Physical Distancing – with Online Socialising

On Saturday morning, I used my Zoom account to host a remote social gathering that included folks well into their 80s – joining after wiping the dust off their iPads.

One lady, Christine, even got up extra early to clean her home (to look its best on camera).

It was fun and delightful to spend a few hours with them.

That said, not everyone was able to make the leap.

A charming Portuguese gent named Antonio emailed me yesterday, saying he didn’t want to use Zoom.

He wrote, “May be, because I am from the time when we used starting handles to start car engines!!! Then, everything was physical… We wrote “emails” on sheets of paper (perfumed, if sent to girls), put them in envelopes and post them! Can you imagine?!!!”

Antonio also sent me this video – digital is a different language for him.

Social Physical Distancing

On BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show, Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO, made an appearance from his home, looking a little disheveled. He made several very strong points about the COVID-19 crisis and what countries can do to deal with it. He praised the NHS while acknowledging our health services are about to be hit by an extreme challenge.

Dr Ryan said “The physical distancing measures that are in place, the lockdowns, separate everybody from everybody else. But what we really need to focus on is finding those who are sick, those who have the virus and isolate them, find their contacts and isolate them. . . .

Once we’ve suppressed transmission, we have to go after the virus. We have to take the fight to the virus.. . .

The danger right now with the lockdowns and with all the physical distancing and people are feeling this now, is that it’s really putting pressure on the economy and putting pressure on the social system.”

I was most struck by Dr Ryan’s use of the term physical distancing. He used it a number of times – not social distancing. Physical isolation does not have to mean social isolation. The virus does not transmit across communication networks, and billions of people are using them like never before.

Let’s take Dr Ryan’s lead and start calling what we must do physical distancing. And let’s socialise more, a lot more, but online.

Techies for Good

An estimated 900 million people are confined to their homes around the world, with the majority hemmed in by obligatory government lockdown orders. India is locking down large swaths of the country. The UK Coronavirus Bill will likely become law on Thursday. In England, 1.5 million vulnerable people are being told to confine themselves to their homes for 3 months.

We work with technology every day. Everyone reading this has high levels of digital skills, and we are all digital sophisticates.

Don’t take this for granted!

We have an extraordinary ability to help those around us to get through this and to come out on the other side in good physical health and in a sound state of mind.

I know most of you are already doing this, especially with your family and in your work – this comes first. But please do look out for the many opportunities to help others in the months ahead.

Stay safe and stay calm.