NATIONAL - Social distancing will be over soon, won’t it?
Or ... maybe not. After more than a month of staying as far as possible from our fellow human beings and no end to the Corona chapter in sight yet, chances are distancing and isolation in some form will be with us for some months to come yet.
South Africans are a social bunch and hugs are a way of life for some people.
Since 27 March we had to change our way of thinking; curb the impulse to stand close to somebody outside the family or touch them, refrain from contact other than by phone or electronically. No quick coffee dates, no chats over the garden fence.
While these measures undoubtedly are effective in limiting the spread of Covid-19, it’s taking an emotional toll of which the full impact is still to be revealed. People with depression could slip deeper into it because of loneliness, toddlers deprived of daily interaction with friends could fall behind in development and older people could slip into their own world because they feel no one cares anymore, to name but a few.
Suggestions such as the ‘social pod’ idea of epidemiologist and mathematical modeller Stefan Flasche could be something to consider in future. According to this, a couple of families could agree to associate freely among themselves, subject to strict hygienic protocols. We are however not ready for such widespread contact yet and experts agree that this is a time to get creative in finding new ways to reach out to each other.
Many people in rural communities do not have access to data and the equipment to use things like Skype or Zoom for regular interaction with others. Phone calls and friendly notes left outside a neighbour’s door won’t go out of fashion though. Social distancing means we will have to relearn to make time for these things in our busy schedules.
WhatsApp groups are a relatively cheap alternative to computer video chats. It is a great way to form networks in a community to engage people with similar needs or interests.
Make time to check on people who are seen as extroverts. They could find it much harder to cope with isolation than someone who regularly enjoys their own company.
We can emerge from this time of social distancing stronger than ever, but only if we support each other in any way we can. Distancing does not have to equal isolation.
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