EASEDOWN week six and it’s strange to look back on the early days of the Covid crisis as we emerge, bleary-eyed, into the gradual dawn of the new normal.

A few short months ago, we were struggling to come to terms with this ugly virus in our midst. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home fire fought our way with new ways of doing the day job, battering away from the kitchen table, or whatever other space could be found to call The Office.

Parents grappled with home schooling, poor broadband, insufficient tech kit and a creeping realisation that this wasn’t going to be over any time soon.

And there was the nagging fear for loved ones, out of touch and perhaps vulnerable to a ruthless disease that knows no barriers. Sadly, many have succumbed. Thousands of families have had to grieve in the most difficult of circumstances. And the threat is not over yet.

Meanwhile, businesses have gone under, hard-won livelihoods have been lost, redundancies loom and young people face an uncertain future haunted by the spectre of unemployment.

But are there any positives we can take from our shared experience and the challenges that we have faced and continue to endure?

We holed up, thankful for the daily prescription of a chance to get out for some exercise. Suddenly, complete strangers found themselves stopping in the street to share conversations and compare notes – loudly, given the two-metre rule. There were small acts of kindness: prescriptions picked up; soup handed in to elderly neighbours; newspapers and groceries delivered to those who couldn’t get out; teddy bears in windows to cheer up the children, who reciprocated by painting rainbows and displaying them in turn. We clapped for carers, calling to neighbours across the street in solidarity. Many of us, released from the hamster wheel of office life, became aware of a heightened sense of community as the focus of life became centred on home ground.

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I AM sure I’m not the only one who took comfort and encouragement in this sense of commonweal.

So I’m saddened to read the findings of a new survey that conclude that the community spirit fostered during lockdown, the feelings of solidarity and togetherness, are starting to fragment and fray.

A report published last week by the Together campaign suggests people feel the country has become less divided since virus restrictions were imposed – but that this may be dissipating.

A survey of 2000 adults by ICM, conducted during lockdown in May-June, found 45% of those questioned thought Britain had “never been so divided” during their lifetime. A similar poll, conducted just before lockdown in March, found 60% agreeing with the statement.

Asked if the country was “still too focused on what divides us”, the poll findings suggest a fall from 70% agreeing in March down to 61% by the end of May.

However, analysis of the polling and other attitudes data has led to warnings that the spirit of unity fostered by the fight against Covid-19 may be on the wane.

“There’s a risk that past divides are re-emerging as society starts to re-open,” says Jill Rutter, author of the Together report. “The shared experience of lockdown made many people feel more connected to their neighbours and local community. Now that sense of togetherness is starting to fray.

“The good news is that people would rather we kept hold of it.”

I hope she’s right. With a difficult and uncertain post-Covid future ahead, and the economic bombshell of Brexit thrown into the mix, we will all need a kinder new normal.