taylor swift in you belong with me music video holding a social distancing sign

What To Do When Someone You Live With Isn’t Social Distancing Properly

Whether you’ve been studying or working from home for weeks, have suffered a sudden job loss due to lockdowns or are still out there fighting the fight in frontline services, the impact of coronavirus is touching pretty much everyone by this point. And while most of us are trying our best not to touch anyone right now—barring the people we directly live with—there are, unfortunately, exceptions. 

Whether it’s a housemate who is still visiting friends in a big share house or a sibling who is making clandestine trips out of the house in suspiciously date-like circumstances, some people either don’t understand how much of a risk ignoring social distancing is—or they’ve willfully decided that their life is more important than every single person around them. To be clear: social distancing, and how it should look right now is staying at home as much as you possibly can. This means grocery shopping once a week not popping to the shops every second day. It means seeing your best friend over FaceTime, not having them over dinner in your apartment. It means working out at home, not going to the soccer field to run drills with your gym buddy.

It sounds dramatic but it is what it is. One particularly prescient tweet: “people who aren’t taking social distancing seriously are the new anti-vaxxers.” Please see the below projection, outlining research by the University of Sydney. If even 10% of people slip in social distancing, this gets so much fucking worse. 

New measures, announced on Sunday the 29th of March, have come in restricting both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two people, not including members of your household. Different Australian states are enforcing it differently—FYI, if you’re in Victoria you can get an on-the-spot fine of more than $1,600.

However you might feel about increased police powers and enforcement of social distancing measures, what should have been explained much more clearly by Prime Minister Scott Morrison is that this doesn’t mean you can see as many people as you like as long as it’s one at a time. 

When someone you live with isn’t taking social distancing seriously it can put a massive strain on your relationship with them, your mental health and worst case scenario, your physical health and tonnes of other people’s too. We’ve pulled together a few points and facts to help you with the common excuses people have for not staying the fuck at home.

“I’m only seeing one person, and they’re mostly self-isolating.”

We get it. Not seeing our friends sucks. Losing everyday rituals like a coffee at your local sucks. No post-work catch ups sucks. No gyms and yoga and boxing and BJJ sucks. Going to see one person might seem like a small, chill reprieve as this isolated-future stretches out before us but it’s not. 

The main issue here is that nobody can ever truly know how well another person is or isn’t adhering to hygiene and social distancing protocols. You might think you’re just seeing one person, let’s say a boyfriend who you trust, totally vibe with and they’ve been self isolating. But there are so many variables that are uncontrolled here. 

Maybe he’s in a sharehouse—has every single person in that share house been isolating inside as well? For the same amount of time? Do they have jobs that still require them to be public-facing? How do you know that everyone is washing their hands and handling their groceries correctly?

If you have to have this conversation, we’d suggest coming from a place of compassion—we know that shaming doesn’t usually help people change their behaviour, even if… their behaviour is shameful and selfish. 

Try saying, “Hey, this is a super hard time and I appreciate you wanting to see your boyf, but because we’re in a shared living space the most respectful and kind thing we can do for each other right now is stay the fuck home. I’m worried for both our health and who we could potentially spread this to. Can you please just sext instead?”

If it’s kicking off your anxiety, try and explain that your mental health is being compromised. What you’re feeling is valid and real, because the ramifications of ignoring social distancing are real. 

“We’re outside with lots of space, it’s fine.”

Once again, this is about controlling as many variables as possible. Gatherings are now limited to two people, while we’d hope the panopticon of other people keeps this incheck and to ones that are truly essential, it’s not always the case. Heading out of the house every day to the park or oval to workout with a buddy is not essential. Walking your dog and chatting with four different neighbours isn’t essential. All of the above rules still apply, and the virus gives not a single shit about whether you’re seeing another person in or outside. 

If it helps, try and explain to your friend/housemate/sibling that their actions are actively going to negatively impact them. The longer people continue to flout social distancing, the longer this will continue, and the longer shutdowns will remain in place—if you want to be able to move around freely sooner, we need to stay home right now. Most people also don’t fully understand how far away they should be from one another. For reference, a one on one “socially distanced” boxing lesson? Doesn’t exist. Impossible. Cut it out please.

If that doesn’t work, hit ‘em with the science. Scientists are still figuring out how long the coronavirus can survive on surfaces and how transmissible the coronavirus is to humans that way. Some reports have found that the coronavirus can survive on surfaces for up to 17 days—far longer than initially thought. Even if you think you’ve sanitised every single section of the outdoor gym you’re using, by just staying at home, you lessen the potential risk. 

“They’re my family and I need to see them.”

This is a tough one, who wouldn’t want to go their loved ones in a time like this? For a lot of us, family is the place they feel the most safe and comfortable (though not always). What we’d fall back on here again is trying to be compassionate. Examine with your housemate or friend what the potential ramifications of this behaviour could be and how necessary it really is—try and underline that it’s probably actually a bigger risk to their family if they continue to see them.

Do they have to deliver groceries or help cook and clean for the family member in question? Is it because of their work as a carer that this has to happen or are they possibly overstating the situation? Is it a cultural expectation that they visit? Is it a cultural or religious reason? Some of these things can be mitigated, through socially distanced delivery options or by limiting the actual crossover time someone is in the same room together if housework needs to be done.

On the other hand, having your cousins over to play board games after dinner, while “contained indoors” is absolutely not social distancing and is not a need right at this moment.

Ultimately, someone is going on truly essential outing, there’s no reason to be out and around other people.

Monisha is a writer with a background in publishing and digital media. A chronic Pisces, she’s into trying to be a better person and sparkling water.

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