Article on impact of physical distancing on socially vulnerable people during Covid-19 in most read collection

Published on March 30, 2023 – The article “The impact of physical distancing on socially vulnerable people needing care during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Netherlands” of Daniel de Vries, Jeannette Pols, Amade M’charek and ACHC-member Julia van Weert was listed as one of the Top 5 most downloaded articles with Open Access of 2022 in the International Journal of Care and Caring

What was the impact of physical distancing on socially vulnerable people needing care during the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in the Netherlands? What was the impact of COVID-19 measures on their well-being? How did the lockdown and the relaxation period affect them? What solutions to their challenges were found? What suggestions were made for improved policies to respond to their plight? What does safety mean for these people, and how does that compare to the policy aims?

The article describes the results of repeated qualitative interviews with 141 people in care relationships and 106 professionals, as well as two repeated surveys among older populations outside (n = 1697) and inside long-term care facilities (n = 2619). Findings show a diversity of experiences, ranging from relative calmness and feeling socially normal, to loneliness and loss of perspective. What mattered for the participants was often not so much medical care, but giving meaning to life and the maintenance and broadening of their social network. Issues such as being part of society, having housing assistance, work and day programming, finding meaning, a sense of connection, and other forms of social safety appeared crucial to daily life. It was exactly in these domains that care disappeared during the pandemic, or where home isolation and other policy measures worsened existing problems.

Findings emphasise an empirical ethics approach to policy interventions. Policies need to reframe safety away from its narrow epidemiological interpretation of infection reduction and towards the broader Greek phronesis, or practical wisdom. From this perspective, safety is not the banning of all risk, but accepting certain risk in order to allow other values to come to fruition in a balancing act.

Read the article here.

This work was supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) under Grant number 10150062010007.