Life&Style Writer Eleanor Howson questions whether we should be ordering non-essential items during the pandemic
Are you continuing to shop for non-essential goods online during the lockdown? Should your spending activities online adapt similarly to how they have on the high street? Undeniably, this is a contentious issue. On the one hand, shopping online might provide a much-needed boost to Britain’s economy. However, is the delivery service to our doorstep putting more lives at risk? Have you ever considered the health of those working for the postal service or those behind the scenes packing your parcels?
The first problem arises when asked to define what ‘essential goods’ are. Irrefutably, food is an essential good that can be bought online. However, are items that will boost your mental health and create connections with family and friends, who you cannot see, also essential? It seems that justifying what is and what is not essential is easier said than done. Rachel Moss, a writer on the behalf of HuffPost, interviewed professor Ann Gallagher of Ethics and Care about this subject. Gallagher contended that deciding upon what is an essential purchase can be achieved by thinking about your intentions for buying a certain product. Buying a present for a family member in isolation arguably is more essential than purchasing fast fashion from an unethical provider.
So, to what extent is buying a present going to harm the health of those delivering your parcel and those receiving it? As COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, individuals can catch the virus from merely touching something that has been infected with the virus. In fact, The New England Journal of Medicine has found that the virus can remain active on cardboard for up to twenty-four hours! Although, this is much less time than plastic – where the virus can last up to 3 days, most of our delivered goods are packaged in cardboard and therefore, this could cause the virus to be transmitted even to those who are self-isolating. So, how about the health of those delivering online purchases?
Hannah Ewens, a journalist for Vice, reports that unsurprisingly delivery drivers are a high risk for catching the virus. However, Ewens also contends that ‘these people are frequently self-employed and on zero hours contracts; they are less likely to have financial security.’ Therefore, the debate over whether we should continue online shopping becomes even more controversial. What is more important: financial or health security?
The economic advantages cannot be ignored. It is, perhaps, the main reason why it is argued that we should continue online shopping as we usually do. For example, small businesses that have had to shut down their high-street store may turn to selling online to keep financially afloat. The risk is that if we do not continue to support small businesses, they may not return to the high street once lockdown in relaxed.
It is easy to get swayed by the never-ending emails promoting a 40%! But next time you buy online, consider whether your purchase is essential and whether it could cause more harm than good.
How else have we adapted to coronavirus?