What would be the “new normal” for a whole tranche of the population is a kind of institutionalised paranoia about bodily contact. Even adults able to recall what real life used to be like would be locked indefinitely into a simulacrum of psychosis in which every stranger represents a mortal threat. Surely this cannot be allowed to go on for long because it is – in the literal sense of the word – inhuman.

Our species is not designed to live in a state of isolation and we will, for perfectly legitimate reasons, find it necessary to resist the enforcement of it. Because of the way it is being presented, this will create unbearable conflict with our sense of duty to others – and that will cause further emotional stress. Yes, this is reality: the whole of it, not just the cold-blooded “scientific” part. (In truth, of course, what is publicly on offer does not represent the entire scientific canon, just a specialised portion of it. )

The immediate damage to the economy has been exhaustively discussed, but this will almost certainly be repaired eventually. The proposed incarceration of the elderly too, has been properly attacked as cruel and arbitrary. But not nearly enough has been said about the psychological and developmental consequences of an entire society adopting modes of behaviour that are alien to our most fundamental emotional needs. In time, no doubt, human resilience being what it is, the recovery would come but the cost in damaged personalities and the ability to form relationships could be dreadful.

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