Why an “intimate partner” but not a close friend? The social discriminations of lockdown

Why an “intimate partner” but not a close friend? The social discriminations of lockdown

Words By Charisa Bossinakis

Single and not allowed to mingle.

COVID-19’s second wave has been difficult on us Victorians, resulting in strict lockdowns and ongoing social isolation. Given the intricacies of living arrangements, environments and social statuses, the restrictions were always going to be imbalanced – working in favour of some and disadvantaging others.

In particular, those with an “intimate partner” have had it slightly easier. Visiting an “intimate partner” remains as one of the only reasons Victorians can venture to another’s home, alongside caregiving and emergencies. And it begs the question, have single people been forgotten during lockdown?

No one is envious of the state government right now. The pandemic hasn’t been easy on Premier Daniel Andrews and his team, yet, it’s only natural some questions will be raised regarding the intricacies of the restrictions.

New Zealand has embraced the notion of a ‘social bubble’, whereby “those living alone could visit another person or couple isolating in the same neighbourhood or retirement community as long as neither party interacted with anyone else”. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health recognised the importance of physical visits to maintain general wellbeing, as long as they were fixed in nature.

It seems odd that those who are a puzzle piece in an intimate partnership should be differentiated from a single person who also needs a social outlet to sustain their own wellbeing. So, why isn’t there a provision allowing a person living alone to choose one person to visit?

In a COVID-19 world, one-person households are in a uniquely-isolating position. Never being able to see or visit someone fosters loneliness, and with loneliness comes insecurity.

The discretion has prompted a change.org petition requesting that Premier Andrews change his stance on visitation laws. Dr. Gen Ford, the creator of the petition, is calling for the law to be more lenient on singles.

“For people living alone, without an ‘intimate partner’, this means we’re in our sixth consecutive week of physical isolation (on top of the nationwide lockdown across April and May),” the petition says.

“Many people have never felt so lonely or disconnected, and no amount of Zoom parties, phone calls, or chats to neighbours through our masks can substitute for the physical nearness of another human being. Apparently we’re ‘all in this together’ but people living alone are uniquely disadvantaged.

“This petition is to request the Victorian government to consider allowing single people to have a visitor, effective as soon as possible,” the petition continues. “We urge the government to consider the emerging mental health crisis, weigh up the relative potential public health risk, and decide in favour of humanity, trusting that the majority of us will continue to do the right thing to protect ourselves and each other from this virus.”

Singledom has never been portrayed well in the media, particularly for women. The word “single” can often conjure imagery of Bridget Jones sitting in her PJs belting out Celine Dion’s ‘All by Myself’, which misrepresents women in general. Though singledom should be synonymous with independence and liberation, there needs to be acknowledgement of the fact that single people are in a vulnerable position right now.

While reducing the immediate physical risk of COVID-19 should remain as the priority, provisions must always be made to recognise the importance of mental health. It’s a wild world out there so how about making sure everyone is ok.

Sign Dr. Gen Ford’s petition here.

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