Editor’s comment: Changing our behaviour – forever?

The view from Parliament Hill. Picture: KEN MEARS

The view from Parliament Hill. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

My rationed exercise on Tuesday saw me cycling to Hampstead, walking up Parliament Hill and up to Highgate, and freewheeling down Highgate Hill towards home.

It was a glorious, crisp morning and the Heath was populated by just a few walkers, at that time impeccably distanced.

It may be my last visit for a while. The aim of distancing is to slow the infection and prevent the NHS being overwhelmed. Despite the roads being quieter, they can still be hazardous for cyclists and it’s not going to help the hospital if I’ve been knocked off by a speeding driver. Time to dig out my running shoes.

It seems to me this is how we need to think right now. It won’t last forever and for some of us the sacrifices are small.

It seems inevitable that when this crisis recedes, a great many things will have changed.

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I wonder how we will come to see human contact. We are being conditioned to recoil at the touch of other humans. When I see a handshake in a movie, already I feel a degree of discomfort.

The government has suggested that social distancing will be necessary to greater and lesser degrees for a protracted period. The prospect of a day when the message is “okay, you can get back to normal” seems far off.

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Will we return to hand shaking, hugging and back slapping with impunity? If this virus is defeated will we forever be conscious of the multitude of other viruses and germs that are itching to move from host to host? Maybe we’ll move on remarkably quickly? After all history shows we have short memories.

Anyway that is what I thought about as I took an early-morning walk over the Heath – that and how happy dogs seem.

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