“Is it ever wrong to socially distance even if they say we don’t need to?”

Matthew Joyce

The pandemic has really taken a toll on us all. We have done so much since March 2020, when we’d be glued to the daily press briefings at 5:30 pm to find out how many cases were reported. 

I still remember being at work in the very early days before the first lockdown, and my manager coming over to me and saying “there’s been 19 cases reported today, we need to stay away from each other”. 

At that point, I honestly didn’t know what she was saying. Never in my life had I been told I’d need to keep my own kind of bubble to avoid catching a disease. I jokingly replied we should all get those soccer-zorbing suits so we can be safe. I even remember seeing on Twitter that someone had made a wooden circle with a 2-metre radius and walked around with it wrapped around him and screaming “STAY AWAY! STAY AWAY!”. 

And that was before the first lockdown. 

Then we were hearing scientists saying we didn’t need face masks. Anthony Fauci laughed it off when asked about it. 

But look where we are now. We all know face masks have been essential to slow the spread of Covid. 

Face masks in indoor spaces and public transport became the norm in August 2020. That’s 17 months ago, one of the longest measures to have existed throughout the pandemic. It’s a long time, and understandably people are sick of them. I’m sick of them. 

And now the Government is looking at potentially relaxing the requirement to wear face masks indoors and in regulated settings from the end of February. That is a very big step. And to be honest, it is so much of a big step that I actually am nervous about it. 

I’m struggling to envisage a time where we can all take our masks off on public transport, in retail, even in actual college lectures. It seems like light years ago when we last had this luxury, and as a result, it’s just really not hitting right. 

I still feel the same way about social distancing. I was quite shocked when they announced that within twelve hours social distancing would be a thing of the past (for now anyway). 

Seeing all the stickers and signs reminding people to social distance being ripped off walls and floors felt like both a relief to see some form of normality, but also a sense of nervousness on my part, because honestly is it ever wrong to socially distance even if they say we don’t need to? At least for now? 

All of this is probably my anxiety over the fact I still haven’t caught Covid yet, and honestly I don’t want to, and seeing social distancing and mask wearing become a thing of the past is making the scenario of me getting it more inevitable. That, if anything, is scaring me the most. Because I don’t know how I’ll react – Will I be asymptomatic? Will I get a bad dose? Could I get Long Covid? This is my long-established “worst-case scenario-ing” coming into play.  So as a result of all of this, I’m still stuck with what I feel is the social expectation to no longer socially distance.

Do I or don’t I? Honestly, I’m probably going to keep doing it (wherever I can) and keep wearing a mask. Despite it being nearly two years in, I still am fearful. So who knows what those with underlying health conditions feel like