The coronavirus pandemic has altered our way of life almost entirely, and has very much affected the way that we socialize, whether with family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances. Whilst many of us are trying to see those that matter the most in our lives, we have also probably become very cautious with who else we interact with. This may be to adhere to guidelines and prevent the spread of the virus generally, or to protect ourselves and to protect those that we love. Many people, may have family members or friends that at a higher risk of becoming severely ill with the virus, which therefore invokes a sense of extra vigilance in order to protect those people. Therefore, when we meet new people, attend social venues, run errands or go to the grocery store we may feel extra cautious.
Trust may now be a predominant factor that pops up as we navigate our social and outdoor lives. Many of us may have to consider if the person we are meeting has been adhering to social distancing protocols, or even whether we ourselves may need to be more cautious to safeguard whomever we are visiting if they are considered more vulnerable. We may have become more selective with who we let into our homes and who we choose to interact with, limiting our social interactions to a minimum.
Our way of life has changed, some people have indicated that they don’t socialize with strangers as they once did. Initiating friendly chatter with someone on the subway, or in the line for the checkout till may not be as frequent a part of daily as it once was. An article from The Guardian, outlined how friendly chats such as this, can be sociologically labelled as ‘weak ties’ and yet, are important in the vast and complex landscape of our social lives, but have been almost eradicated by the pandemic. ‘…the theory has its origins in a paper called The Strength of Weak Ties published in 1973 by Stanford professor Mark Granovetter, who argued that while strong ties (family, friends, colleagues) are fundamental to our lives, it’s the more distant connections (acquaintances, people you strike up a conversation with at a party, friends of friends) that are fundamental to our career and holistic development. These connections, Granovetter suggested, provide us with huge opportunities: they are the route in our lives to new projects, new jobs and new ideas.’
However, with social distancing measures, the awkwardness of facemasks, and the general fear around the spread of COVID-19 we may be more inclined to limit social interactions and be less trusting of those that we don’t know.
The Huffington Post recently published an article on ‘The Chain of Trust’ a medical theory relating to the way in which vulnerable people could socially interact to help avoid the transmission of COVID-19. Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia shared the notion with the Huffington Post and referred to a document shared with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). The chain of trust is a strategy of infection-control that could be adopted by those who are at higher risk or even simply in regular contact with those at higher risk. It involves a change of lifestyle whereby those who are vulnerable choose a smaller ‘chain of trust’ comprised of a selected group of individuals. Individuals in the chain of trust will then adopt measures to reduce their own risk of transmission so that they can continue interacting with the high-risk person. If anyone in the chain of trust has been exposed to COVID-19, is self-isolating, or has symptoms of the disease, it goes without saying that they therefore should not be visiting the high-risk person or anyone else for that matter.
Further, if anyone in the chain of trust has been exposed to a high-risk setting, such as a large gathering, a hospital or has travelled to a high-risk area they should suspend contact with the vulnerable person temporarily.
According to The Huffington Post ‘the concept of a chain of trust isn’t new – people who work in hospitals and care homes are routinely screened, and adopt special measures, to protect the vulnerable. “A broader protection strategy extends the same logic to all high risk individuals,” the document suggests.’ Professor Paul Hunter adding: “Whilst the document does not give a clear picture how [chains of trust] could work in practice, in my view this is something that does need to be looked at in much more detail.”