COVID-19 pandemic is leading us to a ‘new normal’
The Covid-19 pandemic that we are facing today is changing every bit of our lives. It has changed the way we look at the world to a great extent. We are witnessing an unusual war-like situation which we had never anticipated. It has shaken the entire world and left millions of people’s lives and dreams shattered. This crisis is not going to end any time soon. The number of positive cases keeps soaring with no breakthrough of a vaccine to cure the disease. The whole world is going through a massive transitional period: perhaps, a new era is in the making.
The current nation-wide lockdown and other measures taken by the government to control the spread of the disease have paralyzed almost all activities. The country’s economic growth is severely affected, and industries and businesses are forced to shut down. Millions of employees have become jobless. Educational institutions such as schools and colleges are suspended for an indefinite period. Millions of workers are stranded outside their home states not able to return home due to travel restrictions. The less privileged are suffering without adequate food supply and basic necessities. It is unquestionably one of the most challenging times in our lifetime.
Amidst difficult times, we also witness a lot of positive things happening around us. We see many individuals and organizations from all backgrounds joining hands in extending help to the needy, regardless of where he or she belongs. This humanitarian gesture has boosted love and respect between different communities all across the country, and the world at large. We also witness tremendous positive climate change taking place during this period. Air pollution level has considerably gone down, and we can feel the change of air quality and see the clearer sky. Not only humans but also every other living thing on earth are benefiting in one way or other from this situation. Rivers and lakes have become cleaner, making aquatic life thrive. Streets and markets are less crowded and more peaceful. To sum up, mother nature is healing herself.
But this rare circumstance has given birth to scores of new challenges that cannot be overlooked. We foresee an emergence of a completely new era or the “new normal.” According to Merriam Webster the phrase “social distancing” is “the practice of maintaining a greater than usual physical distance (such as six feet or more) from other people or of avoiding direct contact with people or objects in public places during the outbreak of a contagious disease in order to minimize exposure.” The social distancing norm that we are maintaining today is likely going to become an integral part of our lives from now. It has already been imprinted in the minds of people and is not likely to vanish any time sooner. Keeping this into consideration, it would be wise to see ahead and prepare ourselves to adapt and face new challenges.
A few crucial concerns that I wish to highlight and draw your attention to are as follows:
Many existing businesses and industries regardless of the size and reputation are badly hit and are not likely to recover anytime soon. Some industries will even close down due to various reasons like lack of liquidity and resources. Industries such as aviation, travel and tourism, hotel, sports and entertainment, retail and e-Commerce, automobiles, transportation services, etc. are the ones affected the most. Businesses dealing with essential items such as food, medicine, health care, telecommunication, etc. are running normally, and some are even growing. This indicates that at the end of the day what we need is basic essential products that are central to human life for survival. Production and demand for luxury products in the market is going to drop down considerably due to poor economic condition. Types of business transactions in the future are not going to be the same but it will be determined by the situation, either better or worse.
Millions of workers have become jobless, especially in urban areas. Migrant workers from cosmopolitan cities are returning to their home state due to uncertainty in re-opening of their workplace, lack of other alternatives, high expenditures, and also fear of the disease. It is worrisome to think what this workforce will do when they return home where jobs are not adequate. Workers who have certain skills may become entrepreneurs and manage to survive on their own, but unskilled labourers will suffer the most as alternatives are limited in small towns and cities.
Illegal activities such as theft, robbery, burglary, etc. will be on the rise if there is no means of livelihood. One important priority of the state governments should be to create job opportunities in their respective home states and restore the life of affected workers and boost the economy of the state as well. However, most of the people will be pushed back to farming and other related activities for survival.
Students’ career is equally affected by the current situation. All educational institutions are temporarily closed and students are left with no option, but to stay idle. If the situation remains unchanged for a longer period, it will seriously jeopardize the future of students. Therefore, a quest for an alternative system of education should be the priority of the government and the concerned educational authorities. One of the best alternatives emerging in today’s world is online education. Although poverty and lack of advanced technologies may deter the implementation of online education, especially in rural regions, this is something that cannot be overlooked and it should be made possible. If it is successfully implemented, this would be one of the biggest transformations in the history of the education system in our country, and the student migration to cities will be decreased.
Change of Priorities
Due to disruption of income, many people are now more watchful on their expenditures. The items that we considered necessary before Covid-19 outbreak have become less important for many of us. A large section of the population will focus more on basic necessary items than on luxury items. This new environment has changed our perspective on the way we look at things. We have realized that health is the most important factor that cannot be taken for granted. Our consciousness of the importance of health such as physical exercise, taking healthy food, timely medical treatment, and so on has increased.
We never imagined that our homes will be turned into a regular office, but today it is our reality. The current trend of remotely working from home is becoming more popular and safer for the employees. It is possible that in the near future the conventional working culture of employees going to a particular workplace for work can be replaced with this new practice. We know very well that operating an office with a large number of employees is a costly affair, and the employers may like to discontinue spending money for the office space and other costs.
Change of Lifestyle
All forms of social interactions in our day today life is not the same anymore. We now prefer to stay away from all kinds of large gatherings and limit ourselves to meeting our near and dear ones. We will see in the future days lesser number of social events and all kinds of get-togethers being organized. Greeting each other from certain distance will become a regular routine. Lifestyles like venturing outdoors for eating, movies, shopping, sports, and all other recreational activities will be changed to a large extent due to fear of the disease and financial constraints.
It is the responsibility of every individual to maintain social distancing and follow the precautionary measures taken by the authorities. We must encourage and support the health-care and sanitization workers, the law enforcement agencies, and other charitable groups and societies that are in the forefront fighting against the deadly disease and hunger. The more the number of positive cases the more and longer the suffering will be. Unless the authorities and the public cooperate and work hand-in-hand this fight is not going to be successful.
(Jeremiah Gangmei works as a Patent Paralegal for Ericsson in Chennai. He can be reached at email@example.com )