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Did Covid-19 restrictions break British society?

In this CG Conversation, Dr Jennie Bristow talks to Professor David Livermore about the consequences of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions for the fabric of social life. As we move on from the pandemic itself, to what extent have the behaviours and mores of pre-Covid times changed? On one hand, dystopian fears about the end of handshakes, hugs, and parties have not materialised. On the other, something subtle has changed in the culture of work and education, and we’re no longer sure what we can take for granted.

David and Jennie also discuss the relationship between politicians, the media, and the public during the pandemic, in the demand for more and more rules restricting social behaviour. Was the government responding to an irrational crowd mentality, or was the fearful demand for rules generated by the exclusion of the public from a calm, balanced discussion about what could and should be done? What did the injunction to ‘be kind’ by obeying all the restrictions do to our deeper understanding of what kindness means, and why it matters? Where do we go from here, in reckoning with the Covid years without allowing them to define us?

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More about the Authors

Jennie Bristow

Jennie Bristow is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Canterbury Christ Church University, and Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies. She is author of several books on generational conflict and collaboration, including (with Emma Gilland) The Corona Generation: Coming of age in a crisis. Jennie is on the Editorial Board of Collateral Global.

Personal website:

David Livermore

David Livermore began his career in 1980 as Research Assistant at the then London Hospital Medical College, writing a PhD ‘On the side’. By 1994 he’d risen to Senior Lecturer in Medical Microbiology. In 1997 he moved to the Public Health Laboratory Service, now the UK Health Security Agency, swiftly becoming Director of its Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring and Reference Laboratory. He remained until 2011, when he joined the University of East Anglia (UEA) as Professor of Medical Microbiology. Now semi-retired, he retains an Honorary Professorship with UEA and consults widely for the medical industry on antibiotic development and rapid diagnostics.

Across 40 years he belonged – then led – teams that defined the evolving epidemiology and nature of antimicrobial resistance. He has authored over 500 papers and appears on Clarivate’s ‘Most Cited’ list, has edited for multiple journals and served on UK government advisory committees on antimicrobial resistance and healthcare-infection. During the COVID-19 pandemic he has been a consistent critic of lockdown policies.

Outside work he has walked the 3000-mile perimeters of England and Wales, also all the East Scottish coast.

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