To say that COVID-19 has changed how we live over the past several months is an understatement by now. Those of us who have been following the recommended precautions, staying indoors, distancing ourselves wearing masks, and being as cautious as we can know that. However, it’s not wise to assume that everything will go back to “normal” once the risk is over for now. In fact, not everyone wants it to go back to what normal was.
Here, let’s take a closer look at what some are saying about the way that COVID-19 might change the world that we live in. Not just for now or the immediate future, but how might it change how we live years from now when the risk is seemingly over and done with?
How we work
One of the most drastic and concerning changes that have occurred already is in the workplace. To put it simply, a lot of people have already experienced layoffs and lost businesses as a result of the virus. Others are being furloughed with pay, but with no real assurances of security that their job might be there when things open up again. While small businesses and some self-employed workers are getting protections to help them through the pandemic, that does not mean that they are out of the woods.
Many predict that COVID-19 will lead to another recession, that leads to another round of business closures, job losses, and an increasing reliance on the gig economy that offers very few protections for workers.
For those who are still in work or will be returning to work, we are very likely to see a major transformation due to the remote working trend that is taking over. Businesses were already starting to make the transition to remote working, but the lockdown served as a catalyst that sped that transformation significantly. As such, a much larger number of people are willing to remain remote even as offices open their doors again and business owners are starting to see the benefits and that risks of lower productivity were overblown.
How we travel
One of the biggest factors in the spread of COVID-19 this time was the fact that people who had been infected were able to take the virus from country to country with little to stop them. Borders were locked down but, in many cases, it was too late. As such, when travel does start to open up again, it is likely to come with restrictions that will remain long after the danger is passed. This might include longer security and check-in procedures with the use of thermal detecting cameras and a need for proof of immunization or negative testing.
It is also likely that some countries will remain on lockdown due to the virus for a lot longer. When looking at how to travel, people will have to get used to checking ahead of time to see what restrictions are still in place for the country they want to go to. For instance, some countries might only be open to accepting air travel from essential workers or from citizens while remaining closed to tourists.
How we socialize
We have all had to deal with the shrinking of our social circles, to some degree, as a result of COVID-19. Many of us have not seen close friends and family for months beyond facetime on digital devices. In most countries, people are being permitted to see their families again, but it’s anticipating that remaining anxieties from coronavirus will affect how we socialize for a long time to come. For instance, people are less likely to hug, kiss, or otherwise have physical contact.
How we shop
In many places, shops and hospitality businesses are starting to slowly and experimentally open back up, allowing people onto their premises. However, most of the businesses reopening and doing so very tentatively, with an eye on reducing the risk of infection as best as possible. For instance, in most retail spaces, social distancing rules are being implemented which will include having to line up to get in. A lot of stores are only allowing a certain number of people in at a time.
In the hospitality industry, we are likely to see major shifts towards providing a safer and more hygienic stay. This will include changes to best practices from the staff, such as more extensive cleaning practices and training for team members. However, it is also likely to include stricter hygiene rules for guests at hotels and BNBs, as well.
How we provide healthcare
Health care was already a hot button topic for a lot of people well before a global pandemic landed on our doorstep. However, the spread of COVID-19 disrupted and proved the shortcomings of health care systems all across the globe, not just domestically. As such, from private insurance-driven systems to public options that are severely underfunded, a lot of attention is likely to remain on health care. As such, future elections may become even more centralized on the topic of health care, with more people advocating for stronger socialized medicine across the globe.
Furthermore, there is a serious risk related to the emotional and mental health of health care workers who were working during the COVID-19 crises. While there were several campaigns designed to show them appreciation and to thank them for their services, there has also been a spike in cases of health care workers being targets of abuse. The stress of working in health care during the pandemic has become a serious concern, as well, with many suggesting that there will be a spike of PTSD cases amongst health care workers as a result.
People have largely found themselves on one of two camps following the COVID-19 outbreak. There are those who have been following the advice of health professionals across the globe and those who have not. The former see the latter as conspiracy-minded and irresponsible, while the latter see the risk as overblown or even manufactured. As a result, tensions that are already fraught due to issues of political polarization and topics like police brutality are seemingly being pushed even more to the limit. This may not only lead to more civil unrest in the future but could increasingly contribute to a wide-reaching mental health crisis.
The role of surveillance
Governments across the world have relied on different measures to tackle COVID-19 and to keep it from spreading as effectively as possible. One of the tools that have been used to do this, in particular, is surveillance. From symptom tracking apps to the installation of heat-sensing cameras in public places, there has been an undeniable race in surveillance technology used by some states, and this is concerning for some. While it has been undeniably used by some governments to reduce infections, there are concerns that more surveilling actions can increase the risk of totalitarian leaning regimes to strip privacy and rights away from citizens. Even if they are implemented for good reasons, some are concerned that such measures will become a norm that will be difficult to reverse.
The habits of hygiene
Though far from a positive result of the virus, there is no denying that people became a lot more aware of public hygiene practices as a result of COVID-19. Practices such as mask-wearing may have been exceedingly rare in Europe and the US before the virus, but were much more common in East Asian countries like South Korea and Japan. It is likely that many of the hygiene practices that we have implemented in our daily lives may be here to stay. Reduced hand-to-hand contact, more reliance on hand sanitizer, and people wearing masks may become part of daily life before too long. There are still those who are likely to refuse to take part in any of these practices, but they might become vanishingly rare as time goes on.
Could it be here to stay?
One of the biggest questions facing government and health care experts is whether or not we will ever truly be rid of the coronavirus. The current pandemic is a mutation of viruses that have been around before and there are concerns that it will come back again. As such, even if the pandemic ends entirely, we are likely to see new COVID viruses become a cause for concern in future, with efforts going towards developing new vaccines. Much like the flu, it might become a recurring risk, and as such, the safety practices in place might become semi-permanent. However, there is no concrete evidence that this will be the case, so we cannot say for sure if COVID will return.
No-one can really predict just how much COVID-19 is going to change about the way that we live. We’re still in the deep of it, after all. However, it is safe to assume that this is a majorly transformative time for all of us and that we might have to adapt to a new normal when all is said and done.