When it comes to social distancing we all need to dance to the same tune

COVID-19 lockdown measures only work if lonely, vulnerable and isolated people truly feel we’re all in it together

Picture: iStock

Social distancing is like taking part in a dance.

On a path or the pavement, people side-step into shop doorways or bushes to let through others, who in turn sashay past and smile in a ‘we’re in this together’ kind of way.

Some people have decided to give social distancing a miss

Most of us have been only too mindful of the potential spread of infection and we are well choreographed. But there are those who have decided to sit this one out. 

Strolling along a narrow lane, some teenagers were walking towards me four abreast. As I shimmied into the brambles to employ the two-metre rule, I was aware of cyclists behind me. 

The walkers would not give way and the cyclists would not stop, and a lifetime of first aid training flashed before my eyes.

There was a tangle of bodies, though mercifully no one was hurt. But social distancing? It didn’t get a look in. Here were people who would not join in the dance, even at the height of a pandemic. 

Generations unite by snubbing the two-metre rule

‘These youngsters’, said another slightly traumatised onlooker, ‘they think the rules don’t apply to them.’

But it’s not as simple as that and, in my experience, it’s not just the younger generation.

Many older folk have said that being alone is far worse than catching the virus and have carried on almost as usual.

My relative, who I moved in with for several weeks, actually enjoyed her night on a trolley in a busy emergency department. For most of us this would be akin to hell on earth, but for her it was a relief, because she wasn’t on her own.

‘For many of us who are working or volunteering, the stress, fear and experience of loss has been terrible and we have longed for some isolation. But for others, it has been too difficult when they already felt marginalised’

I spelled it out time and again that her way of doing her bit was to lie low.

For many of us who are working or volunteering, the stress, fear and experience of loss has been terrible and we have longed for some isolation in our hectic lives.

But for many older people in particular, it has been too difficult when they already felt marginalised. I discovered I was morphing into the late Vera Lynn.

‘Chin up!’ I found myself saying to my relative and her contemporaries. ‘We’ll meet again!’ As long as we comply with the rules and keep away from other people.

The fear of isolation should be addressed if a second lockdown is to be successful

If, heaven forbid, there should be a second wave of COVID-19, we need to learn from this.

When some people did not comply with government regulations the first time round, there is little chance they will join in if things deteriorate again.

When the dust settles and, sobered and enlightened, the government and the scientific communities begin disaster planning anew, I hope they realise that lockdown doesn’t work if there are parts of society for whom solitude is utterly unbearable.

Maybe it would help if these people were not tucked away but somehow included in the ‘war effort’, so they do not feel irrelevant. Otherwise, they will again be dancing to a different tune.

Jane Bates is a retired nurse



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