Social Distancing, Day 100: Re-emerging

This is my 100th day of social distancing, and the 93rd day since the government placed the country under full lockdown.

Back at the start of 2020, I couldn’t imagine something like this lockdown happening. I remember January, driving down the M1 and listening to the news from China, with no thought that it would ever affect me. Now, one in a thousand people have died in Britain, and the economy has been placed under massive pressure. We look to be facing a harder recession than after the financial crash of 2008, the effects of which are still being felt, particularly by people in their twenties.

The number of coronavirus infections has finally fallen to pre-lockdown levels, but it’s a disquieting time. The country can’t sustain further lockdowns without devastating economic effects; but the contradiction between the sternness of late May’s rules and the current anything-goes feel is confusing and stressful.

Yesterday, the government annouced that it was opening the country up and ending the daily briefings. It’s hard not to see the end of the briefings as a way of evading scrutiny. The daily statistics will still be released but government ministers will no longer respond to them. In some ways, the briefing were a problem for the government – it was a place for grand announcements, but also one where they could be held to account. So many of the early causes for optimism has turned out to have little behind them – there was no plan to use the massive numbers of NHS volunteers, the Nightingale hospitals were not needed, and the much-vaunted ventilator schemes were quietly forgotten.

Coronavirus is no less frightening than it was in March. In fact, given what we know about the long-term effects, it’s probably worse. A friend of mine came down with the virus in April. They are still incredibly ill, as they described in an article for the Huffington post. Reading about the effects on a significant numbers of sufferers is terrifying, and we have no idea if these people will ever recover. About 30,000 people might be suffering “long-tail” effects, as well as others whose lungs are permanently scarred. I am certainly very cautious about being exposed to the virus.

As scared as I am, I personally can’t sustain lockdown indefinitely. Being in a social bubble with my friends Rosy and Olive has massively improved my quality of life. I’ve not taken advantage of all the freedoms I have now, but I need to start socialising more (although it won’t be in pubs, as the pub of the future does not sound much fun). The question is how to socialise safely. I’m trying to be cautious rather than scared – there was a lot of talk of how the Cummings incident would lead to a second spike, but none of the pessimistic scenarios of the last few months have occurred – so far.

I’m very lucky, in that lockdown has been far less stressful for me than it has been for most people. Even so, it’s been hard, and I dread a Winter lockdown. But, while the weather is good, I need to get outside, and start doing more socially distant walks. It’s too easy to take the excuse to sit indoors. It’s time to rejoin the world, carefully, and get out of the lockdown mindset.

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