and stick around till the end for the silver lining to all this.

1. Xenophobia

trump speaking at rally
Photo by Gage Skidmore from Flickr
One of the main initial reactions which followed the first news of the outbreak of Corona, was one of Xenophobia (a fear towards foreigners) or should I say, a heightened form of already existing Xenophobia. There is no doubt xenophobia has increased since the outbreak of Coronavirus, and this association has only been heightened even more by President Trump’s rhetoric in continually referring to it as the ‘China-virus’ rather than using its actual scientific name.

In other words, the Coronavirus began as a bandwagon of excuses for racists to attack and hate on ethnic minority groups. Specifically, because the virus began in China, many xenophobes have used the pandemic as an excuse to target Chinese people. 

What started off as passive avoidance of things related to East Asian culture (empty China towns and restaurants etc), rapidly turned into more active and violent attacks on Chinese citizens or migrants. Johnathon Mok, a London student, made headlines in early March, as major media platforms showcased pictures of his brutally bruised and beaten up face after being the victim of a race-hate attack. 

He reported that one of the members of the group who attacked him had said: “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country.’ The irony being that Johnathon Mok was Signaporian, not Chinese. While this does not condone their behaviour in any way, as the abuse would have been just as despicable had he actually been from China, it does go to show how all minority groups are not safe from attacks. East-Asian minorities, in particular, have been affected the most by the recent surge of Xenophobia. 

Johnathon Mok’s case, although probably one of the worst, should not be thought of in isolation, as it was not the only race related incident that has taken place. Since the spread of Coronavirus, there have been numerous attacks against ethnic minorities ranging from verbal bullying to physical abuse as well as vandalism and egg-throwing.

2. Stockpiling & Panic-buying

a woman stands in front of the health juice/kombucha shelves at a grocery store
kc0uvb | Pixabay
The most visible effects of the virus, to those who fall out of the range of Xenophobic taunting, would be in the supermarkets looking at stock, or the lack there-of. The first real time most people would have felt the effects of the Coronavirus first hand would be the rows empty shelves in their local shops. The Coronavirus has set people off on a frenzy of panic buying and stockpiling their homes with all sorts of items, most noticeably toilet paper, most likely in an attempt to protect and sustain themselves in case the country goes on a lockdown. 

Except I don’t quite know how toilet paper is going to save you from fighting all this, but anyways. If it’s for your nose and you think it’s cheaper and more efficient to buy toilet paper than tissues – fair enough! But if its toilet paper for its intended purpose, I would recommend “going Muslim style” and using a ‘lotah’ when you go toilet because its better for sanitation and the enviroment because it requires less toilet roll if you’re really afraid of running out. But again the last thing on anyone’s mind when they are in any “apocalypse” world should be running out of toilet paper.

Here is the impact of panic-buying and why it is in fact a rather selfish and ridiculous thing to do.

You might think you are being harmless when you are stocking your fridge and cupboards at home with all your favourite products at home. But in reality, everything you do has a real consequence. The more fearful you are, the more you buy. And when the next person in line sees you buying a pack of 35 industrial hand sanitisers, 50 packs of pasta and 122 toilet rolls, not only are you leaving none left for them, you’re sending the next person into a spiral of panic buying too. 

I can understand why people are doing it and I can understand the somewhat reasonable fears behind it. But what’s happened as of now is that we’ve all been forced into it because after weeks of not being able to find toilet roll anywhere on the shelves, when you do find it, you are going to buy as much as you can in case you won’t be able to find it again.

So to all those who started this and are needlessly panic buying, please stop, and don’t forget that everything you do impacts a chain of reactions, which means you’re forcing others to be swept up into this consumerist craze too. Besides, not only is stockpiling extremely disastrous for the economy, retailers and businesses, it most importantly impacts the lives of everyone. Just take as much as you need and don’t go overboard with it!

