In March 23, 2020, the UK went into lockdown. The advice given, albeit conflicting in parts, was clear. Do not leave your home unless absolutely necessary, banning all travel and social interactions. This unprecedented move forced people to isolate at home for a period, that for some people will come to an end, when the WHO announces the end of the pandemic. For the rest of us, the use of a face mask, sanitiser and even plastic gloves have become modern day accessories. The way the lockdown was imposed and the threat of a fine, police arrest if found outside one’s home sparked some people to liken the experience with that of detention and even imprisonment.
There was definite social isolation during the pandemic and there is some future work there to be done to uncover the impact it has had on mental health. Social distancing was a term added to our social lexicon and we discovered online meetings and working from home. Schools closed and parents/guardians became de facto teachers. In a previous blog entry, we talked about the issues with home schooling but suffice to say many of our friends and colleagues discovered the joys of teaching! On top of that a number of jobs that in the past were seeing as menial. Suddenly some of these jobs emerge as “key professions”
The first lesson therefore is:
Our renewed appreciation for those professions, that we assumed just did a job, that was easy or straightforward. As we shall be coming back eventually to a new normality, it is worth noting how easy it will be to assign any job as trivial or casual.
As online meetings became a new reality and working from home, the office space and the use of massive buildings with large communal areas seemed to remain closed. This is likely to have a future impact on the way business conduct themselves in the future.
Given how many things had to be done now, does this mean that the multi occupancy office space will become redundant, pushing more work to be done from home. This will alter the way we divide space and work time.
During the early stages of the lockdown, some people asked for some reflection of the situation in relation to people’s experiences in prisons. The lockdown revealed the inequality of space. The reality is that for some families, space indicated how easy is to absorb the new social condition, whilst other families struggled. There is anecdotal information about an increase on mental health and stress caused from the intensive cohabitation. Several organisations raised the alarm that since the start of the lockdown there has been a surge in incidents of domestic violence and child abuse. The actual picture will become clearer of the impact the lockdown had on domestic violence in future years when comparisons can be drawn. None the less it reveals an important issue.
The home is not always the safest place when dealing with a global pandemic. The inequality of space and the inequality in relationships revealed what need to be done in the future in order to safeguard. It also exposed the challenges working from home for those that have no space or infostructure to support it.
In the leading up to the lockdown many households of vulnerable people struggled to cope with family members shielding from the virus. These families revealed weaknesses in the welfare system and the support they needed in order to remain in lockdown. Originally the lack of support was the main issue, but as the lockdown continued more complex issues emerged, including the financial difficulties and the poverty as real factors putting families at risk.
Risk is a wider concern that goes beyond personal and family issues. The lockdown exposed social inequality, poverty, housing as factors that increase the vulnerability of people. The current data on Covid-19 fatalities reveal a racial dimension which cannot longer be ignored.
During the lockdown, the world celebrated Easter and commemorated Mayday, with very little interaction whilst observing social distancing. At the end of May the world watched a man gasping for breath that died in police custody. This was one of the many times the term police brutality has related to the dead of another black life. People took to the streets, protested and toppled a couple of statues of racists and opened a conversation about race relations.
People may be in lockdown, but they can still express how they feel.
So, whilst the lockdown restrictions are easing and despite having some measures for the time being, we are stepping into a new social reality. On the positive side, a community spirit came to the surface, with many showing solidarity to those next to them, taking social issues to heart and more people talked of being allies to their fellow man. It seems that the state was successful to impose measures that forced people indoors that borderline in totalitarianism, but people did accept them, only as a gesture of goodwill. This is the greatest lesson of them all in lockdown; maybe people are out of sight, appear to be compliant in general but they are still watching, taking note and think of what is happening. What will happen next is everyone’s guess.