Boris Johnson’s latest amendment to the lockdown rules doesn’t mean the threat posed by the pandemic is over – the responsibility has just been shifted into the hands of the public, writes Stylist’s Lauren Geall.
When the UK first went into lockdown on 23 March, the message from the government was pretty clear: stay home, save lives, protect the NHS. The four circumstances in which we could leave the house were very clear, and for the most part, everyone followed the rules. There was a solidarity among us all – the idea that we were all doing something, together. In the middle of an incredibly anxiety-inducing situation, it was a relief to have those rules to guide us.
Yesterday, exactly three months after the UK first went into lockdown, Boris Johnson announced plans to reopen most parts of society – from 4 July, we can go on holiday, see another household inside, visit a gallery or museum and even grab a bite to eat at a restaurant.
All of this is, of course, fantastic. Like most young people, I’m pretty excited by the idea of sitting in a pub garden and drinking a few too many pints of cider. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel incredibly nervous about having the freedom to do all these things while the pandemic is still in circulation.
I’m not the only one who has been feeling apprehensive about the increasingly blurred lines when it comes to ‘lockdown’. “Is lockdown… over?” is a conversation I’ve had with plenty of friends over the last couple of weeks. You only need to look on social media to get an idea of the various ‘interpretations’ of the current lockdown rules that people have decided upon – while some are wearing masks and trying their hardest to stay 2m away from people on the street, others are downing tinnies in the park and meeting up with their friends.
The thing is, neither of these two factions is in the wrong. And, as people flock to pubs, restaurants and theme parks over the next couple of weeks, they won’t be in the wrong either. The ideas of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ we were given at the beginning of the pandemic are long gone. But those rules haven’t been dissipated because the pandemic is over, nor has the UK really been ‘unlocked’. Instead, the responsibility of controlling the spread of coronavirus has been shifted into the hands of the public, rather than the government.
That freedom – the ability to decide what an ‘essential’ trip on public transport really is or whether ‘enough’ measures have been put in place to allow a one metre distance – is likely to leave many of us feeling rather overwhelmed and anxious. Sure, the threat of coronavirus may have been reduced, but that doesn’t mean everyone will feel comfortable choosing to see their friends, for example, or travelling across the country for a staycation.
Then there’s the fact that this shift in power from the government to the individual is likely to leave some of the most vulnerable more exposed than ever. People who are more likely to get seriously ill with the virus – such as BAME people, those with chronic illnesses or the elderly – now lack the protection the official ‘rules’ once gave them.
Of course, it’s important to acknowledge that some people will be overjoyed by these changes to the rules – especially after so long spent isolated from friends and family. But it’s also important to acknowledge that some people will be feeling incredibly apprehensive about things, too.
For now, it’s important to remember that, just because the rules around social distancing and lockdown have been eased, doesn’t mean you have to suddenly launch back into action. It’s OK to feel scared, apprehensive or even angry about the latest government announcement. It’s also OK if you want to continue to stay at home as much as possible or avoid meetings with large groups of people.
The last couple of months have been a lot, and you don’t have to pretend that everything is fine just because others are saying it is.
Coping with anxiety
If you’re dealing with feelings of anxiety and worry during the coronavirus outbreak, it’s important to understand that this is a completely normal response to the current situation. However, if you’re looking for a way to alleviate some of those feelings, here’s three articles that might help.
- 4 tips for dealing with anxiety, from someone who lives with it
- Feeling anxious? Here’s how connecting with your inner child could help
- How to keep your worries about coronavirus under control
If you’re struggling with anxiety, you can also speak to your GP who’ll be able to help you with ways you can manage it. Organisations like Mind, the NHS and Bupa all have a wealth of advice freely available online, while charities like the Samaritans and CALM both have phonelines for people needing urgent support.