It’s gotten so bad to the point where an NHS worker came home on the verge of tears, after a long hard day at work of risking her life to be able to help those in need, she cannot buy any food because there is nothing left in the stores by the time her late working shift is finished. Stockpiling is therefore not just selfish but it displays the dangers of capitalism at its finest.

Overworked NHS & Staff

coronavirus medical gear
Her Campus Media
COVID, Cleaning
This brings me onto the next point of the overworked staff of the National Health System. The NHS has been overstretched and underfunded for many years now, so there is no wonder that a national outbreak has only worsened conditions and brought the NHS onto the brink of disaster. 

The actions of the British government, led by Boris Johnson in response to the impact of the Coronavirus have been somewhat questionable. The Prime minister has decided to rely on bringing medical professionals out of retirement as well as trying to recruit medical students in their final year of university. 

Despite this, little assurances and consideration have been shown to NHS staff members, one of the most vulnerable and most exposed groups to Covid-19, who are not being tested for the virus themselves. The staff who run the NHS are therefore not being protected from the virus, which is not only a frightening and dangerous prospect for the staff, but also for the patients they are working with. Moreover, the NHS is still suffering from immense shortages of beds, facilities and staff as well as being under-equipped in medical devices, most importantly including ventilators which are vital for a respiratory disease like the Coronavirus. 

‘Clap for our Carers’ is a campaign that celebrates the contributions the NHS staff have made to our country and especially their response to Covid-19.

The Vulnerable groups

As well as the NHS staff as previously mentioned, there are many vulnerable groups at risk or are suffering because of Coronavirus. It is of no surprise that the people who are already at the bottom of society have been pushed to the fringes when an international crisis has occurred. This means we have a greater responsibility to be less selfish and help those in need. 

The Homeless 

Homeless blue tents
Unlike most, the homeless have nowhere to hide from the virus, and nowhere to self isolate if they have caught it. Thus the homeless are the most vulnerable and susceptible to the Coronavirus. In order to combat this we need to make sure that the homeless have access to local shelters in their time of need. The issue of stockpiling has also impacted the way in which food banks and charities operate also, with many food distribution services not having enough food or facilities to give to the homeless.

The Elderly

person comforting old man
Matthias Zomer
Extensive research and scientific evidence has proven that the elderly are more at risk when it comes to the Corona-virus. This is especially true of any elderly members who happen to have suffered with breathing in the past, because this is a respiratory virus. As well as this, seniors may have difficulty getting their weekly shopping because of all the stockpiling. If you have an elderly family member or neighbour try and reach out to help them during this period.

Asthma Patients

Women wearing a mask for health purpose
Again, for similar reasons as mentioned prior, those who already suffer from problems of breathing are also vulnerable when it comes to the Coronavirus. Therefore if they are worried they should seek medical advice about what they can do in their situation. I can understand those who are stocking up on medicines and inhalers for this reason. 

Small Business owners

Small​ business owners, who have been forced to close their shopes or restaurants during lockdown are no doubt sufering because of the Coronavirus. Tey may have been reliant on the funds from customers and so will have to find other ways of making money.

Single parents

With the recent news of schools being closed, a greater pressure and burden has been placed on parents to find ways of looking after their children and keeping them occupied, whilst still maintaining a steady income and all the responsibilities of a job. Single parents, in particular, will be hit the hardest in these times of Coronavirus. For those lucky enough to have a babysitter or older siblings to look after their children or to work in an flexible environment that allows you to do work from home, this may not be such an issue. However, the vast majority of parents are in an essential job and have to come in (perhaps due to specialist equipment at their workplace) and will not receive pay leave for taking time off work to look after their children.

Remember it is a privilege to be able to work from home! 

