AMID the terrible personal losses and hardships provoked by the coronavirus crisis, and its huge impact on the global economy and the lives and welfare of even those not directly touched by the disease, there are some small consolations.

The majority of the population – if not yet enough of them – have responded to this emergency with the appropriate gravity and responsibility and, commendably, with a widespread concern for their fellow citizens. This is a time for sacrifice and altruism; bluntly, to minimise the most appalling effects of this pandemic, we are all going to have to look out for one another.

The advice for those over 70 to go into isolation, even without symptoms, the closure of schools, and the need to avoid all but the most essential travel or face-to-face encounters is an enormous personal strain.

Doing what we can – fetching messages for elderly neighbours, donating to food banks and other charitable services, looking out for the welfare of workmates, landlords assuring tenants that they are secure in their homes – is more than ever a duty. It may also, as some studies have suggested, alleviate the psychological difficulties presented by personal sacrifices required of you.

Despite the usual hysterical attempts to score partisan political points in some quarters (notably on social media), the governments and oppositions in both Westminster and Holyrood also deserve our respect and support for the measured and responsible way in which they have handled this outbreak.

It may be, in hindsight, that some other course of action would have been better, but at the moment it is difficult to see what they ought to have done, other than follow the advice of medical experts, as they have. And on many things, both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon deserve credit for having acted decisively and effectively, in accordance with expert opinion, even on issues where the uninformed called for swifter or slower responses.

Nonetheless, there are practical steps that – unless there is some clinical objection to their introduction – should now be taken as quickly as possible. The UK Government is clearly prepared to produce unprecedented levels of public money (and is fortunate that the economic circumstances allow for that).

Those subsidies should be got to businesses, especially small firms, as soon as possible. More important, the bulk of that support should be going to their workers. Whether it is in the form of some kind of grant, loan, or universal basic income, it is now an urgent necessity for a huge swathe of the population; particularly the most vulnerable.

Whatever the previous arguments for slowing or restricting testing, that programme must be stepped up sharply, especially for frontline staff – which includes supermarket workers as well as NHS professionals. Care provision (much of which was suspended yesterday) is a priority, but that will now include not only specialists employed in the field, but many ordinary people looking after vulnerable relatives or neighbours. We cannot afford to be without the services of those who may have only harmless coughs or minor ailments.

No one underestimates the difficulty or the scope of these challenges, and no one with any sense seriously doubts the goodwill of those charged with delivering solutions in what is probably the greatest peacetime challenge for a century or more. Bold, effective action is required from government here and across the UK, but also from every one of us. There can be no hope of help if we do not all stand ready to provide it.

We'll drink to that

The Bruce Arms in Fife is one of those small businesses adapting nimbly to the blow dealt by these new weird circumstances, by delivering booze to customers’ homes. If the shops – to which many of us should not be going anyway – have been cleared of food and drink, support your local bars and restaurants, which can all now offer an on- or off-service if they choose. Set up Skype or FaceTime, and hold a virtual cocktail party in the comfort of your own bedroom.