Our in house frequent blogger, Beat’s Alice Phelan, has been sharing her take on the importance of social distancing.

I’m going to take you back to two weeks ago where I admit I struggled and failed with achieving social distancing in everyday situations.

I brought my 5 year old son Billy out to the beach for a walk in an effort to tire him out. Since the schools have closed & he’s been spending more time at home, he’s developed the energy of a small hurricane. He spotted an ice cream cone sign across the road from the beach and turned to me with such gusto and said “It’s a great day for ice cream Mam, let’s get one”. Note; it was actually Baltic and I couldn’t wait to get back inside the warm car. I replied “it’s way too cold for ice cream, no way, now hurry up”. Right on cue, an older couple walked by and the lady was happily devouring a cone. Billy just stood with his mouth wide open and said “look Mam, she’s eating a cone, it’s not too cold. See?” All I could do was laugh and shouted after the couple “Excuse my son for staring up in your face but I just told him it was too cold for ice cream and now you’ve just walked past licking one”. We all laughed and I said “Thanks a lot guys!” (All from a safe distance of course). My son carried on trying to argue his point when the man suddenly appeared beside us and snuck €2 into my son’s hand and whispered “Your mam can’t say no now, ask her to buy you an ice cream”. On a normal day, this cheeky gesture from a stranger would have made our day but with the coronavirus circulating, we shouldn’t have accepted his money. Neither Billy nor the man were wearing gloves #SocialDistancingFail

Now that online grocery shopping is busier than ever, it’s proving difficult to find available delivery times. I submitted an order recently and the nearest available delivery slot I could get was in one week’s time. Meanwhile I’ve had to pop to the local supermarket to pick up a few bits (basically anything I could fit into two carrier bags) because I don’t want to be touching the trolleys. Most supermarkets offer antibacterial hand sanitizer or wipes before entering their store. In this case, there were wipes laid out on a table. I took a wipe and gave my hands a thorough clean. There was a bin underneath to discard of used wipes and of course I missed the bin because I was trying to avoid getting too close to others. Note; it wasn’t like I have a bad aim or anything (cue laughter)! A young man (in a split second) picked up my used wipe and threw it in the bin for me. I blurted out “Thank You” and scurried away thinking he shouldn’t have done that, he shouldn’t have touched my used hand wipe. Again, if this were a normal situation, it would be a kind gesture from a stranger but with the current climate it was a #SocialDistancingFail

My second encounter at a local supermarket was when I was standing at the self-scan checkouts. I bought two packs of mincemeat so I could cook lasagne that night. I intentionally used the self-scan checkout so I could get in and out as fast as possible. One packet of mince successfully scanned but the second wouldn’t. No matter what I did, it just wouldn’t scan. The lady working there was run off her feet so I stood there patiently while silently freaking out that I was already there too long. A lady next to me had obviously been watching and took my mince and started vigorously rubbing her sleeve over the barcode while saying “this often happens if the barcode is damp so I’ll try dry it for you”. She tried to scan the mince again but it wouldn’t read the barcode. She grabbed the pack that scanned successfully the first time and just put it through a second time. With that, she was gone in a flash and I was able to finish the transaction and get out of the store. Again, another act of kindness from a stranger but in the current climate it was a #SocialDistancingFail

Fast forward to the present….I’m ready to swat people away like a social distancing ninja if they get too close. However, I thought it was important to highlight a few personal situations where I struggled to implement social distancing over the past two weeks. I’m not doing this to beat myself up but frankly just to iterate how social distancing is harder than it looks. As a nation, we are kind and known for our personal charm and warmth all over the world. It’s OK that it doesn’t come natural to us. However, we must change if we are to stay safe. We as humans are amazing and have the ability to adapt to any situation. I can already see a massive improvement. We are getting better at it every day, becoming more informed and engaging in behaviour that is acceptable and safer for everyone.

We’re also becoming more creative, clever and dynamic in the way we operate as individuals and in business. To name but a few; a hotel in Co. Monaghan is offering a drive-through afternoon tea for Mother’s Day that customers can enjoy from the safety of their own home. Some supermarkets are installing Plexiglass at tills to protect both the staff and customers. Gym owners are providing work-out classes online for free. Some chemists are using a drive-through service so customers don’t have to leave their car to fulfill a prescription. I’ve seen many local restaurants deliver food to the hospital as a thank you to the heroes working on the frontline. On a human level, we’ve seen videos of Italians singing from their balconies to fight loneliness. Closer to home, we’ve seen people play outdoor Bingo from their flats in Dublin. We’re making handmade gifts for birthdays, special occasions, we’re going old school which is refreshing in these dark times. Celebrities and musicians are taking to social media all over the world to sing songs and entertain us in the comfort of our own homes.

We’re all scared and just trying to get through this as quickly and safely as possible. To quote Leo Varadkar (I never thought I’d say those words)….”Let’s come together as a nation by staying apart from each other.” Let’s all do our bit to give our little country the best fighting chance!

For more information on Corona Virus, please visit https://www2.hse.ie/coronavirus

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