Today marks the 92nd day of lockdown in the UK. At last, after months of uncertainty, it looks like we may be heading towards the horizons of life On the Other Side.
“Support bubbles” are now permitted: whereby single parents or adults living alone can meet with another household (inside people’s homes). Exercising outdoors in groups of up to 6 people from different households is allowed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has today announced various measures including pubs and restaurants will open (outdoors and indoors) from 4 July, in what the government calls a “covid-secure” way. Households will be able to host visitors, and the two metre rule for social distancing will be replaced by a “one-metre-plus” approach. A spokesman for Downing Street told the BBC “the reason we are able to move forward this week is because the vast majority of people have taken steps to contain the virus.” Confusingly, the statesman added “the more we open up, the more important that it is that everyone follows the social distancing rules.”
On 5 April, the Queen addressed the British nation. She promised that “we will meet again.” At last, at long last, it looks like we will.
Whilst we may be desperate to break from the shackles of our confinement and to see friends and loved ones, there are questions surrounding what the world will look like after the virus. The pandemic has tested us all, to say the least. In addition to the claustrophobia (read: irritation) that comes with being locked down with parents or spouses, anxiety is on the rise.
Last week, a survey conducted by Nuffield Health found that 80% of people working from home believed lockdown has had a negative effect on their mental health. The Office for National Statistics reported almost half (49.6%) of UK adults suffered from high anxiety between 20 30 March – a figure that fell to 37% in the period between April 30 and May 10.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. Despite the unfortunate realities that have confronted us all (to varying degrees), there is something to be said for lockdown. There are noticeably more families outside together – cycling, walking, going to the park – than in the distant pre-Covid past. The nature of lockdown dictates that families were thrown together and stuck together. But 24/7 contact has strengthened family bonds and, in many cases, allowed parents more contact time with children. Siblings have been forced to interact with each other for longer periods.
Psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer told Sky News that “never before, in modern history, have so many parents spent so much time in one place with their children.” She wrote that “lockdown has provided a unique opportunity [for families] to reconnect, create memories and evaluate priorities”.
Ironically, in being locked down, many of us will have purged chaos from our lives. Quotidian tasks to which we were so wedded – the daily commute to work, our beauty rituals, treats such as restaurants – no longer seem imperative to survival. Our lives will be freer from unnecessary clutter. “Clutter” includes people: if there are friends you haven’t heard from, it is probably for a reason. Luckily, Corona paranoia may last some time and it will allow us to socially distance ourselves from people we don’t want to see – hurrah!
So long, Corona, but not forgotten: the pandemic will leave many scars on society, the most visual of which are the aesthetically displeasing “masks”, made mandatory on public transport as of June 22. Many believe these are a fig-leaf for the UK government’s incompetent reaction to the pandemic: at the time of writing, the UK held the third highest death toll in the world, with 42,647 fatalities confirmed. However, with the number of deaths decreasing by the day, let us hope that we are, at last, headed in the right direction – with our masks, but also with new-found family ties; interests or hobbies that we had not pursued before; with a more peaceful attitude tot he world around us. And in my case, less hair dye.
Constance Watson is Assistant Editor of the Catholic Herald.
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