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Three-tier lockdowns leaving Britons in a ‘never-ending cycle of reprieve and restrictions’

Written by on 16/10/2020

Britain’s new three-tier approach to the coronavirus crisis will leave millions of people in “a never-ending cycle of reprieve and restriction”, a mental health expert has told Sky News.

From today another 26.7 million people in England are banned from socialising with people they don’t live with indoors.

They join the 1.6 million in the Liverpool city region, where all inter-household mixing is banned and pubs, restaurants and bars are closed, and the whole of Northern Ireland, parts of Scotland and Wales where strict lockdown measures have also been put in place.

And with another 1.5 million from Lancashire expected to suffer the same restrictions in the coming days, more than half of England’s population are having their social lives severely limited for the second time this year.

These “never-ending” changes to the rules are likely to have a significant impact on our mental health, Rosie Weatherley, information content manager at Mind charity, told Sky News.

She said: “Moving into a period of restrictions, having a period of reprieve and then having restrictions again is gutting.

“This tiered and more localised approach to lockdown can make it feel like people are going into and coming out of restrictions all the time – and it’s a never-ending cycle. That continued adjustment is exhausting.”

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She added that the UK will be forced to “winterproof” its social interactions, but this might prove too difficult for vulnerable groups including the elderly and disabled.

“Getting through winter with these restrictions will be harder. Some people won’t be able to just put a coat on and go out and socialise when it gets cold.

“We’re likely to see the return of Zoom pub quizzes and fancy-dress nights, but that constant online communication can also be tiring,” she said.

Robin Hewings, director of policy and research at the Campaign to End Loneliness, said he fears it will be “difficult for some to find the energy to keep up the social interactions we’re allowed”.

Research by his charity found that although people who live alone are now allowed to form “extended household bubbles” to combat loneliness – 69% of people it polled haven’t.

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Around 20% of those people said it was because they did not know who to ask to “bubble up with” and 7% said they had no close friends or family.

He said: “I think that shows there are significant numbers of people who don’t have the social connections they need to live a good life.

“And what we know about loneliness is that there’s a real danger of it becoming self-perpetuating.

“During the first lockdown, research found lonely people got lonelier.

“If you have the social relationships you need, that period of slowing down gave them more time to spend with those people and they felt more connected as a result.

“But if you are already lonely, that isolation is a downward spiral that’s difficult to get out of.”

In recent years, the government has appointed a dedicated minister for loneliness to work on nationwide strategies for combatting the problem.

A spokesman told Sky News that £18m of its £750m charity funding budget has gone towards tackling loneliness since the start of the pandemic – with a further £38m for mental health.

“We also convened the Tackling Loneliness Network – featuring high-profile charities and businesses – to explore new ways to connect groups at risk of loneliness and isolation and relaunched our #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign to help tackle the stigma,” he added.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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