England lockdown: Tackling feelings of isolation and understanding restrictions as the new lockdown begins

This Thursday (5 November), England will enter a new nationwide lockdown to help curb the transmission of the coronavirus. It is normal to feel confused and worried as this new stage starts, especially if you are at higher risk of COVID-19. 

This week, England will enter a new four-week lockdown to try and keep the coronavirus pandemic under control. While the move has been made to protect people’s health, you might feel worried about the virus, how healthcare services will be affected, your employment or other things. 

At this time, understanding the rules, what changes are coming into place and how this will affect your day-to-day life is essential alongside considering your mental wellbeing

New rules 

Tomorrow (Wednesday 4 November), MPs will vote on proposed measures for the new lockdown. If approved, these measures will begin on Thursday 5 November and remain in place until Wednesday 2 December. 

The main restrictions expected to come into force include: pubs and restaurants closing but takeaways staying open; non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues closing; no households mixing indoors or in private gardens unless in your support bubble; schools, universities and colleges remaining open. 

People will be told to stay home, only permitted to leave for: education; work; exercise and recreation; medical reasons; shopping for food or to care for others.

While you can’t meet people outside of your support bubble indoors or in a garden, you can meet one person from another household in an outside public space. Children who are under school age or require round-the-clock care are not counted in this limit. 

NHS and medical services, like GPs, will stay open during the lockdown and can be accessed for both urgent and non-urgent services. 

Carers UK is calling for greater clarification and support measures for carers during this lockdown. The charity wants clarity around exemptions allowing caring for vulnerable people and other points which you can view here

Loneliness and isolation 

As people are urged to stay at home and the weather gets colder, finding ways to get outdoors for exercise and a change of scenery can be more difficult, leading to feelings of loneliness and isolation. 

A YouGov survey carried out in August 2020 found that the first lockdown, which started in March 2020, was considerably harder for disabled people.

Of those surveyed, disabled people were 17 times more likely than non-disabled people to be unable to carry out all daily tasks and activities at home without assistance, and disabled respondents were over three times more likely to report that the inaccessibility of their home undermined their wellbeing during lockdown. 

Findings like these, along with disabled people sharing their personal experiences, have led to greater concerns around the effect of a winter lockdown on mental health. 

Staying connected 

If you experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation during the first lockdown or after, think about the things that combatted this and see if they can be implemented now. This is especially important for carers who will have no respite during this time. 

For those able to, utilise technology to keep in touch with friends, family, colleagues and your healthcare professionals. The rise of weekly video quizzes might sound familiar, but even a quick phone call with a friend can help to tackle these feelings. 

Joining an online community, like Scope’s, could help you meet like-minded people, get information and advice, and boost your mood due to social interaction with others.

Getting outdoors to exercise can be off-putting in winter weather, especially if you are concerned about your health. Charities like WheelPower and the MS Society are running online exercise classes or have simple workout videos that you can follow using household items. 

Befriending can help if you are feeling lonely, with charities like MencapThe Befriending Scheme and Age UK running schemes to tackle social isolation. 

Accessing resources 

As England enters this new lockdown, remember to reach out for information, advice and support when you need it. 

If your income has been affected, speak to the Money Advice Service for advice on the financial support available during this time and what benefits you could be entitled to. 

Disability Rights UK provide helpful information and guides to your rights and are continually updating their coronavirus advice. 

If you are a family with disabled children, Contact can offer support with the extra challenges you are facing because of the coronavirus pandemic and offer infromation on specific rules and guidance. 

Looking after your mental health will aid your overall wellbeing during this time. You can contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time to speak with a trained volunteer about how you are feeling. 

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