The tyranny of distance: The social effects and practice adaptations resulting from Covid-19 lockdown rules


  • Emily Keddell University of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand
  • Liz Beddoe University of Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand





This reflective commentary identifies and discusses the effects of the social distancing rules required by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowni. The rules required rapid adaptation that many found challenging, creating new norms for behaviour that were governed by both the state and many citizens. These rules changed patterns of social interaction, attitudes towards others and how families and communities were defined. Existing inequities relating to class were exacerbated, and inequities relating to gender and childcare made more visible. Those with more resources and secure jobs that could be undertaken “from home” were less exposed to the economic fallout and the virus itself. Attitudes towards the body and its physicality were heightened as the body became the target for intervention and isolation. Place-based communities of the neighbourhood were strengthened while other types of physical communities diminished.

All these changes created new opportunities for accelerating the morphing of people with the digital world, intensifying the use of online technologies to mediate the self, and shape employment practices, social work provision, and personal relationships. While some experienced this rapid transition online as a barrier to relationships, others, especially those already proficient in online technologies, experienced areas of improved functionality and efficiencies. Social work practice also adapted to this environment, finding new ways to meet the practice, support and ethical commitments of the profession.


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How to Cite

Keddell, E., & Beddoe, L. (2020). The tyranny of distance: The social effects and practice adaptations resulting from Covid-19 lockdown rules. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 32(2), 41–45.