We are starting to witness the beginning of the end to our current life in lockdown. From the 4th July, people in England can visit reopening pubs, cinemas and restaurants, as well as meet in groups of up to two households anywhere, provided social distancing rules apply. Travel restrictions are also looking likely to be relaxed from 6th July in the UK. However, this renewed social freedom has not come without an element of worry.
For many people, the health risks still associated with COVID-19 far outweigh the benefits of being able to go back to the pub. Those who have been shielding and taking extra precautions due to their vulnerability must be feeling particularly anxious with the relaxation of rules. On the day before writing this piece, deaths had risen by 176 people. Although we are less likely to contract the virus and the NHS is not at current risk of becoming overwhelmed, COVID-19 has clearly not disappeared.
Socialising itself will also not be easy for everyone
I am not a high-risk individual when it comes to catching the virus. Yet, the easing of restrictions and a glimpse of our new ‘normal’ on the horizon fills me with slight unease. Regardless of my young age and health status, the virus is still not something I desire to catch any time soon, which leaves me wondering if going out for a meal is really worth it. The thought of going out and socialising with those outside of my household feels strange, even if it has become legal.
In the past few months, staying away from one another to protect ourselves has been drilled into our minds. Even if I was to go out and enjoy a pint, I would be conscious of wearing a mask and enabling social distance with others, and possibly unable to relax and enjoy myself. I also know that the atmosphere is not going to be the same, with potential drink limits, as we sit surrounded by fluorescent signs and plastic shields over counters reminding us of the harsh reality of our present.
Part of me now feels lost and wondering what to do as restrictions continue to be relaxed
Socialising itself will also not be easy for everyone. Although the extroverts and most sociable among us will be very excited to see their friends, many people have got used to working from the comfort of their home away from the office, and the inability to go out. Heading back to the office or your job, in general, will bring on that night-before the first-day nerves. This relates back to my earlier point of pubs and restaurants having to comply with new safety standards. Workers are not just heading back to normal but have the new added pressure of learning new rules and regulations that will possibly make their jobs harder too.
I am also reminded of everything that was taken away due to the virus. Despite heading back to ‘normal’, it is unlike any other summer with no job, internship, holiday or plans of any sort lined up. This is combined with anxiety surrounding what will happen after summer and the thought of going back to university. Lockdown provided a justification for having no plans and nothing lined up, and although this is truly still the case, part of me now feels lost and wondering what to do as restrictions continue to be relaxed.
The easing of restrictions is a fine balancing act. Small businesses must be struggling and keen to at least get a few customers back. The longer we wait, the more that pub and restaurant owners may suffer. Yet, it also comes with the possibility of the infection rate going back up and a consequent tight lockdown to be reintroduced. It’s a confusing time for absolutely everybody at the moment. The best thing we can do is make our own sensible judgements, but keep in mind that the virus has not gone away.