An online support group set up by a university student has attracted nearly ten thousand volunteers within days.
The Facebook group Coronavirus Support Network was created by Exeter University student Islay Morgan last month and is open to people across the UK.
The group aims to help the elderly and vulnerable as well as heath workers and people in quarantine by putting them in contact with those volunteering assistance.
Miss Morgan said: “It is so incredible to see how many wonderful people there are wanting to do everything they can to help.
“I have had many beautiful messages from both friends and strangers saying how grateful they are to have found people to support them at this time through the group.
“In a world where people are stealing loo paper, it is encouraging and inspiring to hear of how many people are desperate to help, and how many are so thankful to be receiving that help.”
Miss Morgan described how friends and friends of friends shared the group online, allowing it to grow rapidly in such a short period of time.
Those joining the group can offer or ask for food shopping, prescription collection, dog walking, childcare for health workers and friendly phone calls to tackle loneliness.
The most requested support has been grocery shopping and the collection of essential supplies.
The statement on the Facebook group notes: “This is an opportunity to make something positive out of a challenging situation.
“This group has the potential to be a source of genuine practical help and to remind us all what the word ‘community’ can really mean.”
Thousands of similar groups were founded for specific communities across the UK following Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s announcement that those over 70 could be asked to self-isolate for up to four months.
There is concern these online groups will not reach the vulnerable and elderly people in need of help, as they do not use Facebook.
Miss Morgan said: “The young members are aware of this and are often using this resource on behalf of their grandparents or neighbours in need of care to find them support in their area.
“We are contacting charities such as Age UK, as well as local councils, as we are endeavouring to maximise the number of people who need help being made aware of this support network.”
Miss Morgan added that leafleting homes with information and contact details has been proposed to remedy the problem.
The Coronavirus Support Network advocates that volunteers follow the government guidance when helping others: wash their hands regularly and leave food or parcels outside people’s doors.
The Coronavirus Support Network can be joined here.