It’s a team effort in our collective fight against COVID-19

Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson

As our nations rally together in the global fight against COVID-19, it has been inspirational to witness the collective spirit of the American and British people.

 

As our nations rally together in the global fight against COVID-19, it has been inspirational to witness the collective spirit of the American and British people. I feel enormous pride in how our citizens are putting self-interest aside to come together for the greater good.

In recent weeks, we have seen millions of Brits and Americans risk their own lives to go out and protect others – from the NHS and healthcare heroes on the frontlines in our hospitals, to our police officers and firefighters, our transport workers, our military, and the political leaders and government officials coordinating the response in Westminster and Washington.

We are incredibly lucky to have such selfless and devoted public servants within our ranks and my prayers are with all of those who have fallen sick in the course of their duties – including our great partner, Prime Minister Johnson.

But as well as our public sector heroes, I also want to pay a special tribute to the heroic efforts of our businesses. They are also a critical part of the overall fight against COVID-19.

Here in the UK, British workers are pulling out all the stops in their efforts to curb the virus. In Britain’s supermarkets, for example, herculean efforts are being made to keep shelves stocked, staff and customers safe, and the eldest and most vulnerable customers supplied. It is little wonder that their delivery drivers are now being cheered in the streets as they go about their rounds. British banks have also demonstrated how great an asset they are to this country. Finance professionals across the United Kingdom have been working around the clock to keep the economy moving and help thousands of individuals and small businesses manage their finances through this tough period.

And British manufacturers have done what they do best, bringing extraordinary resourcefulness and ingenuity to the collective fight. Many companies changed their entire production virtually overnight to produce ventilators, masks and other supplies for the NHS.

Just as Britain is rallying to the challenge, so is the United States. For decades the American government has been the world’s leader in health and humanitarian assistance – including spending more than one billion dollars over the last 20 years alone to strengthen the capacity of countries to respond to infectious disease threats.

But Americans don’t just step up through the government. Private business, nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations and individuals all play important roles in responding to crises.

Here in the UK, I have been incredibly proud to see American businesses doing everything in their power to support the national effort. Many American companies have entered into ambitious agreements with the UK Government at little or no cost to help support the NHS, though I have space to name only a few in this piece.

Our world-leading tech companies have been building a dashboard to track the spread of the virus and get critical resources to the hospitals in greatest need. Facebook has launched a dedicated COVID-19 Information Center to provide real-time updates from national health authorities.

Amazon has been using its sprawling logistics network to deliver test kits to NHS workers, as well as keeping homes across the country supplied.

Microsoft made the changes necessary to allow 1.3 million NHS workers access to necessary data and programs via the Internet in four days – the biggest movement of this type in UK history.  They made their Teams platform completely free to everybody during this crisis, as did Cisco with Web-Ex, enabling millions of people in the UK to work or study from home. And thanks to American technology, millions of people can continue to see their loved ones, even when they can’t hold them.

American food giants like Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Pizza Hut have been delivering free products to hospitals and local food banks.  Heinz, a company which has been operating in the Wigan area for over six decades, has pledged twelve million free breakfasts to prevent UK schoolchildren who might otherwise have gone hungry during the lockdown.

American financial service providers like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs are in daily talks with the UK Treasury in their efforts to bolster global markets and protect thousands of UK small and medium-sized businesses.

And great U.S. engineering companies like Ford and Boeing, have been at the forefront of efforts to increase the supply of ventilators and protective equipment to the NHS.

This is a team effort and American companies are determined to play their part. As more of our citizens lose their lives or livelihoods each day, there can be no doubt about the gravity of the threat. But our countries have overcome tough challenges before, and together, we will do it again.

Published Sunday, April 12th, 2020, in the UK’s Sunday Express.