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Drawing on peer-reviewed and grey literature, Powell et al argue the dominant narrative of personal self-care during the COVID-19 pandemic must be supplemented with a collectivist approach that addresses structural inequalities and fosters a more equitable society.
Compliance with self-care and risk mitigation strategies to tackle COVID-19 has been chequered in the UK, fuelled partly by social media hoaxes and misinformation, virus denialism, and policy leaders contravening their own public health messaging. Exploring individual non-compliance, and reflecting on wider societal inequities that can impact it, can help build critical normative resilience to future pandemics.
From the outset, COVID-19 public health messaging was, and remains, primarily aimed at modifying individual lifestyles and behaviours to flatten the infectivity curve by following ‘common sense’ approaches captured by the hands–face–space mantra.1 A culture of practice and new social norms of acceptable behaviour subsequently emerged,2 with concordance premised on cooperation between the public and government. However, as the pandemic worsened and movement restrictions continued, norms were contested by a small but vocal segment of society.
This normative contestation was founded on conflict between individual agency, government paternalism and regulatory diktat, and echoed Kant’s epistemology of altruism and the need to sacrifice individual liberties for the ‘greater good’. This conflict was exacerbated by multiple lockdowns that significantly impacted individuals’ …
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