Story by David Kandrac, Independent Roma Consultant & University Student
The beginning of Covid-19 pandemic significantly affected the Roma community. There was much concern and fear fed by language barriers and lack of shared information among the community.
There were also issues of conflicting reports coming via Slovakian media that caused considerable concern amongst the Roma population. Slovakia closed its borders more quickly than the UK and in response some members of the Roma community felt unsafe here. People considered whether they should go to Slovakia to protect themselves. Some families took this option once the schools closed.
Early in the pandemic I was contacted by the Sheffield City Council and as a result I delivered a live broadcast via Facebook. Here I shared relevant information from the gov. uk websites and answered many questions in the Romani language.
In order to avoid mistakes, I was supported in this by a British GP with whom I had worked previously. We aimed to reassure the Roma and to give them confidence that they could keep themselves and their neighbours safe. We also made it very clear that the tight restrictions that were being introduced were there also in order to avoid excessive pressure on the National Health System.
I would like to personally thank organisations working with the Roma communities for doing their very best to keep us informed about the corona virus pandemic.
From my perspective, the vast majority of the Roma community continue to stick to the Government guidelines. They wear masks, keep a safe distance and meet only within their bubble groups.
Overall through this period, as with most communities, the number of Covid 19 cases has been very limited.
The Roma Church groups have used their influence to support government messages.
The Roma community has not been able to celebrate birthdays, engagements, or weddings in traditional fashion. This is something that many people have missed but we recognise we need to contribute to the overall security and health of the population.