With the end of some coronavirus restrictions in sight, we take a look at how you can stay safe and thrive after lockdown ends.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on people across the world. As well as the devastating first-hand effects of the virus, lockdowns and social distancing have had impacts on people’s physical and emotional wellbeing. With that in mind, we take a look at how you can thrive after lockdown ends, whenever that is.
As well as exploring what the current rules and timelines for lockdowns ending are, we also look at what will happen after restrictions ease. We’ll examine how you can take care of your physical and mental health when it comes to returning to work, socialising, and travelling.
A brief history of COVID-19 lockdowns
Although it feels like the COVID-19 pandemic has rumbled on forever, there have been definite milestones in the way it’s unfolded. As seen in our open step on key points in the COVID-19 outbreak, the first reported cases of the virus were seen back in December 2019. By the end of January 2020, cases had been reported in various countries around the world.
In January, the central government of China imposed a lockdown in Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province to try and stop the spread of the virus. Before long, such measures were seen across the world, and by April 2020, nearly half of the world’s population were being asked to stay home.
The measures put in place, such as full lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, quarantines, and curfews, varied greatly between countries. And while some countries started to unlock later on in 2020, many were facing second or third waves of coronavirus infections.
As explored in a separate article, countries such as the Philippines have extended lockdowns for certain groups until their vaccine programme is successful. And, as we saw with our post on how vaccines work, this approach can help stop the spread of the virus.
At the time of writing, there is a surge of COVID-19 cases in India, Nepal and Japan, with all of these countries having lockdown restrictions in place for the time being.
When will lockdown end?
Here in the UK, restrictions are gradually being eased. The hope is that by June 21 at the earliest, lockdown in England will be lifted entirely. Similarly, in the US, the hope is to have 70% of the population with at least some vaccine protection by July 4.
However, it’s unlikely that those dates will represent the ‘end of COVID-19’. As highlighted by the Pan-American Health Organisation, ‘over 75% of all vaccine doses have been administered in only 10 countries; the lowest income countries have administered less than half a percent of global doses.’
So, although national restrictions in some countries may ease over the coming months, this won’t be the same everywhere. The current vaccine inequity means that many countries have vaccinated less than 1% of their population.
What’s more, as we explore in our open step on COVID-19 in communities, the pandemic is a dynamic situation. In many communities, the virus will begin to spread again when lockdown measures are relaxed.
A poll in the science journal Nature found that 89% of scientists surveyed felt that the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus would become an endemic virus. Essential, this means that they expect it to continue circulating in pockets of the global population.
So, the virus could be here to stay, but experts are hopeful that we can protect people against severe forms of the disease in future.
Will we see future lockdowns?
In the UK, experts feel that future lockdowns are unlikely, at least on a nationwide scale. However, as Prof Neil Ferguson told the BBC, that doesn’t rule out the possibility that there could be a ‘roll back’ of some freedoms. As we saw in our open step on pandemic preparedness and response, social distancing, restrictions on movements, and containment measures are all viable means of controlling the virus.
Of course, there has also been worldwide concern about the threat of new variants. Vaccine data has shown that certain variants, such as B.1.351 and P.1, reduce the efficacy of vaccines. These variants, coupled with issues such as vaccine inequity, mean that preventative measures could be in place for some time to come. We’ve already seen several countries impose lockdown extensions in recent months.
Elsewhere, in places such as Scotland, tiered systems exist to determine the extent of lockdown measures. A similar ‘traffic light’ system for travel is in place in England, limiting where people can travel to and arrive from.
What will happen after lockdown ends?
It can sometimes be difficult to imagine life without some sort of COVID-19 restrictions. Yet the UK lockdown end date is hopefully within sight. So what will happen after lockdown ends, and what will life after COVID-19 be like?
Of course, it’s hard to say precisely. If the last 18 months have taught us anything, we have to be flexible, resilient and adaptive. We’re in uncharted territory where the situation can change rapidly. However, thanks to researchers and frontline workers’ hard work and dedication, we have more data about the virus and its impacts.
So far, some countries around the world have already seen certain lockdown measures easing. This includes:
- Schools returning.
- Households allowed to mix.
- Non-essential businesses opening.
- Larger outdoor venues opening.
In the short to medium term, we will hopefully see many other measures relaxed, as it becomes safe to socialise once again. But what will the longer impacts be like after lockdown ends?
There can be no exact predictions on this point. However, several studies, surveys, and articles have already started asking what the ‘new normal’ will look like. Experts have begun to cast their attention forwards, looking at life after COVID-19.
There are both positive and negative predictions, and we’ve highlighted some of these below. The following sections are based on information from the BBC, Pew Research Centre, More in Common, among others.
When it comes to the positives, the hope is that lessons will have been learned about what we value in the world. The pandemic has been incredibly difficult for people around the world, but it has raised some important issues about our societies. Here are some of the potential positives for the future after COVID-19 and lockdowns:
- There will be new reforms aimed at social inequalities. The pandemic has shown many kinds of imbalances, and it’s hoped that critiques of current economic arrangements gain support and the attention of policymakers.
- Quality of life will improve for many workers. Flexible ways of working have meant improvements for many remote workers, and this could well remain. Those who cannot work from home may see an improvement in workplace wellbeing.
- We’ll be more aware of how our actions impact the planet. Research from Accenture shows that the pandemic has made us more environmentally conscious consumers.
- Technology will improve our lives. We’ve already seen the benefits of technology to keep us connected with others. Improvements in areas such as VR and AI may help us live smarter and safer lives.
