My friend won’t physically distance – so I will have to distance from her

Arwa Mahdawi
Photograph: Tony Gutierrez/AP

The past few months have been tough, and we’ve all developed our own corona-coping mechanisms. Some of us (me) have drunk a lot of wine. Some of us (me) have watched a ton of Netflix. Some of us (not me) have baked impressive amounts of bread. Most of us have done our best to stick to the rules and do our part. Equally, however, most of us probably know someone who has been pulling a Dominic Cummings and carrying on without a care in the world.

I have a friend like that. I jokingly call her The Superspreader. She spent lockdown gallivanting around town and now that restrictions have eased she has grown even more lax. Apart from the nickname, I have done my best not to be too judgmental. After all, it’s not as if I have been perfect: I went to a Pride march over the weekend, which (while everyone wore a mask) was incredibly crowded. Nevertheless, my friend’s complete disregard for the pandemic has put a strain on our relationship.

I am not the only one: anecdata shows that a number of friendships are breaking up over different approaches to social distancing. Of course, the pandemic has also brought people together. I see more (virtually) of some friends than I used to. Many communities have also grown closer: my dad, in London, was horribly sick for weeks, and strangers in his local Covid-19 volunteer group went out of their way to bring him food and painkillers. When he got better, he returned the favour and has made a number of new pals, including a 98-year-old called Betty, for whom the neighbourhood held a physically distanced birthday party. Anyway, the moral of this story is that we should all try to be understanding of each other’s failings. However, if you want your loved ones to grow as old as Betty, there’s a point at which you have to be firm with your friends: if they won’t physically distance, keep them at a distance.

• Arwa Mahdawi is a Guardian columnist