After a winter that has posed huge challenges to many of us – as individuals, families and broader societies – we are finally seeing ever-more reason for hope in the COVID-19 crisis. Effective and safe vaccines are becoming available, and the transition to warmer and sunnier weather – together with other continuing restrictions – has helped send the virus into retreat.
But of course, we have been in this territory before. We saw last year in the UK and other parts of the world that coronavirus case numbers are more than capable of receding during the spring and summer, only to seriously bounce back as the conditions turn again.
Against this backdrop, we must also consider the very serious struggles that many people have undergone with their mental health since the onset of the pandemic. In particular, great numbers of us have felt isolated and lonely at times of especially severe lockdown.
So, as restrictions on our lives again gradually lift, what can we do to socialise with others again, while not putting at undue risk our physical health or that of the people we know and love?
Here are some simple and useful tips.
Always follow the latest guidelines where you are
Much of the advice about how to maximise one’s safety during the COVID-19 situation – such as the importance of frequently washing our hands and maintaining social distancing from others where possible – has remained consistent since the start of the crisis.
But as we have seen over the past year, authorities have had to clamp down hard with new restrictions, at times when the virus has been resurgent in its spread. So, it’s vital to only ever socialise in accordance with the most recent rules, in the area where you are based.
Carefully consider who you socialise with
Trust will probably be a major factor when deciding who to socialise with as the previous restrictions on face-to-face contact gradually loosen. In considering this, you should bear in mind not only how your friends or relatives may have spent their time socialising during the pandemic, but also what their attitude is to safety measures such as social distancing and the wearing of masks.
If, for instance, you’ve seen certain friends pictured on social media in close proximity to lots of people during times of restrictions, or if you’ve talked to them on the phone and they’ve been dismissive about the effectiveness of face coverings, you might want to delay in-person meetings with them for a little while longer.
Bear in mind locations, including how many people will be there
Even with everything that has been done so far to limit COVID-19’s spread, the fact remains that the virus – and the risks it poses – definitely hasn’t gone away. So, from a safety perspective, it’s still a good idea to avoid particularly crowded areas, choosing secluded spots over those where you are likely to be physically close to strangers.
If you do find yourself somewhere near a lot of other people, at the very least, try to follow the World Health Organization (WHO)’s recommendation of staying one metre or more away from them. In the event of a previously quiet location becoming crowded while you socialise, you shouldn’t be afraid to suggest a ‘plan B’ to your friend who may be similarly concerned.
Another major factor in the coronavirus’s potential for transmission, is how much time you spend with others. In short, the longer you spend physically near someone, the higher the risk can be of the virus being passed between you, and then possibly to others.
That’s why an hour’s catch-up a few times a week with one person is likely to be much safer than getting together with five or six friends and spending all day in their company.
These are ‘simple’ steps, but imperative ones for your health
While a lot of the tips for reducing your risk of catching COVID-19 may seem ‘obvious’ or ‘common sense’, at this time when so many of us are excited about face-to-face contact with friends again, it can be so easy to allow those pandemic-induced ‘good habits’ to slide.
Combine measures like these with efforts to do everything possible to support your immune system – such as the consumption of the right high-dose vitamin drink like Tonic Health – and you will be going a long way to ensuring you really do socialise safely as lockdown restrictions lift.