More social contact? Sorry to burst your bubble

Boris Johnson hinted at further social contact and expanding social circles from June 1 Picture: UND

Boris Johnson hinted at further social contact and expanding social circles from June 1 Picture: UNDRAW - Credit: Archant

June 1 is looming on the horizon, filling some in Suffolk with dread that schools will be reopening for select year groups – and others with anticipation of the announcement of ‘social bubbles’.

The stresses surrounding children returning to school are well-covered: fears about an increase in transmission rates, risks to teachers and parents, concerns about whether children can afford to miss any more of their formal education if they have exams coming up.

But buried in the governments 50-page plan for this second stage of ‘Staying Alert’ is a second detail of possible lockdown changes on June 1 – social bubbles.

Hinted at by the Prime Minister at the daily briefing on May 24, we could be within touching distance of being within touching distance of Outside People.

Missing Me, Missing You

The concept was used in New Zealand, in fact the passage in the UK plan that covers bubbles recommends simply ripping off the idea, to allow families to arrange with neighbours or relatives things like childcare, or support for older or vulnerable people.

This announcement, a change that could theoretically be announced in a little over a week, is the lifeline parents need to return to work and solve a childcare puzzle with friends or family.

It could bring generations of families back together and do wonders for the mental health of people in need of a human interaction without a screen between them.

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Right now there are agonising decisions being made by families, friends and couples every day over whether or not meeting is going to be possible without breaking the lockdown rules. Can you really stay six feet away from a loved one you haven’t given a hug to in two months?

For some, like my girlfriend and I, we still have not seen each other since the change in rules – we live separately and making the drive to the others house only to look at them from quite two metres away is either going to be too upsetting or we will end up throwing in the towel on the social distancing.

What if one of us is carrying Covid after a trip to the supermarket? Or from a walk through the now-bustling parks? And that gets passed to a parent?

Breaking the rules with one person or believing you are an exception to the rules will render the social distancing useless, especially if you are a well-known public figure like senior adviser to the Prime Minister. For example.

Bubble Trouble

The principle that stops the virus spreading again under future bubble rules is that two households will choose each other to form a bubble with and maintain the current social distancing with everyone else.

I quote page 31 of the Boris Pandemic Bible: “It is not OK to be in multiple household groups: if Household A merges with B, Household B cannot also elect to be in a group with Household C. This would create a chain that would allow the virus to spread widely.”

Sage advice, literally.

But do not expect too much more information on this bubble strategy – currently less that 150 words – until the government have realised they will have to write it.

In the footnotes of the plans is a hyperlink to the page of the NZ government website that someone has taken this advice from which is now a dead link.

The UK government published their plan on May 11, roughly two days before the NZ government downgraded the severity of their pandemic (we can only dream) and removed the now-outdated information from their website.

Those in New Zealand are now able to visit bars, pubs, restaurants, open all business and host parties of anyone up to 10 people. They also have just 21 deaths due to Covid-19 nationwide.

Expect as much confusion over social bubbles as you enjoyed when ‘Stay Alert’ was unveiled.

The Shopping Trolley problem

A rule-of-thumb with the scientific rigor of holding a buttercup under your chin has swept across the internet this week, but nonetheless it is provoking thoughts.

As an arbitrary test to see whether or not you are a good person, ask yourself the simple question: Do I return the trolley to the right place when I’m finished shopping?

You will have to cast your minds back to a pre-Covid world where trolleys are not sprayed, wiped and locked away by supermarket staff, but try and recall if you would take your shopping trolley or basket back to a designated spot, ready for someone else to use.

There was no benefit to you for returning it (except potentially your pound coin returned to you), it is not illegal to leave it in a car park, it is in fact part of someone’s job to round up those errant carts. As long as you don’t hurl it in the Gipping or use it as a barbecue grill, you haven’t done anything wrong.

The only reason to do it is because it is the right thing to do and it make someone else’s day easier.

You can apply the same thinking to our new ‘Stay Alert’ coronavirus life.

If you go for a walk with a parent or partner you don’t live with, who can stop you standing closer than six feet of each other? Who can prove you don’t live together? Why shouldn’t you visit your friend’s house if neither of your families have symptoms?

By the rule of the Shopping Trolley, we should do it because it’s the right thing to do.

We are told that thousands on contact tracers will be ready at the start of June to warn anyone who comes into contact with someone carrying the virus, an app may even send alerts to our phones and someone will be doing that ‘Alert’ work for us.

But even after this phase of lockdown ends we should all keep up with the precautions we can to keep other people safer, make their lives easier and make sure they always have a trolley.