September 21, 2020

Coronavirus: How to go for a walk safely, without getting shamed

There’s now a new phenomenon – known as “quarantine shaming” – to try to keep people indoors.

Over the weekend, photos of busy parks, markets and beaches in the US, UK and Canada caused uproar, as officials described people who ignored social distancing guidelines as selfish, arrogant or self-destructive.

On social media, some have been even more critical – the hashtag #COVIDIOTS has been trending, and people have criticised individuals seen at public gatherings, or posted that they “deserve to get the virus”.

In the UK, one man posted an expletive-laden rant as he live streamed people walking on the seafront by his house – in a video that went viral.

Social psychologists say that shaming plays a significant role in enforcing social norms – especially at a time when norms are rapidly changing as a result of coronavirus.

But social distancing outdoors can also be difficult – especially when there is contradictory advice about where to go, and you can’t predict how others will behave.

What is social distancing?
How to exercise while staying at home
When elderly parents want to carry on socialising
So what’s the best way to stay safe – and avoid a public shaming – while exercising outdoors?

Can I still go for a walk?
The official advice can be confusing. On one hand, we’ve been told to stay home as much as possible. On the other hand, we’ve also been told that it’s important to keep exercising – and that a walk or run in the park is OK.

In New York, the city parks commissioner Mitchell Silver encouraged residents to use the city’s large number of parks, pointing out that spending time outdoors can reduce stress and boost the immune system.

Similarly, UK PM Boris Johnson has stressed that parks and open spaces are “crucial for our country and for our society”, and urged people to use them responsibly.

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