Since its emergence in late 2019, we have lost count of the number of times we have to adapt to survive this pandemic era. Preventive measures that began with avoiding handshakes and being more thorough about proper handwashing have paved the way to social distancing and face masks becoming the universal norm of the year.
Although we have learned a lot by now, including the most likely places where you can catch the virus and what symptoms to look out for if you suspect you caught one, the truth remains; this is not over yet as we still have much to learn.
However, there is one thing we can be sure of: we want to keep moving forward. Despite the painful price the world paid to survive in this challenging period, we want to keep going. As the dream of achieving herd immunity slowly materialises, thanks to the vaccination programmes being rolled out worldwide, we begin to carry optimism that we would return to our normal lives. Then again, will life ever indeed go back to normal? Will our pre-pandemic everyday habits lie in the history books, never to be mentioned again?
While it is challenging to find a bright side to the coronavirus pandemic, we can take comfort in the fact that this period of worldwide change may improve a few of our less-than-desirable public health customs. This is a good thing, I believe, because we can improve those public health habits and disseminate those improvements everywhere. It may potentially change the way we approach work, school, and so much more.
We are heading into a whole new world, and in it, a whole new set of habits that we have to abide by for the greater good.
1. Say Goodbye To Handshakes
In the earliest days of the outbreak, one of the first and most visible changes to societal norms I came across was when people started to avoid handshakes altogether. To fill that void, people resort to either elbow bumps or “footshakes” (although you would see more of the former than the latter).
In this new cultural period of coronavirus, because of social distancing measures in place, no doubt there will be a cultural change in the way we all greet each other. Modes of greetings such as handshakes, hugs, high fives, and kisses are no longer relevant. Instead, social greetings now may be expressed through any action that enables one to avoid direct contact, be it a head nod or a hand on the heart.
2. We Will See Our Relationships With Restaurants Differently
Though indoor-dining regulations vary depending on numerous factors such as location, restaurant size and local health laws, there is one thing which has been constant and hence, cannot be denied: the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a big blow to all the players in the food and beverage (F&B) industry.
It is difficult to truly understand the extent of financial damage the restaurant industry has to bear as a result of COVID-19. When the daily number of cases was low, F&B operators were given the green light to serve customers in outdoor spaces at first. As the situation improved further, these operators were then given permission by their local health authorities to reopen indoor spaces to customers, albeit at a limited capacity.
Though it is not known precisely how many elements of the “new normal” of restaurants will become permanent once the pandemic reaches its end, there is a high degree of probability that there will be lasting changes. For instance, delivery and takeout options might be expanded (in the event such a global event like this occurs again in the future). Additionally, restaurants would be more inclined to openly disclose details about the hygiene measures they have taken to keep their restaurant Covid-19 free, be it on their social media pages or at their front doors.
3. Remote Work Policies Are Gaining Traction Among Companies Worldwide
Before Covid-19 showed up, it was a common practice to negotiate for the possibility of flexible work arrangement, especially when you are a parent of several kids. When Covid-19 presented itself to the world, working from home became the only choice for many office workers. Hence, it now deserves a place in the list of things that could remain virtual forever.
After witnessing that adults are more than capable of performing their jobs in a location other than the office (and to save rental costs), numerous organisations have chosen to vacate their physical office space, furthering reinforcing the notion that remote work will represent the future of work.
Undoubtedly, it took a global catastrophe to accelerate the efforts of remote work for many organisations. Gone are the days of requiring candidates to come to the office to attend a physical interview. Hiring people virtually will become a common part of new workplace policies. Such change can boost employees satisfaction and develop a more global workforce, among other things.
4. Hand Sanitizer Are Readily Available, Anywhere, Anytime
When people were beginning to take serious notice of the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, hand sanitiser was a precious good that people would pay (and sometimes fight) for. With everyone scrambling to purchase it — and anything else they thought might shield them from the infectious disease — shortage was widespread. How toilet rolls will keep them safe, I will never understand.
Thank goodness that is no longer the circumstance we have to live in as now, hand-sanitiser pumps, containers and stations are basically stationed everywhere.
This is something that will continue to stay, especially in locations like offices, public spaces, and entertainment venues. By placing such items around and making them accessible, everyone would indicate to each other, letting them know that a vast majority of viruses, bacteria, microorganisms on their hands have been eradicated.
Although many concert venues, stores, and gyms have installed hand-sanitiser dispensers before the pandemic, it is now more than likely to have them available in places like F&B establishments, churches and other public spaces.
5. We May Have A Better Understanding Of Public Health Ethics
There is a recurring issue in messages conveyed by the people who are (still) not taking the virus seriously or who believed it is a global conspiracy: they believe it does not affect them in any way. These people are not getting the point when they adamantly refuse to wear face masks and continue to hold large gatherings.
The purpose of staying at home and practising social distancing goes beyond protecting yourself. It is also to ensure you do not transmit the virus to other people, especially those who are vulnerable (like the elderly and individuals with impaired immune systems). Also, we understand that even if you are well, you could still be an asymptomatic carrier and infect other people.
This outbreak has been a crucial lesson on the main principle of public health ethics: you have to put your own autonomy on the back burner for the collective and greater good. Hopefully, by the time this pandemic is over, we will do so with a more profound comprehension of public health and continue to adopt hygienic practices that we learned about during the pandemic period.
Final 2¢: Where To From Here?
Without question, the Covid-19 pandemic has transformed our lives in more ways than what was described above, from finding a new way to press buttons in the elevators to rethinking entering crowded indoor spaces.
Although the pandemic will not last forever, the experiences it gave us and the lessons we learned from them will remain in our minds will. As we are slowly inching towards full recovery, we face the possibility of going into a relapse. What I meant by that is that we may find ourselves in a weird or awkward position to return to the pre-pandemic normalcy.
The question is, are we truly ready to get rid of this “new normal”? The answer to this question is worthy of a separate discussion.