Please find the latest discussion document available for download at the end of this article.
“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, National TV Address, 23rd March 2020
At original time of writing, it was just under seven weeks since lockdown measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the UK were announced. We are shortly expecting further communication from government about how the lockdown will be eased, but the time before social distancing – a time when we were more concerned around the damage social isolation could do to mental and physical health, one in which amazing organisations like South London Cares were working tirelessly to bring people across age and differing backgrounds together – already seems a world away.
The timing of the lockdown measures will likely be debated for years, and the full impact is unlikely to be known for sometime, but in terms of the objectives of protecting the NHS and saving lives, there is broad consensus that the measures have flattened the curve of infection; and, despite many tragic losses, including amongst frontline workers and in care homes, these measures have helped to safeguard both individuals and key critical care services.
As a result, it is now difficult for many of us to imagine feeling safe without social distancing; but we all know that social distancing comes at a cost, not just to our society and economy, but also to us as individuals and communities. In the same way as we have adapted over the last six weeks, there is an opportunity to start thinking about how we will move into a new paradigm – where we still need to protect the NHS, vital care services, and lives; but also to re-build our broader public services, communities, and the life of the country.
Much debate currently centres on how you can maintain full social distancing until an effective vaccine is found, and the honest answer is that likely, we can’t. There is no need for testing, tracking or tracing, expanded access to personal protective equipment etc. if we can all remain isolated from each other, but for many key workers, staying at home is already not an option. The schools that educate our children, the public transport systems upon which we rely, the places that act as a sanctuary for those in need, as well as those that entertain us and help us with our daily lives, very few of these can return to operation sustainably simply by imposing two-metre separations. For increasing numbers of workers, individuals, families and communities, the challenge will involving staying safe, and protecting others, supported by other means.
This is not to say that social distancing won’t remain an important part of our response, and many measures identified in this paper are supportive of, or supplemental to, continuing with social distancing where possible. However, if we cannot wait for a vaccine or cure, then there are nonetheless things we can do to help ensure that any re-opening of public spaces, when it occurs, happens in a way which harnesses all the potential tools at our disposal.
This resource continues to be developed, please follow the link below to download the latest pack (current version three, last updated 15th May 2020):