Statement on UKSCN Climate Action 13th March 2020 regarding COVID-19

 

Summary
  • It is the decision of local groups whether to go ahead with a strike, change their plans or cancel the strike completely
  • If you are going ahead we encourage you to:
    • Take into account the World Health Organisation (WHO) advice, local authority advice, measures being taken by local schools and number of cases in your area when deciding
    • Consider likely lower turnout and that the strike will be exclusionary to people with pre-existing medical conditions – is it worth it?
    • Consider the possible press response and negative consequences of this
    • How will you ensure that you are looking after the welfare of people attending your strike?
  • Instead of a regular strike, here are some alternative ideas you may want to try instead:
    • #ClimateStrikeOnline: strikers post a photo of themselves with their protest signs on social media along with the campaign hashtag. This could be accompanied by a Twitter storm.
    • Phone banking: People call a government agency/public official to demand climate action, to make it clear that just because we’re not on the street, it doesn’t mean our mobilisation has stopped. 
    • Other actions: There are lots of other possible physical actions that do not use a large number of people – so get creative! Maybe try creating an art piece instead?

Full statement

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, UKSCN have decided to issue a statement to help provide information to local groups about the current situation and how this interacts with the planned strikes on March 13th. As a decentralised organisation, the choice whether or not to strike will always ultimately be up to local groups. Some groups have already made alternative plans for the March strike, but we want to ensure that everyone has access to the most up-to-date and relevant guidance in order to enable them to make an informed decision about the strike.

The press and media may well use the threat of COVID-19 as an excuse to attack UKSCN and/or those local groups who do decide to strike. Therefore it is important to be prepared for this and, where possible, to minimise the potential for irreversibly damaging negative press.

COVID-19 is rapidly spreading throughout Europe, and scientists have warned that large-scale gatherings pose the risk of increasing the chances of further transmission of the virus. These experts have suggested that large-scale events (such as the strikes) should be avoided where possible; however, it is important that despite this challenge we continue to build momentum and place pressure on the Government – for some local groups, this might mean participating in the #ClimateStrikeOnline or alternative strike actions instead of holding a traditional strike. 

Due to the developments in the UK, we are advising all local groups to take precautions, and to follow the advice of the World Health Organisation and their local authorities. In all cases, groups should use their discretion to decide whether it would be appropriate to hold a strike or not, keeping in mind the World Health Organisation recommendations, the number of cases in their local area, the rate of new infections, and any ongoing measures taken by schools, national Government, and the local authority. 

As an actively inclusive movement who campaign for climate justice and recognise the climate crisis as an intersectional issue, it is important to remember that the current situation with COVID-19 will particularly limit the freedom of people with pre-existing medical conditions or healthcare needs to attend strike action. These people may already face discrimination and will be among those worst affected by the climate and ecological catastrophes. Local groups should consider how they can enable all to participate in their actions, regardless of whether or not they have additional medical needs – this could mean encouraging participation in the #ClimateStrikeOnline in addition to holding a physical strike, for example.

The climate and ecological crisis is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced, however this does not mean that COVID-19 should not be taken seriously. We are listening to the advice of the scientists and experts regarding the safety of public gatherings. We do not want to create panic, but to put in place necessary preventative measures in order to contain the spread of the virus.

These are the preliminary unofficial recommendations on climate strikes from WHO guidelines:
  • When planning youth strikes with a significant amount of people, reach out to your local and national public health authorities in advance and to ask them for advice. Please follow their advice on whether it is safe or not to hold the event.
  • Establish a health focal point within your core coordination team organizing the strikes in each country, who stays in regular contact with the local/national health authorities and to whom people can reach out to if they have questions or are concerned. 
If you decide to go ahead with the strike or gathering, please keep in mind:
  • People who feel ill or unwell (have a fever, cough, runny nose or other symptoms) should stay away from the event – this counts for both participants and organizers!
  • Promote appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette in mass gathering venues (washing hands regularly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, covering your mouth when coughing in your elbow, avoid touching your mouth and face often).
  • Have an easy way for participants to access the right information about COVID-19, so as to avoid misinformation and panic.
  • Minimize crowding where possible: consider using distancing measures to reduce close contact among people during the gathering (for example, by holding the event outside, by walking further apart (1m), by not sharing placards among different people, by avoiding travel and transport in large groups, staggering arrivals, diverting departures).
  • People who feel ill or unwell during the event should be isolated, be asked to go home and rest, and contact their doctor or local health authority over the phone 
Unofficial message from a director of WHO specifically for strike groups:

“No doubt that the situation is getting worse in the UK, as in many countries. Climate strike groups may want to get ahead of the situation, and call off the strike as a preventive measure. The best would be if they could organize something online so they already go out with an alternative plan and show they are being proactive rather than just calling it off.” 

We still need to keep the pressure going and push for climate action! So we encourage alternative digital and physical strike actions: 

#ClimateStrikeOnline: An inclusive and risk free online action to keep momentum going and demand climate action. Strikers will post a photo of themselves with their protest signs on social media along with the campaign hashtag. We encourage local groups to join the #ClimateStrikeOnline planned on Friday 13th of March and tag other groups to spread the message.

Twitter storm: People will send tweets of themselves with their signs, use a specific hashtag, and tag members of government from their region to act on the climate crisis. 

Phone banking: People call a government agency/public official to demand climate action, to make it clear that just because we’re not on the street, it doesn’t mean our mobilisation has stopped. 

Red Line:  Climate campaign in Portugal.  Small groups of people strike in several places around the city, each person is separated from the next by a few metres, with a knitted long red line. Can use signs and center it around whichever messaging you choose.

Art installations: Joining with art-focused activist groups for art installations. 

Other actions: There are lots of other possible physical actions that do not use a large number of people – so get creative! 

Cancelled strikes Friday 13th March: Exeter, Barnstaple, Liverpool, Bradford, Sevenoaks, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester, Northern Ireland, Huddersfield, Bangor, Coventry 

Resources for local groups:

WHO guidelines on organizing mass gatherings

Q&A on COVID-19

How to best protect yourself: