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B.C.’s top doctor asks us to shrink social circles again amid COVID-19. Will anyone listen?

Click to play video 'Talking to an expert about Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice to ‘shrink our bubbles’ once again' Talking to an expert about Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice to ‘shrink our bubbles’ once again
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is telling British Columbians that after a summer of relaxed restrictions, it's time to cut back once again on our socializing. Global's Ted Chernecki talked to a UBC professor who literally "wrote the book" on the psychology of pandemics, about whether people will actually do it.

B.C.’s top doctor said Monday that the province is entering a new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that will require British Columbians to adjust to a new normal after many widened their social circles over the summer.

“After many months of restrictions, we all needed to reconnect with family, our friends with our communities this summer,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

Click to play video 'Government calls for changes to public behaviour as COVID-19 cases increase' Government calls for changes to public behaviour as COVID-19 cases increase
Government calls for changes to public behaviour as COVID-19 cases increase

“We travelled, we enjoyed our province, and many of us recharged. Now we must slow down on our social interactions.”

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As we head into respiratory illness season, Henry said, it’s time to go back to basics, such as washing hands, keeping social circles small, keeping a safe distance from others, wearing masks and staying home at the slightest sign of being sick.

Read more: B.C. reports 58 new COVID-19 cases, one death as hospitalizations continue to rise

Dr. Steven Taylor, a professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia who has authored a book on the psychology of pandemics, said going “back to basics” could prove challenging.

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“It’s going to be very tough on people, particularly as the winter months are kicking in,” he said.

Click to play video 'B.C. officials report 58 new cases of COVID-19, one additional death' B.C. officials report 58 new cases of COVID-19, one additional death
B.C. officials report 58 new cases of COVID-19, one additional death

“People are going back into lockdown. They’ve had their taste of freedom and had it taken away from them again. I’d be worried about people becoming depressed during the winter period.”

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Read more: Coronavirus infecting more young people due to lockdown fatigue, scientists warn

So-called “lockdown fatigue” could lead people to ignore public health measures, Taylor said, but he believes peer pressure — the shaming of nonconformists — will help keep the recovery on track.

“I’m not a fan of shaming people but it does work and it will keep people in line,” he said. “So there may be some lockdown fatigue, but I think we’ll see a kind of grumbling acceptance,” Taylor said.

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Jigsaw puzzle and board game sales soar due to COVID-19 lockdowns

Taylor’s book, The Psychology of Pandemics, predicted that a global pandemic would bring with it xenophobia, racism, anxiety and depression. Taylor says what he failed to see coming was how rapidly things could change during a pandemic, thanks in part to social media.

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“This was the first pandemic in the era of social media so everything’s been happening faster and more dramatically,” he said.

Taylor goes on to say it’s hard to predict how young people will fare during the first pandemic of the digital age but says there is room for optimism.

“Kids are resilient,” he said.

“We might find that as a result of living through this pandemic the children of this generation are more resilient than the ones of the previous generation.”