As we contemplate finally emerging from the world of Covid regulations, we are told that we are now accountable for our own actions, which will no longer be subject to Government legislation.
This emphasis on individual responsibility means that our behaviour is now being moderated by our own notions of common sense and common courtesy. Now, more than ever, we must rely on good manners to ensure that nobody feels attacked, vulnerable, or repressed.
Over the last 18 months we have all become aware that there is a huge spectrum of responses to Covid, from the extremely anxious to the bullishly self-confident, with most of us probably somewhere in between. How are we going to ensure that everybody’s idea of freedom is respected?
Ask Before You Act
The simplest solution to these dilemmas is to be explicit about them and to make polite enquiries. By now, we will all be aware that some people are still alarmed by the prospect of hugging and handshaking, and a red letter day on a calendar will probably not change their minds. So, if you are naturally tactile, and do not fear the consequences, pause for thought before going in for a hug, and ask if it is acceptable.
By the same token, people who still do not want physical contact on greeting may well avoid embarrassment by jumping in first, with an explanatory ‘I’m sorry, I’m still feeling a bit nervous about hugging’.
Good manners are all about being aware of other people and doing your utmost to make them feel comfortable. While you may be desperate to cast off your mask, it might be advisable to keep one to hand; if you find yourself in a crowded situation, for example a train, and surrounded by nervous mask-wearers, it might be tactful to go with the collective mood and mask up.
Don’t be a Vaccine Bore
Swaggering around declaring ‘I don’t care – I’m double vaccinated’ won’t win you many friends. Many younger people are still waiting for their second vaccines, and won’t appreciate your insouciance.
If, on the other hand, you are seeking to reassure a nervous person about your physical proximity, you can always confide that you have had both vaccines, which might put their mind at rest.
Make Polite Enquiries
If you are a nervous host, tentatively embarking on re-establishing your social life after the long drought, it is quite acceptable for you to politely seek reassurance from potential guests about their vaccination status or contact with potential Covid-carriers. Accompany such enquiries with an apologetic explanation about your anxiety, and then nobody should take offence.