While some people are hosting socially distanced picnics and taking their first trip to the pub, others are going on big nights out and sharing photos hugging their friends. So how do we know what’s ‘right’?
When Boris Johnson sat down and made his lockdown announcement on 23 March, everything changed. It’s strange to look back on that time now, barely four months later; it’s probably going to be one of those moments we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives – how we felt, where we were, who we were with.
When lockdown was first introduced, I, like many people, found myself experiencing a lot of anxiety and stress – on top of my fears for friends and family, I was also worried about when I might be able to see my boyfriend again and struggled to digest how fast everything was changing. But at the same time, there was one thing about those first few weeks of lockdown which helped me to feel grounded: the rules.
I am aware that last sentence makes me sound like some kind of goody two shoes, so let me explain myself. It’s not like I revelled in following every last word that came out of Boris Johnson’s mouth (even writing those words is difficult). But having those rules in place helped me to know I was, at the very least, doing my bit to stop the virus spreading any further.
Four months later, those lockdown restrictions have been eased considerably to allow the reopening of various areas of society. The downside? Those early rules – and the sense of reassurance they gave me – are virtually non-existent, and everything has become very complicated. Sure, there’s still the mandatory mask wearing and hand washing guidance to follow, but apart from that, it feels like the responsibility of deciding what does or does not constitute “unsafe” behaviour has been shoved into our hands.
You can see the confusion when you scroll through social media. While some people are still posting pictures of socially distanced picnics and evidence of their “lockdown hobbies,” others are sharing shots of their friends bundled on top of each other and extended families hugging as they jet off on holiday together.
I can’t be the only one who finds all of this very confusing. Did I miss a secret memo about being able to hug my nan? Is it OK to get drunk and, despite my best intentions to ‘socially distance’, end up chatting away with other girls in the bathroom? What’s the deal with going to restaurants? Can I invite all my friends and sit less than one metre away from them, just because we’re out for food?
The government’s guidance on social contact advises against close social contact (under one metre) with those outside your household, but these guidelines are not governed by law (on 23 June, the government announced they would be asking people to “follow guidance” when it came to social contact, instead of using legislation to govern it). As a result, people are now able to decide what risks they want to take when it comes to following the guidance, meaning people have developed their own ideas of what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. The clearly defined lines we had at the beginning of the pandemic have become much harder to navigate.
With all this being said, it’s important that we give both ourselves and those around us the space to figure out what we’re comfortable doing right now. The government’s official guidance says we should still not be doing the following things:
- socialising indoors in groups of more than two households (anyone in your support bubble counts as one household) – including when dining out or going to the pub
- socialising outdoors in a group of more than six people from different households; gatherings larger than six should only take place if everyone is from exclusively from two households or support bubbles
- interacting socially with anyone outside the group you are attending a place with, even if you see other people you know, for example, in a restaurant, community centre or place of worship
- holding or attending celebrations (such as parties) where it is difficult to maintain social distancing and avoiding close social interaction – even if they are organised by businesses and venues that are taking steps to follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines
- staying overnight away from your home with members of more than one other household (your support bubble counts as one household)
Outside of these guidelines, however, it’s important that we take the time to understand what we feel ready to do – and set healthy boundaries with those people around us. There are so many different circumstances governing how people are reacting to the pandemic at the moment, and it’s OK if what feels right to you doesn’t align with the images you see on social media.
If there’s one thing we can take from those early days of the pandemic, it’s the feeling of solidarity we all felt towards one another. As lockdown eases and we get bits of normality back, we shouldn’t leave that sense of community behind.
And me? I don’t think I’ll be rushing back in for a hug with my grandparents anytime soon, but I did enjoy my first post-lockdown trip to the pub last night. Even if my social media feed isn’t as lively as some of my friends, taking things one small step at a time is enough for me right now.