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People in England who live alone or are single parents of children under 18 can now team up with another household and see them in a normal setting – basically, they can go into their house and don’t need to keep two metres away.
Yes that means that for some, hugs, kisses, sex and staying overnight in a different place are back on the cards.
The new rule was revealed by prime minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, leaving a lot of people pondering what happens now. Some are seeing the ‘support bubble’ update, which comes into play on June 13, as a way to have sex with partners who they haven’t seen in ages, others are thinking about how they can help older relatives or socially-isolated mates who live alone.
But the fact you can only choose one household is causing all kinds of dilemmas. Do you choose your parents or your partner? Your bestie or your grandma? Some are pretty baffled as to what to do next.
The ultimate aim of the ‘support bubble’ model is to boost mental wellbeing or allow childcare to be shared between households. It’s just an option (you don’t have to do it if you’d rather not), although it’s highly likely people living alone will seize the opportunity once it comes into force. It’s worth noting that people who are shielding are still unable to form such bubbles. So, who do you choose?
‘I chose my partner’
Grace Latter, 26, from Hastings, found herself in this predicament immediately – she ended up choosing intimacy, and her parents were totally cool with that.
“I suddenly found myself having to choose between reuniting with my very close family at the parents’ house, and being able to snuggle up with my boyfriend for the first time in nearly 12 weeks,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“I chose the latter, because right now I need the comfort and closeness with my partner, and I know I’ll be able to stay round mum and dad’s and let them cook me dinner someday in the near future – until then, we can continue having takeaway chips in their front garden now and again.”
Latter, who works part-time in retail, says she’s most excited to have a physical connection with her boyfriend again – “it’s been tough going without that level of intimacy for so long.”
‘I chose to see my family’
For Sarah Howells, the choice was obvious. The 34-year-old lives alone in Nottingham and has asked to form a support bubble with her mum, her step dad and her sister, who live together in Lincoln.
“My mum was so pleased,” she tells HuffPost UK. “She is 64 and has asthma and my step dad is 71, so they haven’t really been out much at all – only to walk the dog.
“I did visit her a few weeks ago when it was sunny. We sat in the garden at a safe distance, but we both burst into tears when we couldn’t hug each other. So it will make a huge huge difference that we can now.”
Howells, who works in PR, plans to visit them this weekend and stay overnight. “I can’t wait,” she adds.
Matty Lewis has also chosen to see his family, rather than friends. The single dad, who is 32 and lives in York, says it was a difficult decision to make.
“Everybody’s circumstances are different, and for me, I am single but have a four-year-old boy (George) who I’m fortunate enough to have been able to see during lockdown. But he hasn’t seen my family at all and that’s been tough for them all. I also know there’s friends of mine in York who live alone who I’ve been supporting, but for now, I can only visit one household, so family it is.”
Lewis says the PM’s announcement came as a huge relief – as someone who works with a local Men’s Support group, Yorkey Dads, he was concerned about rising levels of isolation and loneliness. The store manager at O2 will be “bubbling up” with his mum, gran and brother who live together.
“My plan will be to visit one day a week on a Sunday, for a couple of reasons,” he says. “I work full-time and we’re back in work now so that’s keeping me busy. The distance means I couldn’t visit realistically throughout the week, so a nice family day on a Sunday makes sense – and, of course, its a tactical feeding option with a Sunday roast on the menu. I’m not daft.”
‘I chose help with childcare’
For Rosie Dutton, a single mum from Tamworth, there’s no contest for her bubble. She chose her daughter’s paternal grandparents who live close by. The 35-year-old mindfulness coach has spent the past 12 weeks parenting alone, including while she was struggling with suspected coronavirus – so she was “elated” with the latest announcement.
“I have joked, as a single parent and person, that it’s a tough decision between ‘grandparents or sex’, but I jest. Obviously the support from another adult with my parenting is a huge relief and means I may be able to return part-time to work too,” she says.
“There’s no contest really, for my daughter to see her grandparents and hug another adult is priceless.” That said, she is weighing up the risks attached. “I also need to assess whether or not I’d be putting them at risk, it’s a tough decision,” she says. “Maybe sex is the better option after all.”
‘I chose my best friend’
Liz Beardsell says picking her support bubble was easy, given she lives in London while her family are in the Lake District – and is currently single.
“I am not dating anyone. Had I been, I would have chosen that person,” she says. “I checked in on one other friend who lives alone to make sure she had someone in her social bubble, and there were too many factors to consider when it came to friends who live in house shares.”
So she messaged her best friend, who said she’d been waiting for Liz to ask. “I am visiting them on Monday, they have been doing up their garden during lockdown and have a new pizza oven, her husband DJs and makes the best cocktails – so we’re going to have a little party,” she says. “I’m going to sleepover like we are teenagers again.”
The 38-year-old podcast producer has gone 12 weeks without human touch and can’t wait to see her best friend and husband and their two-year-old son.
“I’m getting three hugs for the price of one,” she says. “My best friend will jump on me and give me a long tight squeeze, her husband will give me a caring and protective ‘we made it to this stage’ hug and I’ll receive a playful but equally as impactful hug from their son. Each hug will be meaningful, emotional and release some well needed endorphins.”