Now that some of the lockdown rules have started to lift, we asked those who are able to leave their home whether they are feeling comfortable in public spaces. We also asked those who are shielding or unable to go outside their home for another reason, how they feel about seeing things slowly returning to normal for other people. Our diarists shared their experiences before the Government announcement on what could reopen on 4 July and the change to social distancing from 2 metres to 1 metre.

Many of our diarists are still very cautious about going out. One told us:

I had to hit the shop for essentials this morning and the urge was to get in and out really promptly.

While another wrote:

I have felt extremely uncomfortable in public spaces, even panicky.

And another diarist said she isn’t shielding, but has:

...continued to avoid shops and public places as I don't feel comfortable. Life is still far from returning to normal for me!

One diarist explained that home has become her safe space, her own bubble. She still feels very uncomfortable going out:

I tried to go out shopping last weekend and felt really anxious and burst into tears. I think once I've done it won't feel so bad but right now it concerns me... A few friends are meeting for walks and letting their children mix but I just don't feel comfortable enough yet to join them. It feels like a lot of people round here see it that lockdown is over and have pretty much gone back to normal and that scares me.

Another diarist explained why she don’t feel comfortable in public spaces:

I am ultra-aware of those around me. It would help if everyone kept to the guidelines/rules but this is not the case. I had to travel on the train on Monday which was the first day of compulsory face coverings. There were only 3 people in my carriage but I was the only one who kept a mask on, the others removed them so that they could talk on their mobiles for the entirety of the journey. They replaced the face coverings on leaving the train.

She added:

I have also noticed that some of the essential stores have relaxed their restrictions and are not limiting the number of people who can enter at one time.

The lack of social distancing and the inconsistent application of the rules was noticed by several diarists:

I don't feel comfortable at all in public spaces. I walked into our local town on Monday morning and went into two shops, they had completely different hygiene regimes, the first was TKMaxx, they offered shoppers hand sanitiser on entry and that was it. The second was Waterstones, there if you touch a book they ask that you leave it on the trolley and they will quarantine it. The different rules worried me.
I am being very cautious about going into shops. I have ventured a couple of times, but there are people who don’t keep their distance, and others who don’t wear masks…My husband forgets to put gloves/mask on and touches things with his bare hands…so it’s stressful.
I had my most uncomfortable trip to a food shop on Sunday and it's due to how people are behaving, acting as if everything is completely normal when it isn't! People ignoring the markings on the floor and the one-way route, wandering past me way too close, or blocking aisles… It's better in the long term to be patient and move slowly than rush. All the hard work, limitations and stresses this country have endured will all be for nothing if things happen too quickly at the end.

And not only shops. One diarist had witnessed this in her child’s school:

My son went back to school this week, and though there's a one-way system, no one (including the staff!) follows it. I'm increasingly anxious about a second wave.

The risk of a second wave is clearly on the minds of some of our diarists:

People seem to [have] no sense of even one metre, let alone 2. It's crazy and I really fear another spike in cases. Wearing a mask would help, but most people don't… So, no, feeling more on edge when I'm out shopping, definitely not feeling comfortable.
I'm not shielding or vulnerable but I feel anxious about using public spaces and have not changed my routine much at all. I can see other people acting as if there is no longer any danger.
I think that other people who are now behaving as if things (regarding the virus) have changed are going to trigger a second wave, and make things worse in the long run.
It seems ridiculous to me that life looks almost like it has gone back to normal yet we have no idea whether there will be a 2nd wave or not, so why not just assume there will be, and be a bit cautious?

But some feel more comfortable about things returning to normal. One diarist wrote:

I find I'm feeling more relaxed about going to the shops

Another said she is feeling very comfortable leaving her home and in public spaces. And one diarist who feels comfortable going outdoor to meet with friends and family wrote:’s SO lovely! As an extrovert, I have sorely missed social contact.

Location may be a factor in how comfortable some of our diarists feel:

I’m now feeling very relaxed in public spaces, with certain provisions. We’re still staying very local and have not been further than 5 miles from our house in 3 months (we live in the countryside so many walking and outdoor options on our doorstep). I don’t feel anxiety going to our local shops or even the supermarket but again we never go to places that are busy.
Not very comfortable as many people seem to now completely ignore the 2 metres rule - so I avoid everywhere except country walks, and only see a small group of friends.

But not all diarists are easily able to go out – even if they wanted to. For those in this group, it can be difficult to see things moving on while they stay at home:

I have been moved into the shielding group recently following my diagnosis with an immune system disease and medication. It is really quite difficult to know what the government is recommending as I am in the 'moderate vulnerable group'. The guidelines are confused. In addition it is very difficult to hear about friends and family starting to go out a bit more.
We are a vulnerable household. My partner cannot go out unaided anyway…I have to go out to pick up shopping or medication, I go out for a walk, but otherwise I don't go anywhere. We find that with more relaxation and more people outside, we are more reluctant to be out…It seems that in the earlier stages of lockdown, I coped better with it. Everyone restricted - now there's one rule for able bodied people and a separate rule for the impaired and I am having huge difficulties coming to terms with this.
I am finding it worse with this half lockdown, particularly for my mental health…My husband is very anxious not to be in contact with Covid as he has asthma. So he always moans that people not keeping to social distancing. He feels that no-one can be trusted. He puts pressure on me not to get into contact with people. I find this very difficult.
I don’t really mind about things easing for other people, I do wish that people would take the rules more seriously and not forget about those shielding like we don’t exist!

And there is also frustration at lack of medical support, while shops are able to open:

This week I have been consumed with worry/anxiety over things that are coming in the next couple of weeks…because of 'social distancing requirements' I still can't get my baby a birth certificate, see his health visitor in person or get a GP [appointment]… but for some reason as of Monday I can go to Nando’s or buy a car. I'm supposed to have a 6-week postnatal appointment with the GP for them to check both me and my baby over but that's not happening for reasons no one can properly explain.

For those in this position, there is both a demand for more information and concerns about Government decisions around the exiting of lockdown:

I am still shielding, and feel forgotten by the government. I have no idea when I am allowed to stop taking these extra precautions, and no confidence in the government if and when such guidance does materialise. I feel that normal life for me has ceased, and can't imagine a time when it will restart.
We won’t be visiting other people or having socially distanced meet ups until we personally assess that the level of risk is minimal to our health. I wish that there was more support and information available for pregnant women.

Thank you to our diarists for sharing their experiences each week. If you would like to sign up to take part, please use this link.