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Photograph: Unsplash/Zdeněk Macháček

What is a ‘social bubble’, and could it be the next step towards lifting lockdown?

James Manning
Written by
James Manning

If you’re anything like us, quaran-times have probably put a bit of a dent in your social life. The only IRL interaction most people are getting is with whatever partners, lovers, family, friends, roommates or pets they happen to be locked down with. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could open things up a little?

Well, there’s a chance we may be able to – and soon. Various governments around the world are giving people permission to socialise with a limited group of contacts outside their own household, as part of the gradual easing of social-distancing measures. And other countries are thinking about following suit.

Your ‘social bubble’ is a small group of people with whom you’re legally allowed to hang out with in person. The idea is to allow a little more social interaction while still severely limiting the overall number of other people with whom an individual might come into contact. For most people in isolation around the world, contact is still limited to your own household. But in New Zealand, where lockdown is being slowly rolled back, the government states that people can now expand their bubbles to ‘reconnect with close family, or bring in caregivers, or support isolated people’ in the same town or city.

Authorities in New Brunswick, Canada have also said they will permit ‘two-household bubbles’. And on May 11, new guidance from the UK government new guidance said that increasing social groups to two households was being actively considered, following the New Zealand example. More detail is due over the coming weeks.

Then there’s the spin on the ‘social bubble’ that was until recently being considered by the Belgian government, according to a leaked memo. This group would consist of no more than ten people – and all ten had to agree not to visit anyone outside the bubble. Imagine an IRL version of your BFFs WhatsApp group, except none of you are allowed to talk to anyone outside the group. Or alternatively, ‘Mad Max’ meets your MySpace Top 8.

The ‘social bubble’ concept may not have spread everywhere yet, but it’s starting to feel like a potential next step towards lifting lockdowns everywhere. So ask yourself this: if it comes down to it, who gets to live in your bubble?

In the meantime, you could reach out to the people who live near you…

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