Of course, the pandemic has devastated communities and individuals on a global scale. Millions of people have lost their lives, while others have been altered beyond recognition. Some experts fear that long after lockdown, these impacts will still be apparent:
- There will be worse economic inequality. Those who currently have access to technology and resources will be further ahead of those without. This gap may grow as the pandemic shifts us towards new technologies.
- Big tech companies will have more power. A similar point to the one above; technology companies will be able to exploit their market position. Many people may be forced to give up data privacy to be ‘COVID-19 safe’ as society reopens.
- There will be more misinformation. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the continued rise of fake news and unrealistic narratives. Further lies and hate speech may spread as more of us spend more time online.
Life after lockdown – tips on how to thrive
Although we can’t say exactly what life will be like after the pandemic ends, there are certainly some tips that can help you thrive after lockdown. As we return to work, socialising, and (eventually) travel, there are several steps you can take to look after your physical and mental wellbeing. We’ve outlined some below:
The extended restrictions over the last year or so have been tough for everyone. As we explored in our post on how to stay healthy during lockdown, taking care of your mental health can help to reduce stress, improve your mood, and improve relationships.
We’ve got a whole post coming up about dealing with social anxiety after COVID-19 ends, but for now, here are some tips on taking care of your mental health after lockdown:
If you find that you’re struggling with your mental health, it’s essential that you seek help from your healthcare provider. For many, the easing of restrictions and return to normal will cause some stress and anxiety. Such feelings are perhaps to be expected, and there is no shame in getting support through difficult times.
Take your time
Everyone will respond differently to the end of lockdown differently. Mental health charities Mind and the Mental Health Foundation highlight the importance of pacing yourself as you get back to your routine. Don’t feel pressured to do things you’re not ready for, and take your time as you reconnect with the world.
You might have all kinds of feelings when it comes to changes in lockdown. It can help you to understand these feelings by expressing them. Whether it’s by talking to someone you trust, writing it down, or any other creative expression, it could help you get a handle on things.
Control what you can
The world can be difficult to navigate right now, and we can’t say what will change as the world starts to open up again. However, you can give yourself a sense of agency by controlling the elements of your life that you can. Whether it’s your routines, how much news you read, or any other area, it can be a comforting practice.
Evidence suggests that self-care can be a useful tool for reducing stress, helping build relationships, and improving your overall physical and mental health. You can find some of our self-care tips in a separate article.
Whether you’ve been working out at home or waiting for gyms to reopen, there’s never a bad time to take charge of your physical health. And it’s not just about exercise either; there are several steps you can take to stay healthy:
Physical activity can help to improve your mood, reduce stress, boost your immune system and help you think clearer. Although there will be plenty of exciting things to do after lockdown ends, make sure you also make time to stay active and get some exercise.
As restaurants start to reopen, it can certainly be a time to rejoice. However, a healthy and balanced diet can have a positive impact on your overall health and wellbeing. Pay attention to your diet as restrictions ease. Find out more about eating to live well with our online course.
When times are stressful, it’s easy to lose sleep. However, a lack of sleep can also contribute to feelings of stress, creating a vicious cycle. Amidst the excitement of going out and socialising again, try not to let it impact your sleep schedule. Check out our open step on sleep tips for more info on how to get a good night’s sleep.
Returning to work
Many of us have been working remotely since the beginning of lockdown. As such, a return to the office might seem like a strange and somewhat daunting prospect. We’ve written a whole article on returning to work after lockdown. Here are some quick tips:
Check the guidelines
Many workplaces will likely implement safety measures as people start returning to work. Familiarise yourself with these measures, such as those found on the UK government’s HSE website.
Ventilate your office
Studies have shown that having an open window in your office can prevent the spread of viruses. Having a gentle breeze can be pleasant, help prevent drowsiness and poor concentration, and be better for everyone’s health.
Pay attention to hygiene
A clean and tidy work environment can help you to stay productive and is often safer. Take some time to cleanse your workspace and sanitise your hands as you return to work. Doing so may even put your mind at rest as you start back.
Again, we’ve got an upcoming article all about socialising after the pandemic. For many people, it will have been a while since they’ve been around large groups of people. Here are some quick tips on how to manage it:
Take gradual steps
Even though you might not have seen friends and family for a while, you don’t have to rush back into every social event. Trying to do too much may leave you feeling worn out, with a bit of a social hangover.
Don’t avoid social situations
Of course, if you are anxious about getting back to socialising, you might try and avoid all uncomfortable situations. However, such avoidance behaviours can only make matters worse. Try to keep social engagements where possible.
Broaden your horizons
After restrictions are lifted, it could be the time to start broadening your social horizons. If you’ve found it tough going during the lockdown, you might want to start joining more groups or getting involved in your local community.
Don’t pressure yourself
Some people may have found that they’ve enjoyed having more time to themselves during the pandemic. If this is the case, don’t pressure yourself to start being super social if you don’t want to. Take things at your own pace, provided that you’re happy with it.
As things stand, it’s a little early to say what travel will be like after lockdown ends. Although local and inter-country travel might be possible, time will tell what international travel will look like after the pandemic. As such, we’ll update this section once we have more information to share.
It’s been a long and hard road through the pandemic. Although we’re far from out of the woods just now, there are certainly positives to look forward to. Being prepared for life after lockdown can help you thrive, and we’ve given plenty of tips on how to stay happy and healthy.
Throughout this article, you’ll also find resources and courses that can help you manage as things start to open up again.