The thing I hate most about the response to COVID-19

As we move towards the first anniversary of lockdown, I’m taking a little bit of time just to reflect back on the past year and share some observations. At this stage back in 2020 we had not gone into full lockdown but we were increasingly seeing strict measures introduced. Those with symptoms and their families were being asked to self-isolate, frequent handwashing was required and we were being urged to begin maintaining social distance. I can’t quite remember when the 2m distance advice came in but we were already being cautioned against handshaking, hugging and kissing.  Our church had been out and purchased individual communion glasses which you used for 2 Sundays, along with pre-cut bread before in presence meetings were banned.

And so we come to my biggest bug-bear.  I hate that phrase “social distancing” and the one that goes with it.  At his press conference on the 16th March, Boris Johnson referred to a need for

“avoiding all unnecessary social contact”[1]

Hate may seem quite a strong term. However, as I argued very early on, there is more than one way to die.  We were made to live life together. We are relational creatures. We are meant to enjoy a relationship with God, to gather together to worship him and to look after each other. We are put into partnerships like marriage and into families.  So, in a sense to be cut off from all of those things is to experience a form of exile and the Bible portrays exile as a form and aspect of death.  Furthermore, the affect of this was always going to be huge on people’s emotional well being and likely to disrupt how future life. Remember that children below school age have spent anything between the whole and a quarter of their life under these conditions, they know very little different now. 

So when people talked about positively embracing the new normal, I recoiled from it. I accept this form of life to be necessary, a vital response to an emergency. It may have to go on for longer than we would wish. But please let us never ever refer to it as normal. Please let us never get used to it. Let’s declare openly and loudly “This sucks.”

Because, it is exactly by knowing that this life is grim but that it is a necessary evil for a temporary period of time that will give us the willpower to grit our teeth and see things through to the other side.  These days are unpleasant but #SummerIsReallyComing.


[1] Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 16 March 2020 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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