WHO would have thought the notion of being released into the world for good behaviour would be more than a little frightening? In the 1973 film classic Papillon, the Dustin Hoffman character Louis Degas is offered the chance to leave Devil’s Island after 15 years of lockdown – but he is too terrified of what freedom entails.

And now, after ten weeks trapped on our own little islands, there’s a real chance we’ll find release difficult to deal with. "After you've been inside for a long time, it can feel very strange to go outside," says Nicky Lidbetter, CEO of mental health charity Anxiety UK. "You perhaps lose your confidence to do things you haven't had to in a while."

When Henri Charriere’s novel Papillon was published in 1969, Edward Weeks’ review claimed: "Prisoners who have been sentenced to solitary confinement depend on their memory to keep them sane, and memory often rewards them by storing away every last detail of what they have endured."

Containment also sees the memory work furiously to remind us of what we once enjoyed. For 10 weeks we’ve gone back to the photo albums in our heads, the diaries of fond memories, to mythologise previous partners, to remind ourselves of close friendships, of successful moments in our lives.

The outside world has only been important to us (outside of being denied the chance to see loved ones) in terms of death rates.

But now we’re faced with making difficult choices for ourselves. We are being told, for example, that we shouldn’t travel further than the five miles currently offered to us.

Yet, we are simultaneously being targeted with the PR lobbying of travel companies and airlines, bombarding us with the message that holidays abroad are now a real possibility.

We are "advised" not to travel further than Paisley, but this week saw flights reintroduced across Britain – from the likes of Aberdeen to Birmingham. Yet, this week also brought the news that of the 16 new infections reported in China on Monday, 11 were reckoned to be linked to a flight from Egypt.

In the past 10 weeks we’ve been creating our own “cocoon of safety, a haven to make the whole experience of lockdown more tolerable,” says psychiatry professor Dr Steven Taylor of the University of British Columbia.

In some ways, we’ve had it easy. For 10 weeks, politics has been a single issue: how much has Westminster or Holyrood got it wrong? Now that we’re being primed for release, we’ll soon have to contend with the next wave of arguments for independence, and the division that will create.

We’ll have to reabsorb world politics. The loudest noises we’ve had to endure, apart from very heavy-footed neighbours upstairs, is our little world of Thursday night pot-banging.

But the death of George Floyd this week in Minneapolis has reminded us all that we need to care about more than just making sure the old lady next door has her Asda delivery.

For ten weeks, the toilet paper and pasta greed apart, we’ve been allowed to believe most people are decent. But America’s right wing response to the Floyd killing has reminded us the percentages of decency are lower than we’d come to believe.

Coronavirus has also granted us a holiday from worrying about the eco-system. We’ve been sitting in the garden and not thinking about climate change. We’ve been going on a bike ride and not thinking about the cost of energy.

And there’s sex to contend with. Six in ten people, according to research in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, have had no sex since lockdown. (It doesn’t say if this figure includes bored married couples who live together, their libidos going into lockdown, too.)

But what the virus has allowed for is singletons to not feel inadequate for not being partnered.

Of course, it will be great to return to what passes for normal. Yet, it will be challenging to rejoin other people’s lives. Will we be able to talk about anything but coronavirus and how we all hate Dominic Cummings and the BBC’s Normal People? Will we bother to get a haircut and regrow some sense of empathy?

Yes, we will. But first, like Papillon we need to go off the cliff. And it will be scary.

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