Impact on Education

Newly Graduated People Wearing Black Academy Gowns Throwing Hats Up in the Air
Pixabay via Pexels
Speaking of single parents, it is not only they who are suffering because of the recent school closures. Students of Gcses and Alevels will have been both devastated and slightly relieved to hear the recent news of their exams being cancelled. I

The way the government initially announced this shocking news was dreadful because they didn’t reveal crucial details or plan beforehand how they would deal with the consequences of canceling exams before they announced it publically. This course of action left thousands of students and family members across the country in emotional turmoil about how the results of their hard work and effort will be rewarded. 

They have been replaced by a predicted grades system which although great for some, has also left some students, particularly from a BAME background, anxious that they will not recieve the grades they deserve because of teaching prejiduces. 

As well as this, UK university students have also felt let down by this government with the fact that they have been paying 9k, only to receive 4 weeks of no teaching because of nationwide teaching strikes, as well as the 2 weeks left of their semester 2 in chaos because of the closure of universities due to Coronavirus. Students unfortunately will not be reimbursed for this and while most universities have opted to cancel all exams this year, some universities have switched to having online lectures, seminars and exams.

Graduations have also been understandably cancelled or postponed. People have been resorting to graduating on Zoom, Skype and even Club Penguin or Animal Crossing. 

Memes, Fake News, & absence of Fact-checking

Man sitting with leg crossed reading a newspaper that is on fire.
Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash
There have also been a lot of chain messages on Facebook spreading fake news and false information about the Coronavirus. People are not fact checking often enough before they share information and this is leading to even more misinformation and hysteria. Ibuprofen and Paracetamol will not make Coronavirus worse!

Our generation has reacted with the expectedly normal onslaught of memes and dark humour, most likely as a coping mechanism to deal with the disastrous world we have been brought into. 

While most Coronvirus jokes are in good taste and humour, others including references to Chinese people, may ignite xenophobic tendecies and behaviours. As a Gen-Z myself, I do feel partly obliged to spread awareness about this issue when it comes to sharing memes and jokes about the Coronavirus. 

I’m very much used to the way in which Gen-z humour deals with serious topics such as death, suicide and mental health in a seemingly playful way. But I find it rather unsettling that after years of seeing memes of people asking for their own death, this pandemic has swept the globe and has actually killed people. I think we should be hyper aware of what we wish for.

While I do feel like laughter is an innocent expression and release and do enjoy most Coronavirus memes, I have come across some jokes that may be a tad too insensitive and taken a step too far. Sometimes, making light of something so serious as a virus pandemic may hit a nerve with a lot of people who are either suffering themselves or have seen first hand the impact the coronavirus has had on their family members. 

One joke in particular which deeply disturbed me was when I saw the phrase ‘boomer remover’ floating around in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak. Now I was a full advocate for using the term ‘ok boomer’ in good fun and jest to silence the older generation in a situation when they are being particularly dismissive, patronising or narrow-minded. (I saw the phrase ‘ok boomer’ as a way to clap back at the years of the older generation calling us oversensitive ‘snowflakes’ without being too rude either.) However, I think the term ‘boomer remover’ is taking the joke a step too far and is frankly really too darkly humoured, even for Gen-Z. The term is completely disrespectful to boomers as well as family members of boomers who have lost their lives to this virus.

I just think this is just something to bear in my mind, next time you share a meme or forward a message on WhatsApp. Remember to fact-check before you send and please consider how the person on the other end is going to respond or react to what you are sending. Something that you find funny now, might not be funny for the other person!

Travel Disruptions

It should be of no surprise to you that airports are shutting down as travelling is trying to be minimised in this current situation to prevent further spreading of the Coronavirus. This means for some that holidays have been cancelled, religious pilgrimages have limited the amount of people they are accepting (including Umrah – a Muslim plgrimage), and theme parks such as Disneylands and the Studio Ghibli Museum in Japan have been closed. :(


Empty movie seats
Photo by Felix Mooneeram on Unsplash
Various industries have been impacted because of the Coronavirus including film, fashion and music to name a few. Marvel and Disney fans (such as myself) would have been disappointed to see films like ‘Black Widow’ and ‘Mulan’ understandably postponed due to the Coronavirus. 

Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney + have also been impacted by the coronavirus situation because of the surge of users using it to make time fly while they are stuck in self isolation. This has meant that both companies have been forced to lower the bandwidth (resolution quality) of their service to maintain all the users using their product at the same time. 

Netflix screen
Photo by Thibault Penin on Unsplash
Shows on Netflix such as ‘Quarantine’, ‘93 Days’ and ‘Pandemic’ have also been received popularly during this hysteria of the Coronavirus, with the latter series ‘Pandemic’ reaching No.8 in the UK today.


If there is one thing that you can learn from the Coronavirus is that it doesn’t discriminate. From the poorest, unknown person to the Prime Minister of the UK, this pandemic can impact us all. Famous people like Tom Hanks and Idris Elba have been outspoken with the fact that they have been tested positive with Coronavirus. It seems they have been public with their announcements of it in order to de-stigmatize those who have also been hit with the virus and encourage more to speak out. Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande are other celebrities who have used their platform to voice their concerns over Coronavirus to their fans. While other celebrities such as Evageline Lilly have received extensive hate for speaking out about how she is refusing to self isolate, arguing that “Some people value their lives over freedom, some people value freedom over their lives. We all make our choices.”

The Silver-lining in all of this

Sun shining from behind clouds
I know I promised you that after giving you all this detail about the serious impact of the Coronavirus and the hysteria that has come with it, I would also share some of the positive silver lining in all of this, so here it goes! 

The pandemic has not only humbled us and made us more aware of how grateful we should be for the health we so often take for granted, but hopefully it will make people reflect on the value of life and how fragile and short it really can be. It has also given people more of a meaningful opportunity to spend quality time with their families and reach out to their loved ones. For some countries, the Coronavirus has actually decreased interest rates and has resulted in military expenditure being focused on health care instead. The good news is that the environment has also improved dramatically because of the fact that humans are going out less and are therefore creating less pollution. 

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason, whether we understand it or not.

How to stay safe

To read up more accurately about the Coronavirus, please visit the NHS website for more information about symptoms and actions to take if you need to self isolate. 

Please follow the tips set out on the NHS website and if you are afraid that you might have the Coronavirus, you can phone using the NHS online helpline.

If you are unable to get an assessment, or are unsure as of yet you can always use the free Ada app to get a quick and free checkup from an artificial intelligence robot who can advise you if you are unsure if your symptoms match the virus. (Please be aware that the Ada app cannot possibly replace a full check up from a trained professional doctor.)

Reminder to keep things in perspective!

Photo by CDC on Unsplash
It seems this global pandemic has brought out the worst and best in humanity. For one, it has revealed the extent that humans are willing to descend to when they are desperate, afraid and in need.

I think if there is one thing we all need to take away from this is that we shouldn’t take our health and our ease for granted. Before the coronavirus emerged, we turned our heads away from helping refugees who are fleeing from war torn countries or avoided eye contact with the homeless on our streets. Before we could only imagine what it must feel like to truly be desperate, but now after being exposed to even the slightest bit of fear we are driven to fighting over toilet roll, because that’s what desperation does to us. It’s important that we don’t lose our human dignity even through the most difficult of trials and remain compassionate and giving to those most vulnerable and in need.

So yes we are living in difficult times, but it is the way you choose to react and act that can really make the difference. I hope that each and every one of you who are reading this take the precautions and measures seriously and stay safe from danger, whilst not letting yourself get so caught up in the fear and hysteria of it all. Remember it’s important to find the balance. 

phone screen that says stay at home
PhotoReady via Pexels



British Muslimah. Intersectional feminist. Cynical Hufflepuff. Professional cat-lover. Shaheena is an English Literature student with a passion for social activism. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, reading and watching cartoons/animes. Her top fandoms include: Avatar (atla), Ghibli, Disney, Harry Potter, Marvel, Doctor Who & Sherlock.