The impact of COVID-19 is still unfolding.

We will never take our health, our lives, our homes for granted ever again.

While many people are working at the frontline, in hugely difficult circumstances, most of us have been asked just to ‘stay at home’. And stay safe.

Every one of us is coping with, and adjusting to a strange new life at home. 

We live a life where we cannot see all our extended family face to face. We do this to protect ourselves and others.

The news is full of the dangers of a virus that lurks outside.

Inside our homes we are safe.

Our home is now a sanctuary? A prison? Or something in between.

Home is the one place where we have control.

We can keep people out and we can protect everyone inside. COVID-19 has turned us all into germaphobes.At home we impose special measures, maximising hand-washing and cleansing

The government tells us: ‘we are all in this together’. 

The reality is: we live in very different places and spaces. Our circumstances are not all the same. Some homes have access to space outside ( garden, balcony) and some do not.

In the UK, during the sunniest spring ever recorded, access to ‘the outside’ was restricted to necessary travel only. We were allowed one daily bout of outdoor exercise. Being able to go outside made living inside bearable.

The pandemic is affecting everyone, everywhere, right across the world.

COVID-19 distance sign for cars

Globally, people are in either in lockdown, self-distancing or in isolation. Every country is approaching the containment of COVID-19 very differently. And it is not over yet.

In the midst of all this we have a new-found respect and admiration for key workers: supermarket staff, nurses, drivers, teachers. It is a deeper level of recognition for people  – who are not the very rich, and not the very famous.

We adjust to daily life with new spatial codes, protocols and interactions based on social distancing.

It’s them, and us….and everything they touch, everywhere they go, and everyone with whom they have contact. 

We are led by our Governments, who are led  by Science. So, we do what we are told and we adjust to home-working, home-schooling and all the rest. We have no choice.

COVID-19 sign. Painted Arrow pointed at man

Things will get better.  Things will change. 

Throughout lockdown, with nowhere to go and no-one to meet and our normal activities curtailed, we entertain ourselves at home with Netflix, I-Player and Zoom quizzes.  On the plus side: there is no Fear Of Missing Out.

Some are finding a new level of contentment   to be no longer rushing about – here, there and everywhere. They have new-found inner-peace and appreciation for everything we normally take for granted in the life we used to live.

But, because we don’t go anywhere we find we have nothing to talk about.

We have no news – apart from what is in “The News”. And now find ourselves using words never used before: cocooning, contact tracing, travel corridors, coronavirus bubbles, lockdown, PPE and second waves.

2m painted COVID sign

The new normal under COVID-19 is a negotiation of space through one-way queueing systems and a social-distance of 2 metres apart. We stand on yellow stickers, join long queues, stand well back from counters and talk to people through a sheet of perspex While wearing a mask. And it doesn’t seem strange.

The stories from 2020 of COVID-19 are a glimpse of everyday lives and experiences in these strange and worrying times. These are the things that matter to us.

As people adjust physically, psychologically and emotionally to this new way of being we can see more clearly how that is framed by local culture, space and politics. We also see how COVID-19 disrupts, shakes up and shatters our life-plans.

What we are going through right now will stay with us for a very long time.

It is only with the benefit of hindsight that the longterm effects of this experience will become known.

Nuala Rooney

I am designer, educator and researcher developing creative and holistic human-centred insights within the social/spatial sphere.

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